Are the States Sovereign? North Carolina and the Establishment Clause

Posted on April 5, 2013. Filed under: Founding Fathers, History, Politics, United States Constitution | Tags: , , , |

The Articles of Conferderation, ratified in 17...

The Articles of Conferderation, ratified in 1781. This was the format for the United States government until the Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had intended to get to this as part of my series on the United States Constitution.

Under the Articles of Confederation, Article II states:

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

When the Constitution was written, it referred not to the “sovereign” states, but to the “several” states.

What happened?

After the revolution, the sovereignty of the states meant that they did all sorts of things they weren’t supposed to do under the Articles.

They refused to pay their taxes. They made alliances with one another, and even threatened war on their neighbors. They gave preference to local ships in their harbors to ships from other states.

They were, in short, acting like spoiled children.

And the Continental Congress was powerless to do anything about it.

Because of these issues, delegates got together to amend the Articles, but it became apparent that they could agree on nothing except scrapping the whole thing and starting over.

One of the major things that needed to be addressed was how to get the states to pay their taxes (so the Congress could pay the war debts). They did this in two ways: they stripped the sovereignty away from the states and mandated that Federal law trumps all state laws. They also set up a court system to arbitrate disputes between the states and the Federal government, all while ensuring they could use force on the states to collect taxes if necessary.

While the Constitution allows the states to take care of their own business, there are certain things forbidden to them, and they must have a Republican form of government.

Fast forward to North Carolina, 2013.

A bill (Defense of Religion Act) has been introduced on the State’s House floor.

Opponents of the bill have immediately knee jerked and said that North Carolina is attempting to establish a state religion. They aren’t. In reading the bill, nowhere does it say they are establishing a state religion. In order to do so, the bill would have to say something along the lines of “we are making the Baptist religion the official state religion of North Carolina”, or whatever the legalese would be.

It does, however, say that the Supreme Court does not have the power of Judicial Review (it doesn’t, it just sort of assumed that power).

It says the First Amendment does not apply to the states (it doesn’t. It specifically says Congress shall make no law). The North Carolina constitution, like the rest, guarantees free speech.

However, since the Federal government controls the schools, I do think it does apply to the schools.

In essence, they are making a case that they can establish a religion, and that the Supreme Court and the Federal government can’t stop them.

It is this same logic that is allowing the individual states to regulate weapons while not violating the Second Amendment. The Bill of Rights is a restriction of Federal power, not a restriction on the states.

However, Section 13 of the North Carolina constitution says:

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.

Christianity is a dogma, not a religion (in my opinion, anyway). Like Judaism and Islam, it is separated into differing sects. So which sect would North Carolina choose to support if they can?

Once again the left claims that the right is doing something that they aren’t. Is establishing a religion their end goal? That remains to be seen, but it could be their way of saying that they want to go back to the original interpretation of the Constitution.

If the US Constitution and Bill of Rights as a whole apply to both the Federal and State governments, what is the point of a State Constitution?

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