Southern Religion

North Carolina marriage in what crosshairs?

Same sex marriage is already illegal in North Carolina.

Even so, declaring themselves terrified that the courts may undo what the legislature hath wrought, the Republican-dominated North Carolina General Assembly imposed a May 8 referendum on whether to embed that stricture in the state constitution.

Rushing on from that contrived position, the Art Pope funded North Carolina Family Policy Council this week published an inflammatory image of marriage itself in the some phantom sniper’s crosshairs.

The image is rich in irony. Writing at Baptists Today, contributing editor Tony Cartledge notes:

Anyone who pays the least bit of attention has to be aware that the biggest threats to heterosexual marriage are the people who participate in them. People change. People make mistakes. People grow in different directions. People fail to communicate effectively. Heterosexual marriages end in divorce with uncomfortable frequency, but almost always with no assistance whatsoever from the possibility that the courts might one day overturn the state’s existing law against gay marriage.

Crosshairs image

N.C. Family Policy Council magazine marriage crosshairs image

A letter signed by hundreds of North Carolina faith leaders asserts that opposition to the amendment is as a matter of faith:

As people of faith, clergy and leaders in our faith traditions, we are mandated by God to demonstrate and protect love in all its forms and to stand for justice for all creation.

Supporters of the amendment, like Daniel L. Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, say the opposite. Writing in the same magazine with the crosshairs image, he argues:

The Bible defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman in a monogamous covenant relationship intended to last for life.

Christians can first of all model what a healthy marriage looks like following the principles of Scripture. Again, we have often failed in this area and I believe that is one reason why we have so much confusion today with respect to marriage. In addition, Christians can take public stands and vote their conscience in seeking to promote the kind of marriages that are reflective in biblical truth. Christians should go to the ballot box with biblical principles and truth.

Whatever your view of marriage, if this amendment fails, same sex marriage will still be illegal in North Carolina and the status of marriage itself will not have been altered. Marriage isn’t in the crosshairs on May 8.

Assertions that it is inflame an inevitably overheated debate and contribute to the incivility the Rev. Mark Harris, head of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, says he is against.

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Politics | , , | Comments Off on North Carolina marriage in what crosshairs?

The N.C. silly season on office-holding atheists goes pandemic

When atheistic Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell took office without legal challenge or other untoward event, we thought the silly season had ended and with it talk of applying Article 6, section 8 of the North Carolina constitution (a bootless anachronism). It says:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

Vain hope. The sensationalistic atheist-bashing virus which greeted Bothwell’s election went national and then international.

Now apparently pandemic, the infection has boomeranged back to North Carolina, afflicting N.C. Christian Action League chief Mark Creech.

As Tony Cartledge explains:

Relying heavily on David Barton’s The Myth of Separation, which argues against church-state separation, Creech holds that “the founders” intended only that there should be no denominational test (Anglican, Presbyterian, etc.), assuming that all potential office holders would be Christian. In addition, he suggests (with the late D. James Kennedy) that those who don’t believe in God have no basis for life-affirming values.

Threatened with legal action, radio-interviewed and written about hither and yon, Bothwell is not unaware of the arguments being deployed. Bothwell answers them calmly via his own blog. For example, he writes:

Blind belief in the righteousness of our current wars is bankrupting this country while our economy has gone into a tailspin. And while our leaders often cloak their actions with prayer and religious posturing, it is the oil companies and defense contractors who reap profits while our young women and men sacrifice their lives.

And, in regard to death, it is my conclusion that those of us who believe that this is our one and only life are much more likely to value and protect the lives of our brave soldiers and our citizens than those who believe that they will live again in heaven.

Yet the nature atheists, who from here appear to be a varied lot indeed, isn’t the issue here. Religious freedom is. One need not be a Bothwell supporter to note, as we did earlier, that the U.S. Constitution supersedes any and every state constitution where there are conflicts. Then there is both the First Amendment to consider and Article VI, which says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Religious belief and/or the lack thereof have no bearing on the right to exercise the privileges of citizenship in this country. That’s our way of keeping the state out of our religion (or lack thereof), and it works.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on The N.C. silly season on office-holding atheists goes pandemic

Atheists & officeholding in North Carolina

Perhaps also refugees from the war on Christmas, opponents of Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell argued that he shouldn’t be seated because he’s an atheist. All reported by the Asheville Citizen-Times, which also explains that Article 6, section 8 of the state constitution (a bootless anachronism) says:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

The U.S. Constitution supersedes any and every state constitution where there are conflicts. There’s the First Amendment to consider, as well as Article VI, which says: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Yet the opponents of duly elected Bothwell, author of “Pure Bunkum: Reporting on the Life and Crimes of Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Lee Medford,” persisted. And failed. For Bothwell was sworn in Tuesday night.

Thus the silly season came again this year to North Carolina, and passed.

December 9, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Atheists & officeholding in North Carolina

Civil prayer on the North Carolina docket

Squared off since 2006 over civil prayer’s wording in Forsyth County, N.C., are the Americal Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).

The issue: Forsyth County local government meetings are opened with prayers which which as a matter of policy may be sectarian. They may, for example, enjoin Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Charlie Davis, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Winston-Salem. is one of the plaintiffs. He explains “that sectarian prayer excludes people, which isn’t good. The government guarantees religious freedom and that applies to non-believers as well.”

It didn’t have to go to court. The county commissioners ignored the advice of their own attorney by refusing to ensure that invocations were non-sectarian.

A judge could rule on the lawsuit next month and legally, the smart money is with the ACLU:

In 1983, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Marsh v. Chambers that if a legislative body chooses to open its meetings with a prayer, such prayer must not be “exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief.” The prayers before the legislature that were upheld in the Marsh case were nonsectarian – in other words, the prayers were not specific to any particular religion. In addition, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes North Carolina, has repeatedly and recently upheld this principle of government neutrality in religious matters by insisting that legislative invocations be nonsectarian in nature.

More important is the message of pluralism in America sent by pursuit of this lawsuit others like it.

Protestant prayer of the sort being defended by the ADF was the standard, especially in the South, until late in the last century. No more. Objections to the informal establishment of this Protestant civil religion, where it persists, are being adjudicated.

Bill Leonard, the dean of the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University told the Winston-Salem Journal:

This is the death rattle of implicit religious establishment in America that has been in existence since the Colonial period.

Is it constructive to adjudicate a cultural transition? As the Rev. Laura Spangler, the pastor of Winston-Salem’s historic Lloyd Presbyterian Church, put it, “. . . prayer, the main way we communicate with God, is becoming a tool for conflict. And I don’t feel good about that.”

March 25, 2009 Posted by | History, Law, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Civil prayer on the North Carolina docket

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ‘oneness’ with accepted ‘differences’

Multi-part harmony without tulip wilting flame war or inquisitional debate enlightened the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina meeting in Greensboro, as told to us by Tony Cartledge. At the heart of it:

In pursuing the mission of God, Cooperative Baptists must recognize their need for one another, [CBFNC coordinator Larry] Hovis said, and “provide an authentic Baptist community where we can celebrate our oneness and respect our differences.”

Read it all here.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , | Comments Off on Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ‘oneness’ with accepted ‘differences’