You probably saw the headlines splashed across mainstream media websites on Wednesday.
“Bill Would Establish State Religion.”
Pundits spent Wednesday afternoon breathlessly reporting on HJR494, a joint resolution filed by North Carolina state Rep. Harry Warren and Rep. Carl Ford. If you read any of these reports, you likely came away thinking the Tar Heel State stands on the verge of declaring a theocracy.
HJR494 does no such thing.
In fact, it does nothing at all.
Despite what reporters keep saying over an over, it isn’t even a bill. It’s a joint resolution carrying no force of law. It features no legally binding language, enacts no statute and contains no enforceable provision.
It’s just a legislative opinion.
And a poorly written one at that.
The language of the resolution, as proposed misconstrues the proper role of the federal government.
Whereas, the Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people…
Actually, the accurate wording would be, “Whereas, the Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the SOLE power to determine what is or is not constitutional…”
In the American system, all three branches of the federal government AND the state governments are tasked with holding each other within constitutional limits.
But James Madison did point out that in the last resort, each state has the right to determine the extent of federal power because the people of the states created the federal government in the first place and gave it whatever power it possesses.
The States then being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity, that there can be no tribunal above their authority, to decide in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and consequently that as the parties to it, they must themselves decide in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.
So, on general principle, the resolution rests on solid constitutional ground. The federal government doesn’t have the authority to dictate state policy regarding religion. State constitutions govern that power.
By the way, the North Carolina state constitution would seem to prohibit a “state religion.”
All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience.
As far as the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the words make clear its scope. “Congress shall make no law…”
The Bill of Rights was only intended to limit the powers of the federal government, NOT the state governments. State Constitutions define the powers of state government. It wasn’t until after ratification of the 14th Amendment that courts began to “incorporate” the Bill of Rights onto the states. It was a very bad misapplication of the 14th.
If you really want to dig into the 14th Amendment and its meaning, click HERE.
Sadly, media types wasted a tremendous amount of energy analyzing this meaningless resolution, while ignoring legitimate efforts to nullify unconstitutional infringements on the right to keep and bear arms and NDAA indefinite detention without due process.
HJR494 apparently died a quick and painless death. On Thursday, WRAL in Raleigh reported, “House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office says a GOP-sponsored resolution supporting North Carolina declaring an official religion is dead and won’t be voted on.”