Chairman of Lincoln County BoC won’t let non-Christians pray, wonders what the big deal is with minorities.

The chairman of the Lincoln County board of commissioners in North Carolina recently found out that a federal judge had ruled against the county.  It turns out they were using government time to issue sectarian prayers, inviting people to know Jesus, and blocking out any other religion that wanted to be represented.  Carrol Mitchem, the aforementioned chairman, surely saw the light and the legal error of his ways:

Carrol Mitchem, chairman of the Lincoln County board of commissioners, said he does not want people from other faiths “changing rules on the way the United States was founded,” reported the Lincoln Times-News.

Which is why he wants the government to remain religiously neutral, eschewing the idea of a state church since the USA was settled in part by people who wanted religious freedom from the Church of England.  Boom, lesson learned!

“A Muslim? He comes in here to say a prayer, I’m going to tell him to leave,” Mitchem said. “I have no use for (those) people. They don’t need to be here praying to Allah or whoever the hell they pray to. I’m not going to listen to (a) Muslim pray.”

A federal court judge ruled last week that nearby Rowan County had violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by leading county commission meetings with prayers to “Jesus, the Savior.”

God dammit.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

I can imagine that if it were a city council saying these things about Christians then Mr. Mitchem might suspect his government wasn’t representing all its citizens equally.  But reverse the roles and he’s just fine with it.  For all his talk about what this nation was founded upon he seems quite content to let the idea of equal representation go, so long as its his religion that sits in the throne.

Another commissioner said after the ruling against the county for, y’know, obviously breaking the law, went too far because atheists and other religions are the minority, and we all know that in America the minority isn’t entitled to the same treatment as everybody else.  Wait a minute…

Patton said he disagrees with the Rowan County ruling, saying the courts had “gone overboard in catering to the small vocal minority.”

“Atheists are 1 or 2 percent or whatever, but because they cry the loudest, people cater to them,” Patton said. “Judges cater to the freedom of religion. That freedom is for me as a Christian as well.”

Yeah, forget for a moment that the things they’re upset about, like getting told they aren’t allowed the same access to government time as Christians, is legit, what freedom for you as a Christian is being abridged here?  You think you have the freedom to have exclusive access to government meetings?  You think you have the right to use the government’s time and space to preach your religion?  You don’t.

The Republican Mitchem agreed, saying that Christians should enjoy privileged status as the dominant religious group.

“Other religions, or whatever, are in the minority,” he told WBTV-TV. “The U.S. was founded on Christianity…

Oh this song and dance again.

America wasn’t founded on Christianity, it was founded on religious liberty and equal representation.  That a good many of our founders may have held Judeo-Christian beliefs is totally irrelevant to what they actually put into the founding document of our country.  Anyone who thinks our founding fathers weren’t bright enough to write Jesus or Yahweh into the Constitution if they had intended special privilege for Judeo-Christians is deluding himself.

But even if you can convince yourself that our founders were too stupid to put Jesus into the Constitution if they wanted to form a Christian nation, you can still look at all the evidence confirming that we were built as a religiously pluralistic nation, not a Christian one.  For instance, have you ever wondered what was the first law Congress ever passed?  Well, this was it:

An Act to regulate the Time and Manner of administering certain Oaths was the first law passed by the Congress assembled after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It was signed by President George Washington on June 1, 1789, and parts of it remain in effect to this day.

Essentially the law dictated the oath most public officials had to take coming into office.  It was “I, [FIRST NAME] [LAST NAME] do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”  But this was not how it was in some original drafts, at least not entirely:

The oath in the final bill differed from the original proposal by excluding the two clauses mentioning God, as well as the phrase “a Representative of the United States in Congress thereof.”

God was proposed and they intentionally took it out.  This is very strange if our founding fathers intended us to be a Christian nation.

And we all know of the Treaty with Tripoli in 1797.  Article 11 of that treaty reads, in part: “the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…”.  It’s right there in black and white in one of our nation’s primary documents.  In America’s historical documents (not just quote-mine attempts of some of its influential figures) you will not find the opposite; claims that America was founded on the Christian religion.  Not only did Washington read and approve the Treaty with Tripoli, the treaty was not ratified by the senate (it bears mention that it was ratified unanimously) until John Adams had been elected.  When he signed it, Adams also wrote beneath his signature “Now, be it known, that I, John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said treaty, do, by and within the consent of the Senate, accept, ratify and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof.”

And if we were a Christian nation, the Confederacy in the Civil War wouldn’t have felt the need to make all the changes they did.  For instance, consider the preamble to the US Constitution against that of the Confederacy.  Here’s the preamble for the US Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

And here’s the preamble for the Confederate Constitution:

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent and federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity—invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God—do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

Notice a difference?

Mitchell continued”

…I don’t believe we need to be bowing to the minorities.

I mean, yeah, we should’ve ended slavery, but let’s not transition that into our government having to treat everybody equally.  C’mon, Christians are special.

The U.S. and the Constitution were founded on Christianity.

No, no they weren’t.  There’s no mention of Christianity in the Constitution, while there’s definitely the framework for separation of church and state.  If this were true you wouldn’t have just lost a lawsuit.

This is what the majority of people believe in, and it’s what I’m standing up for.”

The majority of the people are wrong.  What do the majority of legal and Constitutional scholars believe?  That should be your rubric.  This is why you just lost a lawsuit.

Mitchem said he would walk out if someone from another religious group delivered a prayer before a county commission meeting, and he suggested at a county commission meeting last year that he expected religious dissenters to do the same during Christian invocations.

“If somebody don’t like it, they get up, walk out and leave so we can pray the way we want to pray,” Mitchem said last year. “If they don’t like it, they can leave and then come back in afterwards.”

Yeah, all you people we’re not allowing government time to pray the way *you* want need to just get out so we can pray the way *we* want!  What?  How could you possibly think we don’t represent our constituents equally?

Patton, although he disagrees with recent court rulings on religious plurality and agreed with Mitchem’s comments last year, said the board chairman had probably exposed the county to potential litigation.

Yeah, no shit?

“I am a Christian, but I do not agree with commissioner Mitchem,” Patton said. “Our country was founded on freedom of religion. All Muslims are not bad, just as all Christians are not good.”

First sensible thing either of them has said.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.