I can't say this surprises me:
A bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide....Back in 2004, I told you that Alan Keyes -- who was preparing to run for the Senate in Illinois against a guy named Barack Obama -- didn't believe the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment applied to the states. In a 2003 speech at a rally to support "Ten Commandments judge" Roy Moore, Keyes said:
"Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion," it states....
There might be states in which they require a religious test or oath of office. There might be states in which they have established churches, where subventions are given to schools, and so forth, to teach the Bible. There might be places where you and I might disagree with the religion some folks wanted to put in place over their communities. But guess what the Founders believed? They believed that people in their states and localities had the right to live under institutions they would put together to govern themselves according to their faith. [applause]And on a radio broadcast with Focus on the Family's James Dobson, Ketes said:
There is, I believe, going on right now a violation of the Constitution. There is, I believe, a lawless act against which we must stand. But it is the lawless act of the federal judges who seek now to wrest from us that liberty which is ours--not by right of the Constitution, but by grant and right of the Creator, God.
Now, some people over the years have tried to use the Fourteenth Amendment as a way of saying, "Well, the whole Bill of Rights applies to the states, and, therefore, establishment or religion is forbidden at the state level and the federal judges can address this issue." But that's a lie. What happened in the First Amendment is not that it forbids establishment. It forbids the federal government even to deal with the issue of establishment, and with the Tenth Amendment, it reserves that power to the states.That seemed like a fringe-y idea then. But now Wingnuttia takes very seriously arguments such as those made by the folks at the Tenth Amendment Center:
So if you take the Fourteenth Amendment and say, "Now we have applied the Bill of Rights to the states," what it means that state officials have an obligation not to surrender the right of the people at the state level to decide this issue.
The purpose of the "Establishment Clause" was two-fold: (1) to prohibit Congress from imposing a national religion upon the people; and (2) to prohibit Congress (and the Federal government generally) from interfering with existing church-state relations in the several States.... It was designed to promote religious freedom by forbidding Congress to prefer one religious sect over other religious sects. It was also intended, however, to assure each State that its reserved powers included the power to decide for itself, under its own constitution or bill of rights, what kind of relationship it wanted with religious denominations in the State.Alan Keyes thinking is now pretty much mainstream in the GOP.
Justice Hugo Black, writing for the Supreme Court majority in Everson v. Board of Education (1947)? Pay no attention to him:
The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State."I believe one or more states will pass legislation like this soon -- if not North Carolina, then some redder state. And I think it's entirely possible that if a Republican president had been elected in 2012 -- yes, even a Mormon one -- that president would have added to a solid Supreme Court majority prepared to side with Alan Keyes rather than Hugo Black on this issue, precedent be damned. Reason enough to have voted for Obama last year,