In an unintentional attempt at humor more appropriate for Rowan & Martin’s “Laugh-In” or British comedian Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”), several state legislators in North Carolina recently introduced “A JOINT RESOLUTION TO PROCLAIM THE ROWAN COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DEFENSE OF RELIGION ACT OF 2013. And, even though the bill was withdrawn by Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis just three days after it was first introduced, the fact that this bill was drafted with the language used would be hysterically funny if it were not so sad.
Although I don’t regularly read The Huffington Post, I was interested in several articles regarding the recent death of Matthew Warren, the youngest son of Rick and Kay Warren and the vitriolic comments that some were making during this family’s time of grief. In fairness to The Huffington Post — which leans left on most issues, including religious ones — all of the opinion pieces that I read on their site (not necessarily the comments) were very civil and respectful in their coverage of the Warren’s son’s tragic death.
In my reading, I came across another article by Imam Abdullah Antepli, Duke University’s Muslim Chaplain, in which he brought to the attention of his readers the aforementioned “Defense of Religion Act” in his home state of North Carolina. At first blush, I thought that Imam Antepli must be joking, but after reading the complete text of the Joint Resolution (here), I was dumbfounded. How could one — much less fourteen — state legislators in any state be so foolish that they would introduce legislation that is so blatantly unconstitutional, not to mention completely and utterly asinine? That these were Republicans says more than I care to know about the political acumen of some of North Carolina’s elected “leaders.”
While Imam Antepli rightly focused on the two main sections of the resolution — one of which wrongly asserts that the Tar Heel State can disregard Federal Court rulings with which they disagree — several of the supporting “Whereas” clauses are problematic, in and of themselves. Three such “Whereas” clauses are so unbelievably wrong — and stupid — that it makes one believe that these NC legislators have no business passing laws of any kind. How these politicians got elected in the first place is a mystery. Well, on second thought, probably not a mystery, but something that we don’t want to ponder for very long, lest we become completely disillusioned with the political process. To assert any one of the following “Whereas” clauses would be preposterous enough. To allow the language in all three to make it from the legislators’ minds to paper is baffling, indeed.
Whereas, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads:”…Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”; and Whereas, this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools;
Whereas, 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;
Whereas, each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion;
Wrong on all three counts! Hopefully there was not a lawyer in the bunch. If there was, he or she should have their law license revoked immediately! Since Marbury vs. Madison was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1803, “Judicial Review” has been a well established legal principle. Notwithstanding the absurd notion that North Carolina can establish their own state religion or that the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court, have no authority to interpret the Constitution and laws as they might apply to the states, these “Whereas” clauses are nutty. No self-respecting conservative should want to have anything to do with this Joint Resolution. And, certainly no Southern Baptists — who have historically defended religious liberty for all — should support such a proposal.
We can argue until the sun comes up whether or not the doctrine of “separation of church and state” has been abused in recent years. For the record, I think it has. However, what should not be in dispute is the notion that states cannot — in fact, should not — establish a state religion. For these fourteen North Carolina state legislators to propose such a bill is ludicrous and foolish. And besides, we have far too many politicians already acting the fool in Washington, D.C. The last thing we need is more fools at the state level!