145 years behind the times

April Fools in North Carolina pursue state religion

Without intended irony on April Fools' Day, Republican Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford introduced House Joint Resolution 494 to establish a state religion in North Carolina.

Unbelievably, the bill has already attracted 12 other equally ignorant sponsors. It’s no joking matter that 14 people who have absolutely no understanding of our Constitution have been elected state legislators.

Someone needs to tell these legislative Rip Van Winkles that under the 14th amendment adopted in 1868, state citizens have the same protections under the federal Bill of Rights as federal citizens:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, reading “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” also means “State legislators shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” extends to state as well as federal citizens.

These legislators refuse to acknowledge any federal judicial ruling over a constitutional topic, such as government prayer. Their rancor over the First Amendment stems from conflicts over government prayer. They’re especially mad at the ACLU right now, which is suing over sectarian Christian prayer by the Rowan County Board, N.C. They’re also mad at complaints over statehouse prayer. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has formally complained over overtly Christian prayer in the state Senate, for example, where a state Senate chaplain routinely offers overtly Christian prayers. Read FFRF's letter to SenateRead FFRF’s letter house.

The bill 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."

These fools for god fail to understand that, if their bill were enacted, it will also prohibit North Carolina citizens from exercising other First Amendment rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for a redress of grievances. Most notably, these legislators are saying there is also no “freedom of religion” for state citizens, a cornerstone of the  First Amendment.

Of course, this absurd bill is patently unconstitutional, violates the separation of powers, the supremacy clause, as well as the 14th and First Amendment. This bill is going nowhere. Legislators of ill will who insult intelligence and the Constitution should be going no where near the North Carolina Statehouse.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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