(RNS) — A controversy that began with the North Carolina state legislature opening 97% of its sessions with explicitly Christian prayers has now expanded to Republican legislators denying any federal jurisdiction over matters related to prayer, or for that matter the Establishment of Religion clause.
The North Carolina General Assembly has just put forth a resolution that states:
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.
SECTION 3. This resolution is effective upon ratification.
The bill is sponsored by Republicans Carl Ford and Harry Warren.
So let me get this straight: Republican members of the state legislature, you think you have the right to establish a state religion for North Carolina? You are actually arguing for “establishment of religion” by a state entity? You are arguing against 200 years of legal precedence, going back to the 1st and 14th amendments?
Any guesses what that state religion would be? Buddhism? Judaism? Islam? Catholicism? Or is it your understanding of Christianity? Have you looked around the world? Have the places where the state declared an official religion worked out so well? What do you think this means for those of us North Carolinians who do not share your understanding of Christianity? What about those Christians who have a different understanding of the relationship of religion and the state?
What type of religion do you have in mind for being the official state religion? A religion that acquiesces? A religion that tacitly sits by and supports your assault on the poor, on education, on women’s rights?
The current resolution overlooks the court ruling of the 4th Circuit, which stated:
“To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord. …where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance.”
Then again, what you are proposing is consistent with everything else you have proposed in the last few years.
The Republicans who control the state legislature have slashed the budget of our public university by 414 million dollars in 2011, and have just announced yet another $140 million dollar cut.
The Republicans who control state legislature wanted immigrant drivers in North Carolina to carry a driver’s license that has a special stripe.
Would you like them to wear special clothing too? How about red letter “I” for immigrant on their clothes? How about a separate section of town, and segregated lunch counters?
The legislature has cut unemployment benefits: The maximum weekly benefits have been slashed from $535 to $350, a 35 percent drop. The maximum number of weeks has been cut from 26 weeks to between 12-20 weeks. Sure, why don’t you cut funding for the poorest of the poor, at their moment of greatest need. It’s consistent with everything you have put forth.
These issues matter to me. This proposed legislature matters to me, because North Carolina matters to me. I am a North Carolinian. I have lived here longer than I have anywhere else in the world.
I went to college and graduate school in North Carolina. I got married in the Duke Chapel. Two of my beautiful children have been born in this state, one in New Bern, and one in Durham. I teach at the University of North Carolina.
My family and I love this state, love her mountains (ok, rolling hills), love the beach, love the piedmont. We love the people of this beautiful state. We love NC BBQ (ok, we don’t do the pork, but still..), love the small towns and love the folks who have moved here and call her home. I teach students from every town and county in the state, and love being a part of sharing knowledge with them.
I go all over this state, from the triangle area filled with transplanted Yankees to the small towns where our family lives, and I tell you that we North Carolinians are better than what you State Legislators are doing. These values of bigotry and prejudice are not our values.
There is an absolute disconnect between the North Carolina that we live in, and the pathetic, misinformed, patronizing, prejudiced legislation coming out of the North Carolina legislature.
To the arrogant, obnoxious state legislatures who apparently have neither read nor understood the Constitution of the United States, I could try to reason with you. I could cite for you court cases and evidence from American history.
But honestly at this point I don’t feel like reasoning with bigoted morons. If you understood law, or history, or common sense, or logic, I would appeal to those. But I know based on experience that this is not likely to be persuasive.
So all I have to say to you is this: Shame on you.
Shame on you and your prejudice.
Shame on you and your moronic arrogance.
Shame on you and your bigotry.
Remember Sesame Street? Another program that your party has been trying to eliminate?
Some of us grew up watching it, and we know our letters and our numbers. In light of that, here is our message to the state legislature sponsoring this resolution. As a proud North Carolinian, one of the joys of belonging to this beautiful state is the right to use colorful language when it is warranted. And believe you me, it is warranted now. Shame on you. And to honor Sesame Street:
The above message has been brought to you by the letters S.H.A.M.E O.N. Y.O.U.
And the number 2013. As in the year that you should realize you are living in.
[The language in this blog post was slightly modified.]