Why North Carolina May Establish (Or Prohibit) Whatever Religion It Wants

Two North Carolina state legislators have submitted a resolution to allow the state, its cities, and its counties the freedom to establish their own religions. This has many liberals and constitutional illiterates (but I repeat myself) scoffing at the ridiculousness of it all.

People for the American Way (PFAW), a deceptively named liberal think tank, calls it “frightening” and a “shredding of the Constitution.” (Isn’t it cute when liberals borrow buzz phrases from conservatives, like “shredding the Constitution.”?)

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from a book I own, written by Phil Valentine, called The Conservative’s Handbook: Defining the Right Position on Issues from A to Z:

“Back when the Constitution was crafted, individual states had their own state religions. Their individual state constitutions laid down the law regarding church and state.”

Kinda like what the two North Carolina legislators want to do.

“Not only did the states not separate the two [religion and state], many required that they be joined. North Carolina’s constitution said, ‘That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the state, shall be capable of holding any office, or place of trust or profit, in the civil department within this state.’”

The book continues:

“Several states, instead of requiring an office-holder to be a Protestant, merely required a professed belief in God.”

The book notes that the practice of establishing “state churches”continued on as late as 1833.

The only time liberals respect the Constitution is when they try to interpret it rather than simply reading it. What the Constitution actually says angers them; the subtext of the Constitution, or at least what they believe the subtext to be, is what they defend.

We hear liberals trumpet the “establishment” clause of the Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is their defense for why no state can establish a religion.

But what is “Congress”? When you head down to your state’s capitol building, do you say you’re going to Congress? If you do, you’re using the word incorrectly. “Congress” only ever refers to the federal legislature, not to those of states. The “establishment” clause says only that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, and says nothing about the states. If the Founders did not want states establishing religions, this “establishment” clause probably would have been the place to say it, perhaps with the words, “Neither Congress nor the states….”

Still, many people, Republicans included, deny the fact that only the federal government is prohibited from establishing a religion. They act as if a state religion would mean you are not allowed to be whatever religion you want, that it’s not just a formal respect of a region’s heritage. But you don’t have to like the “establishment” clause to acknowledge that it actually does say what it says.

On the other hand, however, if we conservatives are to acknowledge this fact (that it is only Congress that cannot establish a religion), then we must be consistent and also hold the opinion that only Congress—only Congress—may not prohibit the exercise of any religion. States, on the other hand, may prohibit whatever religions they want.