North Carolina Constitution of 1776 made it abundantly clear as to what kind of people they wanted to serve in their new state government. Article 32 states:
That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion,
or the divine authority of either 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.
Carolina did not have an official state church (Article 34), but they
certainly had a very specific religious test oath for state
officeholders. The NC Constitution defended religious freedom for
all its inhabitants (also Article 34), but only Protestants were
allowed to hold office.
Nine current North Carolina
GOP state legislators would like to return to the "golden age" of 1776.
They recently passed a bill that would allow them to create a Christian religious establishment in the Tarheel State. Here is the bill that they proposed::
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
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.
one level, this bill does not call for the same religious test oaths
required by the 1776 Constitution. On another level, it goes beyond the
1776 Constitution by calling for a religious establishment.
I wonder what such an establishment of religion might look like? Do
these legislators want the state to collect tax money to support
Christian ministers and organizations at the expense of non-Christian
ministers and non-Christian religious organizations? If this bill were
to pass, would the leaders of the new established church try to
re-install test oaths? Would schoolchildren who are not Christians be
forced to sit through Bible reading and prayer in public schools?
sponsors of the bill are aware of the fact that they can't establish a
state religion in North Carolina without violating the United States
Constitution. (The passing of the 14th Amendment in 1868, and its 20th
century application to religion in the states, makes a Christian
establishment, or any other establishment of religion,
unconstitutional). So rather than try to reinterpret the Constitution
to allow such an establishment (a tactic used by many "Christian nation"
advocates), these legislators have decided to ignore the Constitution
altogether. Sounds to me like a modern-day form of nullification.
For those of you who know your American history, this all sounds very familiar. But before we start worrying about another nullification crisis,
the bill needs to pass the North Carolina legislature. And that is
highly unlikely. (Thanks to my former student Jeff Erbig for calling this article to my attention).
By the way, all this is happening only days after it was decided that the Confederate flag would be removed from the North Carolina State Capitol.