Does this look familiar to you?
The Establishment Clause part of the First Amendment might as well have been written in Serbo-Croatian, where North Carolina legislators are concerned. The highest law of the land is an apparent mystery to them. They’re equally non-plussed, I have to assume, by the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
So here’s what a group of neener-neener Christianist Representatives introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly on Monday. (I know Monday was Aprils Fool’s day, but if this was some kind of prank, no one told the local media, who are reporting on the measure more than a day later as if it’s real — and from what I can tell, it is.* See here, and here, and here.)
We’re talking about House Joint Resolution 494, otherwise known as the Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013. The bill was filed by Representatives Carl Ford and Harry Warren. In total, eleven House Republicans signed on to sponsor the resolution.
The crux of it (read the whole one-page document here):
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.
So what that does is to allow the state of North Carolina to declare an official religion. Oooooh, I wonder which one they’ll pick!
To put the judicially somewhat baffling move in perspective, the bill is the direct result of a federal lawsuit filed in March by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In that suit, the ACLU alleges that the board has illegally opened 97% of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.
House Joint Resolution 494, then, is meant to give a big fat North Carolina middle finger to the ACLU and its commie Godless pansies who want to stick their city-slicking noses into the good old boys’ business.
Of course, 494 won’t go anywhere. The whole thing is patently, hilariously unconstitutional, and if the Assembly members live anywhere near the realm that I call reality, they know this. In effect, the bill is just a bit of absurdist political theater, performed by a faction of fundies who don’t mind beclowning themselves in an effort to win praise and re-election from their evangelical base.
Still, you have to wonder if these lawmakers would be so brazen as to declare their intent to break any other federal law on the books. Me, I look forward to future legislation in which they allow themselves to take bribes, rob banks, evade taxes, and beat up homos. Check back soon.
* To make sure I wasn’t being punk’d, I called the newsroom of the Raleigh-based News & Observer, one of the two leading newspapers in North Carolina, and spoke to a reporter at the political desk. He confirmed that H.J.R. 494 is real — not an April Fool’s joke. I asked if the bill, which the Assembly referred to the Rules and Calendar Committee yesterday, would actually be scheduled for a floor vote at some point. His response: “I would be surprised, but then, I’ve been surprised by the Assembly many times.”
Anyone can check the current status of the bill here.