Well, it appears my home state of North Carolina has entered the Legislative Insanity Sweepstakes. In a bold move designed to take the lead in the crazy race, two state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would ignore the 1st Amendment and establish a state religion. I mean, the others competitors in the race have merely tried to get around the Constitution (like Tennessee’s S.B 471) but H.J.R. 494 doesn’t mess around, it just flat ignores that pesky old Establishment Clause. North Carolina may be late to the party, but we make an entrance, by God.
We have a long history of this. North Carolina was the next to last state to secede from the Union in 1861, but we provided more soldiers and material to the Cause than any other state in the Confederacy. And, just last year, we jumped on the bandwagon to protect “traditional” marriage by amending the state Constitution to recognize only marriage between a man and a woman. That’s right, most states marriage amendments only ban same-sex marriage. Here in N.C., we even did away with domestic partnerships between opposite sex couples. Considering the nut jobs currently sitting on Jones Street (location the N.C. State Legislative Bldg), is this new law really that surprising?
In a delicious piece of irony, at least two sponsors of the bill, Justin Burr and Edgar Starnes, are Baptists. That’s right, beloved, Baptists; Southern Baptists yes, but still Baptists. Think about that a minute, two of the gentlemen supporting a bill that would establish a state religion belong to the same denomination as the men who prompted Jefferson to write the famous “Letter to the Danbury Baptists“. That, of course, is the letter that coined the hated phrase “wall of separation between church and state”. The irony comes from the fact that the Danbury Baptists wrote this letter because of concern that their state Constitution did not prohibit the establishment of a state religion. Their sponsorship of this bill is yet another indication of just how far the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen from the convictions of their forebears.
Then, again, maybe this bill is just what the doctor ordered. Only it doesn’t go far enough. It just says that Christianity is the state religion. Why don’t we hold people down and slap them until become Christians? After all, everyone knows coercion is the most effective evangelism tool ever!
Of course, I’m being sarcastic in that paragraph. But, the thing is, H.J.R. 494 would start us down a slippery slope that could lead to discrimination, marginalization and even forced conversion. I’m not saying that’s what these lawmakers are after, though. Truth be told, I think this is grandstanding for the folks back home. These men aren’t idiots (even if the signs point that way) and they have to know this thing doesn’t have a prayer of passing. Or, of standing if by some fluke it did pass. Regardless of their reasons, even proposing it is perhaps the most unchristian act in a long list of deeds that make Jesus face palm.