Republicans in North Carolina File Legislation To Establish a State Religion

In North Carolina, Rep. Harry Warren and Rep. Carl Ford, both Republicans who represent Rowan County, filed a bill on April 1st that’s no joke.

Warren and Ford

In short: It says the state should be allowed to declare an official religion, Constitution be damned. (And I wonder what that religion would be…)

This is revenge legislation. Rowan County is the place where the Board of Commissioners has recited Christian prayers at meetings for years… and the ACLU is finally trying to put a stop to it. Now, Warren and Ford are trying to stick it to the ACLU.

The bill is H.J.R. 494 (PDF):

In English, that basically says neither the Constitution nor the courts can stop the state from establishing a religion if it wants to because states have rights according to the Tenth Amendment!

Which is a valid point… if you’re an eighth grader about to fail your Constitution test.

Laura Leslie at WRAL points out that this trick has been tried before to no avail:

The Tenth Amendment argument, also known as “nullification,” has been tried unsuccessfully by states for more than a century to defy everything from the Emancipation Proclamation of the Civil War to President Obama’s health care reforms to gun control.

This bill won’t pass. If it does, the courts will take it down. But it’s still a waste of time and money for the state’s taxpayers thanks to two irresponsible Republicans and their nine Republican co-sponsors.

But that doesn’t mean citizens can’t complain about the bill to their representatives. Tell them to do everything in their power to make sure this bill never sees the light of day.

It’s bad legislation — bad for the country, bad for the state, and even bad for Christianity. This is all about the Christian majority forcing their will on the non-Christian minority. The Constitution is supposed to prevent that from happening, but Warren and Ford don’t give a damn about that. There’s only one piece of writing they care about, and it’s not the one they were elected to defend. Voters should remember that when the next elections come around.

(Thanks to Gordon for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

    They’re not as wrong as they seem to be. The bill of rights, as originally intended (and before the passage of the 14th amendment), did not apply to the state governments. So state governments were, in fact, free to have an official state religion.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      The bill is written in present tense, so they are exactly as wrong as they could be.

    • baal

      1868 being something like last week. Both are in the past?

      I would further argue that the founders of the current Constitution created it specifically as a response to the established colonies and the moronic border scuffles, tariffs and in-religion vs out-religion abuses of the pre-Constitutional era in this here land.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      (and before the passage of the 14th amendment)

      Meaning that the rest of your comment is inapplicable to the present situation.

    • Mackinz
  • A3Kr0n

    So how about a bill that would make it a crime to be a Christian? That ought to bring up some conversation.

    • C Peterson

      Why make it a crime? Fix up another constitutional excess at the same time, and make them slaves.

      • Derrik Pates

        Thus confirming their origin story, and validating their persecution complex. Flawless victory.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Williamson/100002655531852 Brian Williamson

          And that would be why the First Amendment was created to stop both sides of religious and non-religious divide from criminalizing or privileging the other. Keep these kinds of things out equals less problems for all.

  • http://twitter.com/WoodwindsRock Emma

    “There’s only one piece of writing they care about, and it’s not the one they were elected to defend.”

    Not so sure about that, either, to be honest.

    I’ve always thought that when we have our elected officials swear in on their Holy Book which they pick and choose, we honestly can’t be shocked that they’re going to pick and choose the Constitution, as well. If they pick and choose their Holy Book… The Constitution means even less to them, so there’s no way they’ll follow it either.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Williamson/100002655531852 Brian Williamson

      They rely on the myth that you have to acknowledge religion to qualify for Public Office or Trust. This State helped Ratify the US Constitution and forgot about the No Religious Test clause of Article VI.
      Whitewashed American History for you.

  • Greg G.

    This may be a little off topic but in the same category:


    Painting of Jesus coming down in Jackson school

    • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

      Thanks for posting this, good to hear.

    • Jasper

      “Our insurance company denied coverage, and we cannot risk taxpayer money at this time,”

      I think the insurance company had a better understanding of what was going on than the school system.

  • jdm8

    They’re so against the 14th amendment that they’ll pretend it doesn’t exist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    Voters should remember that when the next elections come around.

    The hell with that; impeach these totalitarian idiots.

    • kevin white

      No kidding. It’s sad that legislators in this country don’t give a fuck about anything except what furthers them.

  • FN

    These guys would change their tune pretty quick if some other religion was becoming the majority… How can they really be so confident that the state religion would always be their personal favorite?

