North Carolina Republicans Want the Right to Establish a State Religion (Update and Possible Explanation)
A few days ago I wrote, somewhat incredulously, about the effort in North Carolina to pass legislation allowing the state to establish an official religion (North Carolina Republicans Want the Right to Establish a State Religion). So when I came across an article yesterday that helps to explain this motivation, I felt that I had to share.
An N.C. House lawmaker is equating any prayer to the Islamic God with terrorism.
In an email exchange with a constituent, Republican state Rep. Michele Presnell of Burnsville was asked whether she was comfortable with a prayer to Allah before a legislative meeting. Presnell responded: “No, I do not condone terrorism.”
The first-year lawmaker who represents a district in the North Carolina mountains is a co-sponsor of House resolution 494, a measure asserting that North Carolina can establish a state religion. She did not return a call for comment Monday about the string of emails obtained by Dome.
“The famed ACLU is telling Rowan County they may not pray before commissioners meetings,” Presnell wrote to Britt Kaufmann, a constituent. “We pray in Raleigh before our legislative meetings, U.S. Congress prays in Washington DC, why can they not pray?”
Kaufmann replied: “Yes, I do understand that the ACLU is suing Rowan County and I think they have clearly articulated why they are not comfortable with prayer before the commissioners meetings. I wanted you, as my representative, to know that I do not think the proposed bill is a good solution to that problem. … Would you be comfortable with a public prayer to Allah before a legislative meeting in Raleigh?”
Presnell equated Islam to terrorism and added, “We just need to start taking a stand on our religious freedom or it will be whisked away from us.”
The email exchange ends with Presnell telling her constituent: “No, you are wrong. Have a good day.”
Her stance appears to differ from that of the primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Harry Warren, a Salisbury Republican, who later apologized for the resolution’s poor wording and how it embarrassed the state.
Go read that second paragraph again. When asked if she would be comfortable with an Islamic prayer to Allah, Rep. Presnell (a co-sponsor of the bill to establish a state religion) equated such a prayer to terrorism. She didn’t say that she would be uncomfortable with a prayer from a religion different than hers. No. She essentially said that a prayer to Allah was terrorism; that Islam itself, is terrorism. And note further that, at the same time that she is saying that the legislature shouldn’t have a prayer to Allah, she is also complaining about “religious freedom” being “whisked away”. In her myopic worldview, a prayer in Jesus’ name is good, but other forms of prayer … um, not so much. To make a governmental body stop Christian sectarian prayer is whisking away religion freedom but even the suggestion of a Muslim prayer is terrorism.
Look, I’m not surprised that some uneducated people who have never had an opportunity to interact with anyone who looks or thinks differently than they do might harbor views such as those expressed by Rep. Presnell. But this woman is an elected official. Can you imagine how she would react if someone equated a prayer to Jesus with with the murder of Jews? I mean, how many Jews have been killed over the centuries by people who claimed to be acting pursuant to the teachings of or in furtherance of Christianity? But just as I don’t blame every Christian or every prayer to Jesus for centuries of anti-Semitism, nor should Rep. Presnell or others blame every Muslim or every prayer to Allah for the actions of Muslim terrorists.
We cannot continue to allow this sort of religious bigotry to be uttered with impunity, let alone spread to those who are so willing to soak it up and spit it back out as “truth”. Unfortunately, we now have many elected leaders who have no compunction about spewing just such bigotry and no shortage of people willing to believe it, repeat it, and vote in favor of it.
Right now it may just be Islamic prayers to Allah, but how long before any prayer that isn’t to Jesus will begin to be the subject of ire and bigotry? How long before Hindus and Buddhists are made to feel like outsiders solely because they don’t pray to Jesus? How long before this sort of bigotry once again begins to target Jews as “Christ-killers”? Even if North Carolina doesn’t establish a state religion, we shouldn’t sit idly by while its elected officials make statements that suggest only adherents to a particular faith are welcome or true participants in the governing process and worthy of the rights associated with being citizens.
When we hear people — especially elected officials — make these sorts of horrible, bigoted comments, we owe it to ourselves, to our children, to our communities, and to our sense of what America is supposed to represent, to call out those statements and those making them, as nothing less than the hateful bigoted viewpoints they really are. And then we need to vote those people out of office.
Before it’s too late.