Friday, April 5, 2013

Establish a Religion - Nullify - Secede -- “There They Go Again”

A group of radical right-wing Tea Party Republicans in the North Carolina legislature has decided to move directly to dismantle the Union known as the United States of America.  They have proposed to adopt a state religion in contravention of the constitution of the United States and the traditions of liberty of conscience so strongly defended by Patrick Henry when he successfully fought the Virginia practice of taxing citizens to pay only Anglican (Episcopal) ministers.  Many of our ancestors came to the colonies to escape persecution in England and Europe because of their religious convictions.  Pilgrims, Puritans, Catholics, French Huguenots, Pennsylvania Dutch, Jews and later American Baptists and Methodists became strong advocates of freedom of conscience and the right of the individual to seek and worship God in his or her own way.

When the constitution was adopted in 1787/89 for the purpose of forming a more perfect union, than the one begun in 1781 with the Articles of Confederation, two states withheld their approval and others conditioned theirs on the subsequent introduction of amendments that would constitute a federal bill of rights.  As most of those rights were already enshrined in the post Revolution state constitutions the need was felt to restrict the federal government as the states already were.  The 1st Amendment to the Constitution and the first of the Bill of Rights proposed and adopted in 1789/91 began with the words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  Now these neo-politicians seize on the word Congress and say well we can establish a religion because we are a state. 

These same radical right wing Tea Party Republicans will tell you that states can’t adopt gun control nor can municipalities because of the 2nd Amendment.  So you see their way of reading the Constitution is when we want it to apply to the states or to the federal government it will and when we don’t it won’t.

After the Civil War the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted between 1866 and 1868.  The Supreme Court has held consistently since the adoption of that Amendment that the first section of that amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the state and local governments (unless their constitutions expand the rights even further).  The neo-pols of North Carolina should read Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment - “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” 

The North Carolina gang, of what Andrew Jackson would have called “Traitors”, seek to declare the right of the state to nullify any federal law they so desire to do and prevent it’s enforcement in that state.  In 1832 South Carolina tried this and when President Jackson threatened to hang them they backed down. Nullification quickly was replaced by Secession as the only way to stop the federal government from operating within a state.  In 1814 the Federalists of New England tried advocating Secession and their party imploded and disappeared. And, in 1861 when some states, including North Carolina (which by the way had joined the Union only when the Bill of Rights was going to be adopted) seceded, the United States led by then President Abraham Lincoln fought a great Civil War.  Over 600,000 men and boys, on both sides of the conflict, died in that war.  It was fought for two reasons: first, and primarily because this nation could not endure half slave and half free and, second because the vast majority of Americans believed in the Union and the One Nation it embodied.

When Americans died in the trenches of Europe during the First World War and when they landed and died on the beaches of Normandy they didn’t give their lives for North Carolina or Pennsylvania or Wyoming.  They died for their families, their freedoms and their country - the United States of America.  As long ago as the time of the American Revolution that great Virginia patriot Patrick Henry declaimed “We are not Massachusetts men, nor Yorkers nor Virginians we are Americans.”

We have a political system that allows those who would change laws and constitutions to do so peacefully by persuading the majority.  Those who would undermine that system as some tried in 1814 and again in 1832 and again in 1861 show no faith in the democratic system and total disdain for the principles of liberty that our Declaration of Independence so skillfully articulated. They may not be committing treason in the legal sense against this government but they are committing treason against our democratic values our principles of freedom and liberty and equality.  Foremost among those has been the freedom to practice or not practice a religion of one’s choice.  Our country has been free from the sectarian strife that has so bloodied other parts of the world.  Except for a brief war with Mormons in Missouri in 1838 the people of the United States have respected each other's religious freedom.  No one is forced to financially support a religion unless done voluntarily.  No one is required to attend a church unless they choose to do so of their own free will. 

The radical right wing Tea Party Republicans, sometime masquerading as Libertarians (which is the ultimate irony), have an agenda.  They wish to impose their own morality on all the citizenry.  They oppose marriage equality for LGBT citizens; they support restrictions on access to the franchise to discourage minorities and poor and elderly folks from voting; they enact restrictions on women’s access to reproductive health care; they would make a mockery of the words on the Statue of Liberty and if they could would restrict access to citizenship; they proclaim the 2nd amendment as a guarantee that citizens can combat a government that tries to infringe on their rights and then they attempt to infringe on all the other rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

I do not believe they will succeed.  I believe Americans will rally around the Bill of Rights and the Union as they did one hundred and fifty years ago.  I believe with Lincoln that they will take back this government from both the radical ideologue extremists and the moneyed interests and again restore a government of the people to the people.  I believe the American people will reject this radical right wing attempt to either breakdown the federal government in Washington DC, and end the many people helping programs adopted over the past two hundred years, or failing that to break down this Union.  The federal government, by the 14th Amendments’ application of the Bill of Rights to the individual states, will, as it has since the Jeffersonians defeated the Federalists, preserve and protect the liberties of the American people.   Lest these radical right wing Republicans forget it let me remind them that we are "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all".

5 April 2013

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