Eleven North Carolina state representatives are attempting to do something which has been illegal in this country since the ratification of the Constitution. Namely, establish a State Religion.
Here’s what they’re trying to pass:
SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
This resolution flies in the face of two centuries of settled law. Furthermore, it also takes a run at the decision which was settled by the Civil War. I think it’s fair to say that there is more than a smidgen of secessionist sentiment and some borderline treason there.
Need I add that the eleven representatives in question are all Republicans?
If the Bill of Rights was not clear enough about the intent of what America meant by “freedom of religion” and the quite tangible rejection of such meddling of government into the arena of religious expression, the Fourteenth Amendment made clear just which set of laws held the upper hand. (For those not paying attention, there has been a steady tremor of right wing rhetoric in the last year or several directed at repealing the Fourteenth Amendment, for exactly this sort of purpose, to return to states the sole right to dictate to their citizens how they should conduct themselves as Americans, at least in the view of a given state.)
Why this should need to be rehearsed again and again I do not understand, but it’s been obvious for some time that the advocates for religious establishment—North Carolina House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes and his ten colleagues, for instance—are not interested in embracing religious liberty. The only purpose of establishing a state religion—and please, while I realize there is no phrase in the two clauses quoted above that expressly state that North Carolina is establishing said religion, it takes little reasoning to realize that the only utility in claiming a right to make law concerning religion is in order to do exactly that—is to (a) enforce not only public conformity but private as well and (b) deny equal rights to religions that do not meet a given criteria. One does not, under these conditions, even have to overtly pass a proscriptive law to seriously erode the ability of non-sanctioned religions to operate. All one needs to do is deny recognition in favor of a preferred denomination.
The hue and cry of hyper-sensitives for the last couple of decades who claim religion—their religion, specifically—is under assault and requires extraordinary protective measures is at its base disingenuous. (I could remark that, unlike certain institutions that must put up with mobs of sign-wielding and often aggressive picketers trying to block access, there are no widespread attempts to block people from attending church. And unlike those other institutions, if someone tried that, no one would argue much at all if the police hauled them away.) No one has passed any laws forbidding prayer—no, there are no laws banning private prayer, only public practices in certain places, which is not the same thing— nor has anyone successfully mounted legislation to rescind the tax exempt status of religious institutions across the board. Christianity enjoys pride of place among all other religions in this country, so much so that it is virtually impossible to be elected to public office unless one prescribes to one denomination or another. The president publicly announces prayer breakfasts, Congress opens with a prayer, and successful attempts to block zoning advantages churches have are rare.
This is about nothing but intolerance and a desire to make laws about how people conduct their private affairs. (Conformism to religion is about as personally invasive as you can get.) One of the manifest ironies of all this is how many of the people who think this is a good idea also claim Libertarian values and do not see the contradiction inherent in their position.
Or don’t care.
But this North Carolina proposition has gone a few steps farther and it will be interesting to see what happens if it gets out of committee and onto the floor. If it actually passes, the federal response will be fascinating to observe. Religion aside, this is a state claiming the right to ignore national law.
3 thoughts on “Wrong Is Right: Political Absurdity Incarnate”
It’s the 14th Amendment which settles this case, not really anything before it. I have read elsewhere that there were established religions in several states well into the 19th century.
Not the Bill of Rights but the main body of the Constitution had a significant effect on state mandates for religious tests. In 1787, 11 states, 9 in their constitutions, imposed religious qualifications for government officials. No state constitution specifically barred religious tests. Soon after ratification of the federal constitution, that changed. In the decade after 1788, all but of the states moved toward openness of religious practice. Three eliminated all constitutional language imposing tests. I believe the last state maintaining government support for a church was Massachussetts(if memory serves) and that changed around 1833, but the majority had decades earlier eliminated tax payer support for any denomination along with the tests. The vast majority of the United States was, at least in its governmental practice, secular, which is one of the root causes of the Second Great Awakening.
The widespread effort among tea party influenced legislatures to refuse or block federal law has its own advocates here in Missouri, including efforts to block ACA and even to criminalize the DISCUSSION of any limits on weapons. The crazies are actively moving toward reversing many areas of established law, in addition to trying to overturn parts of the Constitution (even state constitutions) they don’t like by asserting “federalism” in their bizarre version. A different but analogous case is moving in Virginia under the certifiably insane “leadership” of their attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/03/1198966/-Ken-Cuccinelli-asks-court-to-reinstate-Virginia-sodomy-law-Wait-what.
Linda Greenhouse’s column today (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/trojan-horse/?hp) on the Supreme Court and DOMA offers a chilling picture of the potential successes of these neo-secessionist efforts.
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