A lifelong Spanish citizen and wise man raised and educated in the United States, George Santayana, once wrote that “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them,” and although he only lived in America for 39 of his 89 years, it is quite likely he was talking about America. This month marks the 152nd anniversary of the beginning of America’s Civil War, and across the South there are Republicans who failed to learn the lessons of America’s deadliest conflict and are following the précises steps the Confederacy took prior to seceding from the Union. Over the course of President Obama’s term, several states have threatened to defy federal laws and floated secession and violence against implementation of the Affordable Care Act, gun safety measures, and environmental protections to name a few.
The idea of nullifying federal laws that contradict Republican and conservative policies is gaining momentum with the re-election of an African American man as President, and was proposed as a state law in North Carolina this week. The latest denial of the legitimacy of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution focuses on the Separation Clause in the 1st Amendment, and is another attempt by theocrats to install Christianity as the state religion. Republicans in the state’s legislature are proposing an official state religion by exempting North Carolina from following the Constitution and several court decisions upholding the separation of church and state. They claim states are sovereign entities free to ignore the Constitution and the framers’ intent that the government is forbidden from “making laws respecting the establishment of a religion.”
The Republican bill is in response to a lawsuit stopping county officials from opening meetings with a Christian prayer, and is troubling because three months ago another Republican introduced a constitutional amendment allowing residents to carry concealed weapons for the sole purpose of “fighting federal tyranny.” The North Carolina bill specifically cites the Tenth Amendment they claim gives the state authority to defy the Constitution, and prohibits the federal government and courts from enforcing the 1st Amendment’s prohibition on state-sponsored religion. In Section 2 of the bill, it says “The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.” It is noteworthy that North Carolina also disqualifies any resident from serving in public office if they do not believe in god, in spite of a 1961 Supreme Court ruling that strictly prohibits Christian-imposed bans on public servants who do not acknowledge the existence of a supreme being.
The idea of repeating the Confederacy’s “nullification” frenzy was the focus of two teabaggers in Mississippi who proposed legislation in January creating a permanent committee to negate federal laws Republicans did not like and refused to follow. The Mississippi law was first discussed as a means to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the state, but gained support at the prospect of gun registration that teabaggers claimed was the federal government “telling us we can’t have guns.” In January, Wyoming proposed nullifying federal laws and jailing federal law enforcement agents for five years and a $50,000 fine if they attempted to enforce gun safety laws that Texas, Virginia, Missouri, and Kansas followed with nullification and threats against federal law enforcement officials.
The North Carolina bill is especially troubling because with the rejection at the polls of extremist Christian proposals advocated by Republicans spouting anti-women’s rights rhetoric on religious grounds instilled desperation in the theocratic crowd intent on ruling according to biblical edicts. The religion bill is the first blatant attempt to impose Christianity on a state’s population, and like every other nullification attempt will be struck down in the courts, but the bill’s sponsors and backers claim states, local governments, and school districts have the right to impose Christianity under the Tenth Amendment. One of the bills co-sponsors is the legislator who introduced the “concealed carry” amendment giving North Carolinians the right to use lethal force to “fight federal tyranny” that is code for the Constitution’s Separation Clause.
For the past year, Republican-led states, conservatives, and gun-fanatics have made provocative statements insinuating rebellion, revolution, and Civil War against the federal government unless their demands were met. Just a little over a year ago the Virginia Republican party sent out a newsletter threatening a revolution if President Obama was re-elected in November, and after the massacre in Newtown, gun fanatics grew enraged at the prospect of gun registration laws despite nine out of ten Americans support the proposal. Gun fanatics are dangerous indeed, but religious gun fanatics armed to “fight federal tyranny” on behalf of their right to impose religion on every citizen, including students, should raise red flags and frighten the life out of every American whether they are religious or not. History is riddled with violence, civil wars, and crusades to impose religion on populations, and if any American thinks it cannot happen in the United States, then they too are “failing to learn the lessons of history,” and “are doomed to repeat them” by ignoring a real and present danger in North Carolina that, unfortunately, is not the most religious state in the Union.
With all the threats of secession, violent revolution, and armed citizens to “fight government tyranny,” America is entering a dangerous period that the nation last visited nearly 152 years ago. It is important to note that the so-called government tyranny religious extremists, gun fanatics, racists, and anti-government advocates cite as worthy of nullification, secession, and armed rebellion are legally passed laws, Supreme Court rulings, and Constitutional amendments and nothing resembling tyranny. The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause is quite clear, and the First Amendment’s Separation Clause is unambiguous, but with North Carolina officially proposing the establishment of a state religion, and a constitutional amendment allowing residents to carry concealed weapons for the sole purpose of fighting federal tyranny, it is just a matter of time before well-armed religious maniacs open fire. The Civil War began after several states enacted nullification laws, and with religious gun fanatics infected with racial animus and hatred for non-believers, federal law enforcement agents, and judges for supporting the Constitution, the prospects of a second Civil War demonstrate that not only are conservatives ignoring the lessons of history, it appears they are doomed to repeat them in the name of religion.