    • Marco Conti

      Indeed. Therein lies the irony.

      • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

        What would be even more ironic is if both reps, while being Christians, were each themselves practitioners of a different branch of Christianity.

        Which one you gonna pick to be the Official State Religion guys? If I were a reporter covering this I’d try really hard to find out what churches these guys go to, hopefully they’re different, and then get them on camera to pointedly ask them which Rep’s religion is getting the pass for Official State Religion.

  • dan davis

    I’ve been living in Guatemala for the past 12 years, and perhaps I’ve lost touch with my “homeland”, but are things really that bad down South? Do they feel their constituents (the majority, obviously not all) would really support them and then reelect them down the road?

    • Mackinz

      They do. It’s called the Bible Belt for a reason, and that is due to the high number of Bible-thumpers who would probably like nothing more than to see our “muslim” president kicked out of office in favor of a God-preaching pastor (ignoring however many sex scandals he has going for him) because they all know that America is a Christian Nation ™ and that the Constitution was based off the Ten Commandments.

      Of course, not all of the people in the Bible Belt are so zealot-like. They just compose the majority.

      • dan davis

        Oh, I know the South,I graduated from College of Charleston and taught Biology in Beaufort, I just didn’t think they had become that separatist. I had many a parent conference, let me tell you. The best one is when a father/prison guard came to talk to me about all the questions his daughter was bringing to the dinner table, I thought I was toast. Fortunately, she had stuck with her faith, and was merely tested and he thanked me for it. I wonder if she is still in the fold this many years later.

    • http://www.facebook.com/loufcd Louis Shackleton

      Yes, and yes. And sadly, they’re correct.

    • Baby_Raptor

      That’s their entire reason for doing this: Earning points with the people who will be voting to potentially re-elect them. It’s a really common thing for US politicians to do. They put up these bills that everyone with an ounce of sense knows won’t pass, but they can then run back home and say “See? I’m fighting the good fight! It’s the evil godless Liberals’ faults!”

  • http://twitter.com/somejustin Justin Worsley

    Can’t the state I live in be in the news for something good… ever?

    • TheG

      With all due respect, living in Florida was no picnic for that very reason.

    • C Peterson

      In 2008, the news from North Carolina reported the death of Jesse Helms. That was the last good news I remember from your state. It’s got to be rough.

    • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

      Other headlines on wral.com included bills to lengthen the waiting period for a divorce from one year to two years, ban UNC from implementing gender-neutral housing, and creating home-schooling tax credits that would affect the funding for public schools. Sorry.

  • Mackinz

    Such ignorant assholes. Can’t even do their goddamn research before they blather on and attempt to pass wholely unconstitutional laws.

    Emerson vs. Board of Education, bitches.

  • MegaZeusThor

    Remember to make it super-specific then.

    “Christian” is way too vague — make it a specific flavor of Baptist or Presbyterian. FIGHT!

    (Wait… did’t England’s “State Religion” make The Church of England a lame monopoly in comparison to other places?)

  • Witchgawd

    Time for some good ‘ol Southern Crusades.Yeeeeee Hawwwwww! Let all the Christians gun it out to see who’s version of ancient Biblical mythology wins out. Kill! Kill! KIll! Maybe the Wiccans will have them outnumbered by the time the feudin’ stops. It’s looking more and more like a race to see which Bible bangin’ state can become the first theocracy. Fu**tards!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    This is a good move for the GOP. Wanna know why? This law will obviously be challenged by secular groups. When it is, they can play the martyr card and pretend they are being persecuted and rally the unthinking masses to their side by claiming they are “defending Christianity.”

    • Carpinions

      Yes they can, but the problem is this overt anti-federalism, while smacking darkly of the antebellum period, is largely relegated to the South it seems. The further problem with that is that many Southern Protestants cannot stand Catholicism, and there are plenty of conservative Catholics in northern and western states they’d need as allies in such a political fight. And this is to say nothing of the obvious fact that Protestantism itself has an untold number of differing sects, many of which are dealing with their own internal dogmatic struggles with modernity, and not all of which are as fervent as the Southern Baptists.

      You are definitely right that they in part are trying to orchestrate “persecution” so they can play that card and gain support. I don’t think they will get it outside of the South though, and while there have been some notable cases of FFRF and/or ACLU fighting court cases to take down images of Jesus, crosses, or end pre-public meeting invocations/prayers, my very rough mental check tells me more of those stories are coming out of Southern states. We also have the South to thank for “Judge” Roy Moore, of Decalogue monument fame.

