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North Carolina GOPers Reach New Heights of Nuttery by Proposing State Religion

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So this is what it's come to. A state known for 300 years of southern-style progressivism has been taken over by wing-nuts who are determined to decimate education, increase income inequality, and basically turn the state into the Mississippi of the Mid-Atlantic. A gerrymandering strategy succeeded in overriding the will of the people in the last election, giving the GOP control of both chambers of the legislature. Appallingly, discount-store mogul Art Pope, a longtime GOP donor and champion of free-market fundamentalism, has been installed in what many see as a de facto governorship. The crazies, naturally, are coming out of the woodwork.

But even Mississipi right-wingers might raise an eyebrow at the latest news out of the Tarheel state from WRAL in Raleigh:

"A bill 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 legislation 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."

States have certainly been down this road before. Massachusetts maintained Congregationalism as the state religion until 1833 and limited the franchise to those who signed on. But the United States of America pretty much left this discrimination behind a couple of centuries ago. Since then, states have distanced themselves from organized religion.

North Carolina's nuttery comes courtesy of two Republican representatives from Rowan County, north of Charlotte. Seven other Republicans are on board. Ironically, their agenda stands in direct contrast to the religious hertiage of the state where Quakers, Methodists, and other "New Light" sects challenged the officially-sanctioned Anglicans, and, later, the Episcopalians, during the colonial and Revolutionary periods. Those early North Carolinians fought, and sometimes died, to protect religious freedom.

The blatantly anti-American NC bill is not going anywhere, but it sounds the alarm that a state known for its forward-looking stance and moderation could become the new poster child for extremism. As a native North Carolinian, I can only home that my fellow Tarheels wake up.