The North Carolina State Religion

Is it rank ignorance, or are these people just screwing with us?

So, House Joint Resolution 494, which would allow North Carolina to establish a state religion, as flagrantly un-American and unconstitutional a measure as can be imagined. (Not to mention dumb as a post: "Whereas, the Constitution of the United States … does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional …" No, that power is clearly vested in the North Carolina House Ways and Means Committee.)

Three possibilities:

1. They just want to push this matter back into the courts, on the chance that they'll get a more favorable ruling this time, and make the requisite political hay over the issue.

2. They're screwing with us, acting on a legislative level like trolls on message boards.

3. They genuinely believe it.

I'm not sure which of the three is worst.

A friend of mine who's a legislative aide in Tennessee says this: "Y'all have caught up to and passed Tennessee in record time. Even Tennessee is not considering this." I didn't think that was possible, and I shudder to think what kind of monstrous nonsense is coming next.

UPDATE: Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress adds important context to this "nullification" effort, serious or not:

This resolution is nothing less than an effort to repudiate the result of the Civil War. As the resolution correctly notes, the First Amendment merely provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and, indeed, the Bill of Rights was originally understood to only place limits on the federal government. For the earliest years of the Republic, the Bill of Rights were not really “rights” at all, but were instead guidelines on which powers belonged to central authorities and which ones remained exclusively in the hands of state lawmakers.

In 1868, however the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified for the express purpose of changing this balance of power. While the early Constitution envisioned “rights” as little more than a battle between central and local government, the Fourteenth Amendment ushered in a more modern understanding. Under this amendment, “[n]o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” nor may any state “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment completely transformed the nature of the American Republic, from one where liberties were generally protected — if at all — by tensions between competing governments to one which recognized that there are certain liberties that cannot be abridged by any government.

There is some academic debate about whether the architects of the Fourteenth Amendment intended the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights to be applied to the states because these liberties are part of the “privileges or immunities” of U.S. citizens, or because they are liberties that cannot be denied under the Constitution’s “due process” guarantees. Regardless of the correct answer to this academic question, however, one of the most important judicial projects of the Twentieth Century was a series of Supreme Court decisions applying most of the Bill of Rights’ limits to state governments. This project completed the work the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment began nearly 150 year ago — reconstructing America as a nation that recognizes certain civil rights which no lawmaker is allowed to trample. The right to be free from government endorsements of religious is one of these civil rights.

So when (House Majority Leader Edgar) Starnes and his colleagues lash out against this one freedom, they are not simply lashing out against some court decisions that they disagree with. They are rejecting the most transformative moment in American constitutional history and denying that their side lost the Civil War.

UPDATE II: (4/4): Oh, for freak's sake. This whole thing started because a councilman from Kings Mountain decided he understood the Constitution better than two centuries of legal precedent?

Superb. I resolve that the moon is made of extra-firm tofu. 'Cause I think so.

UPDATE III: OK, it's dead. Other outrages continue apace.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest