Thursday, April 4, 2013

Secular Coalition for North Carolina Growing!

On April Fools’ Day, North Carolina State Representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford (both Republicans) brought the national spotlight to our state with the introduction of House Bill 494. The “Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013” would, if taken literally, allow our local and state government to establish an official religion and nullify federal constitutional protections for state residents. Political and religious leaders across the state and the nation, and even one of its primary sponsors, were quick to distance themselves from this politically misguided and constitutionally uninformed bill.

Within just a few days North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, also a Republican, pronounced the bill dead on arrival. And according to the Raleigh News and Observer, "even the evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham...disagreed, saying that it wouldn’t be a good idea to establish a state religion.” Not only is an established religion bad government, it’s also bad for religion. As C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance noted, "it is the lack of an established religion that has enabled Christianity, among other religions, to flourish with a freedom in our nation unparalleled in any other nation in the world."

These inexperienced legislators claim that they were responding to a challenge by residents of their districts to sectarian prayers at county commission meetings. Meanwhile, the chairman of the commission was quoted in his local paper as supporting a billboard campaign which advocates continuing sectarian prayers (“in Jesus’ name”) at the meetings. These actions are likely to damage their own case in court.* But they also remind us that all North Carolinians should be ever vigilant in defending our secular government and freedom of conscience and religion. That’s why I, and a growing number of North Carolinians, are proud to support the Secular Coalition for North Carolina.

* This can't help either.

You can contact Representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford, or the other sponsors of the bill, to let them know how you feel about this and sectarian prayers at government meetings:
Contact information for other state representatives can be found here.