Established Religion in North Carolina

Tired of ACLU suits against prayer in schools and before government meetings, a number of Republican Senators in North Carolina have put forth a bill that cuts to the chase. From the @NCCapitol blog:

A bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide.

The bill grew out of a federal lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In the lawsuit, the ACLU says the board has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.

The full bill is up at Scribd. The heart is in the following two sections:

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.

Fair enough, the First Amendment applies to the Federal Government and not the states. Many states maintained established churches after the Constitution was ratified. However, the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has been interpreted as providing the Federal government with the authority to protect individual rights, even against the state governments. Which brings us to section 2 of the bill …

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.

In other words, “Nyaaaaah!”

The Bill justifies itself with the following:

“The Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people,” the bill states. “Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

This is nullification, the idea that the States can basically veto Federal action over their jurisdiction. It’s a political idea that dates back to the founding and was employed by the slaves states. It has been repeatedly shot down, so this bill is going nowhere, but it’s interesting to see Republicans going back to the classics.

I don’t think you can argue that the fourteenth amendment wasn’t intended to give the Federal government the power to trump the states on the matter of individual rights. I think it’s also true that in extending Federal power, the Amendment finally created the system that James Madison wanted to begin with.

It’s true that the courts flinched back from enforcing the Amendment for decades, and the full power of the Amendment had to wait until the 1940′s to be applied, but that power is now established and accepted. Fighting against it without some fresh arguments is a doomed battle.

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  • L.Long

    I’m very happy to see that a state with some VERY very serious economic problems is doing something so very important as this. I’m so glad that the state will soon be able to do what they can do now, but the difference is with this ruling the political crooks in charge will be able to do the most important thing around—lead the prayers in meetings. This makes my atheist heart so very proud of the imbeciles in charge here in NC!


    Conservatives do not forget, they do not forgive, and they never learn. They’re fighting battles that were settled long ago and would know that if they had paid attention. Of course, things like this are much easier than dealing with actual problems.

  • Zotz

    These are NOT conservatives, they’re confederates. Lincoln fucked up. Should have killed every last one of the confederates and handed the south to the blacks.

  • theologyarchaeology

    the aclu is out of control and forcing the will of a few upon the majority. it is the aclu that has better things to do than worry about a religious saying or picture or even a prayer. clearly the aclu are cowards as they go after people without the money to defend themselves. let’s see them take on a corporation or bank who violate the constitution instead.

    • Sunny Day

      I’ll guess you’ll just play stupid at… no nevermind you are just stupid and not playing. I didn’t know the state of North Carolina was so impoverished they couldn’t possibly defend themselves against the ACLU.

      As for the question about corporations and banks.

    • James

      What the ACLU is is holding people accountable for their actions. What NC is doing is clearly thumbing their noses at the U.S. Constitution. If they don’t want to be a part of the U.S., I’m TOTALLY for it! Let’s see them flounder on it’s own without the assistance of the federal government.

  • Chris

    Such a beautiful state, in so many ways. Yet, this does stir up a “vision” I’ve had for years: one state (probably Texas) is “given over” to those who say God gave them this country. They can scrap the Constitution if they choose, elect all their faithful to public office and run the state with nothing but the Bible and not a penny of support from all the rest of us. Ok. Now. . .we watch. Any guesses how that would turn out?

    • UrsaMinor

      Probably not much worse than any other theocracy. The picture that jumps into my head is a lot like Saudi Arabia, except with fewer mosques and more Jesus.

    • Michael

      The first thing that would happen in the nation would be an immediate economic collapse and reunion with the U.S.
      I guess that’s also the last thing that would happen in the nation.

    • Nox

      My guess is Texas would invade Oklahoma in the first week.

  • Brian K

    Would that be a bad thing?

    Would it be worth one American life to defend the home of Coburn and Oral Roberts from the Jesus-besotted hordes? I vote not, my fellow Americans!