NC Bill Could Establish State Religion

A group of Republican legislators in North Carolina have submitted a bill that would declare that the Establishment Clause does not apply to state and local actions and therefore they are free to establish an official state religion if they so choose. I really wish I was kidding. HJR 494 reads:

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.

Think about the many dangerous results from this. First of all, Article VI, Section 8 of the North Carolina state constitution forbids “any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God” from holding public office. Since 1961, the enforcement of that provision has been forbidden by the courts on the basis of the First Amendment. And even if the state did not declare an official state religion, schools could then begin requiring students to pray every day again, or read the Bible, or learn creationism instead of evolution. The possible violations are staggering.

Now the good news: This would be struck down by the courts in about a millisecond. And even with the current configuration of the Supreme Court, the result would likely be an 8-1 ruling overturning the law. Only Clarence Thomas has ever taken the position that the Establishment Clause did not apply to the states and no one else on the court, even Scalia, has ever taken that position seriously.

The Republican leader of the House says this law will not get a vote, but so what. There are 12 sponsors of this bill, for crying out loud. If I lived in North Carolina, I’d be giving them a piece of my mind and starting recall petitions.

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  • Sastra

    These legislators — like many of their constituents — apparently confuse the concept of a “state” with that of a “fiefdom.” Or maybe a “home.”

  • The resolution also would refuse to acknowledge the force of any judicial ruling on prayer in North Carolina, noting that the First Amendment clause prohibiting government establishment of religion applies to Congress and not to state or local governments.

    Umm … guys … you tried this once before. How’d that work out?

  • doublereed

    Seriously. 14th Amendment. It happened guys.

    I know you don’t like it. But it’s part of the Constitutional. You aren’t being “Constitutional” when you ignore it.

  • I wish NC citizens could recall our legislature and governor but it is my understanding that we can not.

  • jnorris

    The Republican Tea Party resolution that proves they are still the Party of Stupid has died and will not make it to the House floor for a vote:


    This by no means the Republic Tea Party is off the hook for the stupidity.

  • angrymudcrab

    I always was kind of bummed out how the US wasn’t around for the Thirty Years War. How fun, now we get to have all the fun the Europeans had figuring out what their state religions should be! Why would we want freedom of religion? It isn’t like that was one of the main reasons people moved here or something.

  • Trebuchet

    There’s a seriously awesome post at Popehat about this.

    Some day I’ll learn how to put a link in properly, I promise!

  • shouldbeworking

    So Utah could make LDS the state religion? That would be fun to watch. All those teabaggers heads exploding…

  • raven

    They are saying that people can pick and choose which laws to obey and which to ignore.

    That is nice to know.

    I was ready to send my tax forms in but decided it was too much trouble to bother with.

    And this means the christofascists and Tea Party can pass all the cuckoo laws they want and people can obey them if they want. Or not if they want.

    Really, this looks more like rule of law, Somalia style than anything we in the west ever came up with.

  • tomp

    So the solution for RSS readers was to only give them a portion of the text and force them to come to the actual site to see the rest? So that is how you expect to get me to see your ads? Too bad I have an ad blocker.

  • raven

    So Utah could make LDS the state religion?

    It already is, de facto.

    That would be fun to watch.

    It’s not fun at all.

    The Mormons have Utah gerrymandered by religion as much as is humanly possible. NonMormons make up 40% of the state and the state legislature is just about 100% Mormon.

    The 60% Mormon majority discriminates and oppresses the nonMormon 40% as much as they can get away with.

  • machintelligence

    It looks like it has been tabled indefinitely:

    A resolution by two state lawmakers representing Rowan County that supported North Carolina declaring an official religion is dead and will not be voted on, according to House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office.

  • shouldebeworking,

    And Deerfield, Mich., could declare itself a Muslim caliphate. Or at least that Islam is the official city religion.

    And good times were had by all.

  • This bill has already been killed:

    It shouldn’t have even gotten that far, but, still, nothing happening with it.

  • Abby Normal

    Well, it kind of worked for marijuana. Why not theocracy?


  • shouldbeworking

    I didn’t say who would have thel fun. If the state could be selective as to what laws the legislature could follow, could a person of English extraction choose to drive her Abrams tank on the left side of the road?

  • freemage

    For what little bit it’s worth, this wasn’t ever going to be a ‘law’, even if it’d passed. Rather, it was one of those moral masturbation proposals that let the political set in general is fond of–a chance to say how much you love Jesus (America, mothers, whatever) so that you can point to it going forward. It would’ve had no enforcement standard, and no judicial standing; a church/state case wouldn’t have been instructed by it, for instance.

    So it was not only vile, unpatriotic, autocratic and demagogic–it was also bad at that, too.

  • brucecoppola

    FifthDentist#13: You’re thinking of Dearborn.

  • pacal

    Clarence Thomas’ position that the First Amendment does not apply to State governments is so stupid that I just don’t know why anyone takes him seriously has a legal scholar.

  • D. C. Sessions

    pacal@19: the reason that people take him seriously is that he has a vote on the USSC and strongly influences at least two others. Which means that rather than study the Constitution, he shapes it. You and I can read the written Constitution and case law, but he writes it and can, in one afternoon, wipe out a lifetime’s study for one of us.

  • They really should just fire on Ft Sumter and get it over with.

  • Y’know, if they want to be really sneaky they’ll join forces with Kim Jong Un and it will be the “Second War of Aggresson against the South AND North”.

  • martinc

    Interesting thing someone linked to in discussion of this story elsewhere:

    See Sec 8:

    “The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

    First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

    Is that common in State constitutions? Is it ever enforced? Is it even legal?

  • Thanks Ed,

    When I called Rep Ford’s office they made clear that it was not a bill, but a resolution, an interesting legal distinction.

    Also, NC disestablished the Church of England as its colonial state religion fifteen years before the states ratified the U.S. Bill of Rights. Ironically, North Carolina was far more progressive in its disestablishment of religion than Congress.