Pharisees in Republican Guise

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had just cause to tell the Republican Party to stop being the stupid party.  Currently, the GOP is faced with a case of stupidity coming from some Republican members of the North Carolina legislature.

Here is an excerpt from a story published by the Charlotte Observer:

Two Rowan County [NC] lawmakers drew nationwide attention Wednesday for pushing a resolution that says North Carolina and its counties and towns have the right to establish an official religion.

Rep. Carl Ford, a Republican from China Grove, and Salisbury Republican Rep. Harry Warren filed the measure this week as Rowan commissioners gear up to fight a lawsuit that seeks to end their habit of opening meetings with specifically Christian prayers.

But the resolution delved deeper.

It acknowledges that the U.S. Constitution prevents Congress from creating an official religion.

But the First Amendment prohibition, the resolution argues, doesn’t apply to states, counties or towns – despite federal court rulings to the contrary. It asks the legislature to adopt a resolution supporting their right to set up their own religious laws.

Contrary to what Allahpundit, the Huffington Post and others are reporting, what the NC legislators have submitted isn’t a bill that could be signed into law. Instead, it is a resolution.

The Charlotte Observer reports, “Resolutions like the Defense of Religion Act generally have no lasting effect beyond the legislative sessions, do not require the governor’s signature and are commonly used to create study commissions or honor groups like veterans. If passed, it would not become a law.”

Over at Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis makes the following comment:

Incorporation of the Bill of Rights via the 14th Amendment is a long-standing legal concept that the Supreme Court has never shown any inclination to reconsider it. North Carolina’s action, of course, would be a clear violation of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which the Court found applicable to the states in Everson v. Board of Education, a case decided back in 1947.  So, basically, these 11 North Carolina Republicans are proposing something that is blatantly unconstitutional. I hope they’re proud of themselves.

So, what inspired these Keystone Cops Republicans to submit a resolution that contradicts SCOTUS rulings?

WRAL in North Carolina reports the following:

A resolution filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide.

The resolution grew out of a dispute between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In a federal lawsuit filed last month, the ACLU says the board has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.

Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered an explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.

In a 2011 ruling on a similar lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not ban prayer at government meetings outright, but said prayers favoring one religion over another are unconstitutional.

“To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord,” the court said. “Where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance.”

This particular brouhaha would have been avoided if the Rowan County commissioners had paid attention to what Jesus said about public displays of piety.

Here is an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. . . And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*

The inclusion of a Christian prayer in an official government meeting isn’t something that the New Testament requires, and the First Amendment doesn’t prevent people from having an informal group prayer before the start of an official government meeting.

The GOP isn’t harmed by individual members practicing the Christian faith. Instead, the GOP is harmed by Pharisees in Republican guise. Hopefully, party leaders will learn the difference between the two.

Side Note: Nothing in the First Amendment prevents government officials or government employees from having a time of private prayer on government property.

[*Quote Source – Matthew 6:1,5-6 (ESV) ]

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