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Lawmakers are fighting back against the American Civil Liberties Union with a bold piece of legislation that would allow North Carolina to establish a state religion.
It is a bold move because House Bill 494 asserts the First Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from establishing an official religion, does not prevent states, counties, towns or schools from doing so. The bill also contends that a move to establish a state religion cannot be blocked by Congress or the courts.
The Defense of Religion Act was introduced to the North Carolina legislature by Republican Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford and is sponsored by seven other Republicans. The bill does not specify which religion would become the state religion.
The bill is seen as a response to a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU last month to stop the Rowan County Commission from opening meetings with Christian prayers.
North Carolina’s state Senate has offered a Christian invocation during most sessions since 2011.
Section 1 of the bill says “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 reads: “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.”
Many critics are focusing on the bill’s interpretation of the First Amendment, contending the measure is a violation of the Establishment Clause, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
But the bill’s backers say that clause does not apply to states. The legislators appear to be pinning their hopes on the Tenth Amendment, which reads, “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.”
House Bill 494 says “the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States prohibits the federal government and prohibits the federal courts from expanding the powers of the federal government beyond those powers which are explicitly enumerated.”
“The Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people,” the bill also states.
“Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion,” it adds.
That Tenth Amendment argument has been used to try to nullify a variety of measures, from the Emancipation Proclamation to Obamacare.
But, the North Carolina legislature may have a revered Founding Father and constitutional expert on its side.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1804, “The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional, and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action, but for the legislature and executive also, in their spheres, would make the judiciary a despotic branch.”
Some argue that the government long ago let religion into institutions such as schools.
Attorney and author John Calvert wrote in WND that when proponents of John Dewey’s nontheistic Religious Humanism sought to replace traditional religions, they merely renamed it Secular Humanism in order to dominate “institutions of science, education and much of the ‘mainstream’ media.”
Calvert added: “Since public schools can promote the secular but not the religious, it’s a slam-dunk. Secular humanists and atheists go into the public schools demanding the exclusion of ‘religion’ (defined as just belief in God) and any of its religious teachings such as those found in the Bible. Once God and His wisdom have been excluded, it’s pretty simple to fill the vacuum with the tenets of the new stealth religion now dressed in the garb of secular health, science, history and social studies.”
And, writing in 2008 about PBS’ “Nova” series documentary that disputed many key elements of the Bible, WND CEO Joseph Farah wrote, “The U.S. government funds propaganda promoting what has become, de facto, the official state church in America – secular humanism.”