When Americans first elected Barack Obama as President, they likely never imagined an African American man sitting in the Oval Office would be the impetus for division and strife plaguing the nation. There has always been divisive issues between Republicans and Democrats, and that certainly has not waned over the past five years, but there has hardly been a concerted effort to break the nation apart unless conservatives represented by the religious right, neo-confederates, and libertarians are allowed nullify the United States Constitution. There is no dearth of issues Republican-controlled states have used to thumb their noses at the federal government, and this week another Southern state took steps to nullify federal gun laws. Although it is not the first time anti-American Republicans attempted to nullify the Constitution, it is a growing trend that threatens the Union.
In Missouri this week, Republicans moved forward another measure to nullify federal gun laws because they have enough votes to override Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto. Last year the Republican-led legislature pushed for comprehensive pro-gun legislation, but the nullification effort was thwarted by Nixon’s veto. The new legislation mandates arresting and prosecuting federal agents for enforcing gun control laws, including imposing fees and registration related to gun purchases, which carry a year in prison and $1,000 fine sentence when convicted. The nullification bill also allows school personnel to carry weapons in buildings, lets gun fanatics carry open firearms in municipalities with ordinances banning open carry, and lowers the minimum age to get a concealed-weapons permit to 19.
Republicans claim nullification is necessary to uphold Missouri residents’ 2nd Amendment rights and protect gun zealots from federal proposals to expand background checks and impose an assault weapons ban even though there is no federal law to expand background checks or ban assault weapons. If passed, the Missouri nullification effort does not go into effect until 2017 to give other Confederate states time to pass their own gun proliferation laws and nullify federal gun laws conservatives are calling a “state by state” crusade to exert their will over the federal government. Republican state senator Brian Nieves who is sponsoring the legislation said “We continue to see the federal government overreach their rightful bounds, and if we can create a situation where we have some unity among states, then I think it puts us in a better position to make that argument.” It is worth repeating there are no new gun safety laws to nullify, but that is not the Republicans’ point; asserting their independence from the United States governed by the Constitution and exerting states’ supremacy over the federal government is; so they revisited history, studied the Confederacy’s secession timeline, and embraced nullification.
Nullification of the federal government and the Constitution is the religious right, libertarian, gun fanatic, and bigots’ weapon of choice since 2010 when Republicans rose to power in several state legislatures. There have been about 200 separate nullification bills in GOP states challenging federal laws, the 14th Amendment, and the Separation and Supremacy Clauses the religious right, gun fanatics, libertarians, and racists have deemed are unconstitutional. The South and religious right are obsessed with controlling women, sex, religious practice, abortion laws, and nullifying every law that has come out of the federal government, but they are particularly targeting the United States Constitution; except the 2nd and 10th Amendments. Although gun- fanatics have embraced nullification with increased frequency since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the religious right has been nullifying the Constitution for nearly ten years without pause.
According to a report published by Political Research Associates, “The nullification movement’s ideology is rooted in reverence for states’ rights and a theocratic and neo-Confederate interpretation of U.S. history.” The neo-Confederate nullification movement is a perfect pairing with the religious right’s attempt to take over the government and rule by theocracy. According to Political Research Associates (PRA) research fellow, Rachel Tabachnick, “the nullification movement merges seamlessly with the Christian Right because the “sacralized ‘lost cause’ of the South is often undergirded by Christian Reconstructionism. Christian Reconstructionism is the Dominionist movement whose goal and ideology is founded on “calling Christians to exert control over the federal government and then make the laws of the nation biblical.” In Republican-controlled states the Dominionists exert inordinate power over the legislatures and the U.S. Constitution, but few are willing to challenge them because of the unspoken American 1st commandment; thou shall not challenge theocrats’ ascension to power.
The religious right has been busy nullifying the Constitution’s Separation and Establishment Clauses with impunity by passing religious laws banning gay marriage, using taxpayer dollars to teach the bible in private and charter schools, as well as withholding contraception coverage in healthcare insurance prescription plans. The Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court will rule on this year is about nullifying the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, and if Hobby Lobby prevails, privately-owned secular businesses will win religious freedom to nullify the 14th and 1st Amendments and be free to discriminate against gays, women, and adherents of other religions that is patently unconstitutional. However, the religious right, like gun fanatics and state’s rights advocates, do not acknowledge the Constitution as the law of the land.
The Supreme Court has ruled several times that nullification is unconstitutional. In fact various federal courts consistently rule that under the Constitution the states do not have the power to nullify federal laws or any amendment in the Constitution. Neo-Confederates and the religious right claim states have purview over what is, and is not, Constitutional, but according to the Supremacy Clause of Article VI, the “Constitution and federal laws made in pursuance thereof are whether a federal law is consistent with the Constitution requires interpretation of the law, which is inherently a judicial function. The federal judicial power granted by Article III of the Constitution gives the federal courts authority over all cases “arising under this Constitution or the laws of the United States.” The Founding Fathers were clear that federal judiciary holds the ultimate power to determine whether federal laws are consistent with the Constitution that is still the supreme law of the land.
America is a nation of laws, and the ultimate law is the Constitution; not gun fanatics, religious right Dominionists, or foolish libertarians who are being lured into supporting a corporate theocracy. Nullifying gun laws, or the contraception mandate in the ACA, is just the beginning of a concerted effort to eliminate the federal government’s ability to protect Americans. The idea of a state nullifying non-existent gun laws is absurd on its face, but it is a movement that is gaining supporters in primarily Republican-controlled states and it is not relegated to gun laws as evidenced the prevalence of religious laws and insertion of religion in schools using taxpayer money. Republican-controlled states claim the Constitution and federal government derives its power from the states that they claim gives them ultimate power to nullify federal laws and the Constitution, but that is an abject lie. The Preamble to the Constitution begins “We the people;” not we the Missouri gun fanatics or we the Christian right. It is a lesson nullification-mad Republicans would comprehend if they read the history of the American Civil War or the Constitution they are desperate to nullify.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.