The First Amendment vs. the First Commandment

North Carolina May Declare Official State Religion Under New Bill

Republican North Carolina state legislators have proposed allowing an official state religion in a measure that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings.

The bill, filed Monday by two GOP lawmakers from Rowan County and backed by nine other Republicans, says each state “is sovereign” and courts cannot block a state “from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.” The legislation was filed in response to a lawsuit to stop county commissioners in Rowan County from opening meetings with a Christian prayer, reported.

Rep. Carl “What Establishment Clause??” Ford

The logic of the bill hinges on the Tenth Amendment, which states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  North Carolina is using this to argue that the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from making any law establishing a religion or prohibiting its exercise, doesn’t apply to the states.

Therefore North Carolina can haz God.  Om nom nom.

There’s only one small snag that might prevent this from getting too far:  the Incorporation of the Bill of Rights, which was made applicable to governments on the state and local level by virtue of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment:

The doctrine of selective incorporation, or simply the incorporation doctrine, makes the first ten amendments to the Constitution—known as the Bill of Rights—binding on the states. Through incorporation, state governments largely are held to the same standards as the federal government with regard to many constitutional rights, including the First Amendment freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly, and the separation of church and state; the Fourth Amendment freedoms from unwarranted arrest and unreasonable searches and seizures; the fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination; and the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy, fair, and public trial. Some provisions of the Bill of Rights—including the requirement of indictment by a Grand Jury (Sixth Amendment) and the right to a jury trial in civil cases (Seventh Amendment)—have not been applied to the states through the incorporation doctrine.

In other words, Carl and his buddies might be able to get this passed through their state legislature, but it will be ruled unconstitutional shortly thereafter.  It doesn’t surprise me that they’re doing stuff like this.  As the Huffington Post article points out, states like North Carolina and Mississippi have been introducing legislation that would basically ignore the federal government when they didn’t feel like following them.  Again … not so surprisingly, they’ve been introduced by Republicans.  Also not so surprisingly, “Obamacare” (boo!) and gun control (double boo and hiss, I say!) are commonly cited as the reasons.

Oh, here’s a few of the other people involved:

The North Carolina bill’s main sponsors, state Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, The Salisbury Post reported. Co-sponsors include House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes (R-Hickory). Another is state Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Concord), who in February introduced a state constitutional amendment that would allow for carrying concealed weapons to fight federal “tyranny.”

You might remember Larry Pittman from May of last year, when he responded to an email from Planned Parenthood, asking the legislature not to stop their funding as they provide essential services to low income women throughout the state by calling them a “a murderous organization … getting wealthy on murder for hire”.  

Yet he wants people to carry guns so they can fight the federal government.  And pass a law that will establish Christianity as the official religion of one of the states in the union.  I guess it’s all how you sell it.

As I said, I don’t see this going too far (famous last words).  The issue I have is that this sort of crap shouldn’t even be coming from any of our legislators at all – state or otherwise.  Yet here we are … at least for this generation.  I still hold out hope that Daniel Dennet is right, and that this is one of the last gasps of an institution that relies on a combination of ignorance, blind faith, and early indoctrination to establish and maintain a following.

This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Profiles in Fundamentalism, Religion and Public Life, Religion in the News, Society Marches On and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The First Amendment vs. the First Commandment

  1. dam says:

    Yeah, I read this yesterday, too. Ridiculous. Just open the meetings with a moment of silence and be done with it…Everybody’s happy. The end.

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