    • wyocowboy

      Just like years ago when x-tisns made up the persecution. ..that did not happen as much as they said it did

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      Absolutely correct. For Warren & Ford, and any other GOPers who support them, this is a no-lose scenario. They will suffer NO consequences as a result. Count on it.

      As for this bill being doomed, I don’t assume it is. Religious Rightists in NC are sure to support it.

  • fsm

    My Grandfather was a very religious southern man that believed in the separation of church and state because he didn’t want the government to tell him how to worship. These politicians would not have his vote.

  • Sven2547

    The establishment of a state religion can serve only one purpose, really: the official marginalization of other religions. I can think of nothing more un-American.

  • Kenneth

    There should be a way to deduct damages and court costs from the pensions of legislators who advance frivolous and blatantly unconstitutional legislation like this.

  • Guy Holland

    The 10th amendment is not known as “nullification:”

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Read again: “The Tenth Amendment argument…”

      In other words, citing the Tenth Amendment ignores the Fourteenth Amendment (and possibly the Supremacy Clause).

  • bubba

    fortunately states do have the right to have an official religion just as several have laws saying that unless you have a religion that believes in god you cant serve public office.

    • ortcutt

      Uh, no.

      Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everson_v._Board_of_Education

      Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torcaso_v._Watkins

    • Derrik Pates

      You should try actually reading the Fourteenth Amendment. Particularly the Equal Protection Clause. States do *not* have the right to establish any more than the federal level can. That’s why those clauses about atheists/non-Christians not being allowed to be elected to government posts are invalid.

  • mikespeir

    It’ll fail, they know it will fail, and secretly they probably want it to fail. What it’s likely to do, though, is get them reelected.

  • CanadianNihilist

    Complaining about this is the wrong path to take.

    The only way to get them to see the error of their ways is to organize a massive demonstration in favor of their proposed bill; The kicker being Islam the state religion called for. It won’t go through anyway and if people, Muslim or not, rally for it then these Republican clowns would realize the “danger” of a state endorsed religion.

    I would gladly take part in a march such as that to teach them a lesson. Even if we do have to use Muslims as the “bad guys”. Nothing personal, it’s just because people are scarred of them right now.

    • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

      No reason to use Islam like this, its already hard enough for decent law abiding Islamic Americans just trying to get on with their lives without being made the whipping boys of a march in favour of Islam as the Official State Religion.

      They get enough of that from the likes of the morons over at Faux News, they don’t need it from us.

      No, it would be better to use a sect of Christianity that many mainstream “Christians” don’t consider to actually be “Christian”, something like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • Tom in Raleigh

    The issue with remembering this during the next election is A) this bill is coming from Senators from the backwoods. And B) Republicans here have moved swiftly to redraw all the district boundaries to give the republicans even more of a majority. Sick what they are doing.

  • Thegoodman

    Is this a stepping stone to succession?

    • Carpinions

      I think you mean secession.

      • Thegoodman

        Thanks, the combination of me being a poor speller and a spell checker put me on the wrong word.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Charlotte/100001257871259 Jim Charlotte

    As a North Carolinian, I’m proud to be part of the 1/5 of the state that is a NONE when it comes to religion. Sadly, with the gerrymandered districts the rural politicians will continue having a majority of conservative representation in the state legislature.

    There has been on continuing divide in the state between the rural ultra-religious, ultra-conservatives and the liberal, progressive cities and universities. For example, the city of Chapel Hill, home to UNC, more than 90% voted against the anti-gay marriage amendment.

    There continues to be a great power struggle between antagonistic state legislature and progressive city councils over a wide range of issues. In short, the rural conservatives want to hurt the cities any way they can and shift as much power from them and give it to exurban and rural politicians. Because I live in a city, I’ve been stacked and packed into a district that is 80 to 90 percent Democratic, so there isn’t much I can do to vote out these rural yokels.

    There’s plenty of people who live in the cities who wish there was a way to succeed from the state. Since local rule is being trounced by the tyrannical state rulers, our only hope for protection from their Christian-Sharia law is federal.

