FFRF calls for N.C. county board to repeal Christian Heritage proclamation

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the Wilkes County (N.C.) Board of Commissioners to rescind a proclamation seeking to advance a Christian nationalist agenda.

On Dec. 19, the board issued a “Christian Heritage” proclamation that twists American history to paint a false narrative perpetuating the myth that America is a Christian nation:
Whereas, the preamble of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina states that: “We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledge our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings and to us and our posterity, do. For the more security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution …”

The proclamation continues by naming several Founders, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and James Madison, and attempting to paint them with a Christian nationalist brush by attributing various religious quotes to them.

The proclamation, like most attempts to rewrite our nation’s history, attributes any generic reference to religion or “God” as supporting our “Christian heritage.” This is further exemplified by the fact that the Founders quoted in the proclamation were not Christians. Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were deists; George Washington was likely a Christian deist, but his religious affiliation is debatable.

“This proclamation is a clear breach of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Wilkes County Board of Commissioners Chair Stoney Greene. “By issuing this proclamation advancing Christian nationalism and the debunked myth that we are a Christian nation, Wilkes County is ironically violating the country’s true heritage of religious liberty based on a secular government.”

The United States was founded by Enlightenment-inspired thinkers who valued reason and skepticism. If the Framers had wanted to establish the U.S. based on Christian principles, they would have said so in the Constitution, the founding document of our nation. Instead they did the opposite.

Every reference to religion in the U.S. Constitution is exclusionary, including prohibitions on religious tests for public office, implicitly in the godless oath of office prescribed for the presidency and, later, in the First Amendment’s historic bar of any congressional establishment of religion. The separation between state and church is among one of the most fundamental principles of our system of government. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that public officials may not seek to advance or promote religion.

Additionally, the Wilkes County proclamation alienates nonreligious and non-Christian citizens in Wilkes County by turning them into political outsiders in their own community. Wilkes County has a diverse population with diverse religious beliefs, including Jews, Muslims, atheists and agnostics. And as much as 37 percent of the American population is non-Christian.

As elected officials, the Wilkes County commissioners are charged with great responsibility and trust by Wilkes County citizens, including those who may not share the same religious viewpoints — which is why FFRF is asking for the proclamation to be rescinded.

“The framers of our godless Constitution wanted to establish a nation where religion had no bearing on our civil government. These commissioners have no business promoting false history in order to advance their religious agenda,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says. “The board exists to serve citizens of the county, regardless of belief or lack thereof, on pressing civic issues that impact every community member.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 900 members and a local chapter in North Carolina. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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