Can North Carolina Make Christianity Its Official Religion?
North Carolina legislators recently made an ill-fated attempt to introduce Christianity as the state’s official religion. The move was precipitated by an ACLU lawsuit against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, a board notorious for allowing people to utter Jesus’s name in prayers at their meetings. The establishment proposal generated a predictably breathless response from the left. WaPo’s Alexandra Petri sarcastically wrote, “The North Carolina state legislature can totally establish a state religion. The Founders specifically said so in Article III, in the part where the letters “EXCEPT NORTH CAROLINA CAN DO WHAT IT WANTS” appear in bold flashing letters.”
I certainly do not expect a history lesson on church-state separation and the establishment clause from Petri, a humor columnist, but she offers one nonetheless, and nowhere mentions the fact that the First Amendment, as originally written and interpreted, unequivocally gave the states the right to maintain their establishments of religion, which most of them had going back into the colonial period. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” the amendment said, meaning that the national government would create no national denomination (unlike what Mother Britain had in the Church of England, which was also the established church of the southern colonies).
As I discussed in God of Liberty, many states started phasing out state-supported denominations after the Revolution and Constitution, but the New England states (minus Rhode Island, which never had an established church) kept theirs. In Massachusetts, the Congregationalist Church remained established until 1833, when the growth of Unitarians, Methodists, Baptists, and other groups made the establishment untenable. But it was not “unconstitutional” in today’s sense.
[Continue reading at The Anxious Bench]
Dr. Kidd has written previously on the invocation of Jesus name in public, political forums.