    • onamission5

      The gerrymandering hurt WNC something fierce. Buncombe county voted overwhelmingly against A1, but you’d never know it because our votes got divvied up and reshuffled into much more conservative districts. We’ve now essentially got no voice, not when it comes to our own water rights, not when it comes to who we elect to represent our interests.

      • Kiterea

        I share your pain. Here in Cumberland county, which is mostly the city of Fayetteville, we always vote VERY Democrat. Well, they split us up between three outside areas so my “representative” didn’t even bother to campaign here and has no office in the city, the closest one is almost an hour away. But we get lots of mail asking for donations to help her fight for things we’re dead against, sigh.

        • onamission5

          It’s so frustrating! I keep holding out hope that something good will come of the lawsuit filed by the DNC, but there’s much pressure against it, much backhandedness.
          Not to mention our lovely new governor who’s already cut Medicaid and unemployment and would like to gut all liberal arts programs out of state funded schools.

  • Carpinions

    Like I posted elsewhere about this story, the GOP jumps the shark every week, with abandon. They are officially lunatics with power; I just can’t tell when the completion of the transition into that status was. It’s sad that I would not be surprised if a Southern GOP rep at the state or federal level proposed a law to allow some form of human slavery lite under the guise of a different term. I’d in fact not be surprised if they crafted a bill that said a state’s respective national guard and any military equipment within its borders is now only to be used by and for that state only under command of their governor, and that they can war with neighboring states if disputes come to a head.

    This could actually be the end of their party because I cannot think of a more rabid, cynical, mendacious, monied, corrupt, and power-seething political force as the current GOP. They are throwing any insane idea they can come up with at the wall in the hopes it will stick.

  • ortcutt

    The South has really never come to terms with the 14th Amendment.

    • Lurker111

      The South has never come to terms with losing the Civil War.

      • pagansister

        Having lived for a very long time in the Southern USA, it is absolutely true that they have never come to terms with losing the Civil War! Currently living in north Florida.

  • Lurker111

    “And I wonder what that religion would be …”

    Rastafarianism. Send them both some dreadlocks.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    For what it’s worth, I wrote to my county’s rep. I hope it’s true that this kind of thing is unlikely to be successful. More troubling is that anyone is attempting it.

  • Silenttalker22

    Simple abuse of power and disrespect for the people of the state. While it won’t even make it past the state court level, the mere introduction of the law is nothing short of an insult to everything this country stands for. I know politicians aren’t capable of shame, but they should be embarrassed to show their faces.

  • Rob in Rowan

    I lived in Rowan County most of my life and I can tell you these two men are not alone in their ignorant views. They constantly talk about government waste but then turn around and start this kind of thing that will undoubtedly end up wasting a lot of taxpayer’s dollars before it is over. Just to give you an example of these Rowan county politicians views one of the county commissioners was quoted during a debate as saying that the government had no business messing with how churches work but the churches have every right to dictate how government works. There is no arguing or reasoning with this kind of stupidity.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I was pleased to the reactions of local people to this. As the news channel reported, they couldn’t find anyone who supported a state religion. I’m sure those people exist, somewhere. These billboards encouraging commissioners to continue praying in Jesus’ name represent someone, somwhere.

  • pagansister

    Really? A STATE religion? Do they think they are a part of one of the Middle Eastern countries? Iraq for instance? Well, if there was any chance at all that this stupidity could be passed—it would be Southern Baptist!

  • Zaydin

    If this actually passes, it’ll be struck down in court so fast it’ll
    make their head spin. It says clearly in the First Amendment, part of
    the Constitution every legislator, be it State or Federal, swears an
    oath to uphold and defend, that the government cannot pass legislation
    establishing a religion, and it also states that the Constitution is the
    supreme law of the land, and that it (and Federal statues and treaties)
    override State laws that contradict it. To try and declare themselves
    above the Constitution isn’t just idiotic; it’s borderline treason.

  • Joshua Katz

    The 10th amendment says that powers not given to the federal government are reserved to the states, or to the people. State legislators always assume that the first part is more important, but that aside, enforcing the bill of rights is one of the powers explicitly given to the federal government under the elastic clause.

    That said, why do summaries of nullification never mention that the first use of the principle was nullifying the fugitive slave act? I support nullification as a principle because that’s how it was supposed to go – federal government watching states for violations of rights, and states watching the federal government for the same. People who oppose bad laws are capable of opposing the law without opposing the entire legislative process. Why not oppose bad uses of nullification without denying the principle?


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