What would happen if a state like North Carolina declared an “official state religion?” It would be pretty messy for a lot of reasons, but one of the big “benefits” to doing so would be exemption from the Constitution and court rulings (otherwise known as “America” and “the law”).
But that’s exactly what Republican state legislators in North Carolina are proposing. A bill in the legislature would allow an official state religion to be declared, which could be considered a sort-of backdoor secession strategy. That doesn’t seem to be entirely the motivation of the two Rowan County lawmakers who filed the bill Monday. Instead, they say that “is sovereign” and that the courts can’t block them “from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”
The bill is backed by nine other lawmakers and is apparently a symbolic response to a lawsuit to stop county commissioners from opening meetings with a Christian prayer.
A growing number of states are chasing similar initiatives (state-separation proposals, not necessarily religious-themed) in an effort to distance themselves from the federal government. Most state complaints regard big issues like gun control and Obamacare, but the proposals are pretty visceral, with one Mississippi initiative that seeks to establish a state board that can override federal laws.
The bill reads, in part:
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.
North Carolina’s state constitution also disqualifies anyone who doesn’t believe in God from holding public office. the law is completely unenforceable since a 1961 Supreme Court decision which prohibited such bans.
What do you think? Should states have a right to override federal law, up to and including the statewide establishment of an official religion? You can read North Carolina’s proposed official state religion bill in its entirety here.