A controversy that began with the NC State Legislature opening 97% of its sessions with explicitly Christian prayers has now expanded to Republican state legislature members denying any federal jurisdiction over matters related to prayer, or for that matter the Establishment of Religion clause.  

The NC general assembly has just put forth a resolution, HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 494, that states:

Section 1.   The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2.  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.Carl FordSECTION 3.  This resolution is effective upon ratification.

The bill is sponsored by Republicans Carl Ford and Harry Warren. 

So let me get this straight:  NC Republican members of the State Legislature, you think you have the right to establish a state religion for North Carolina?   You are actually arguing for “establishment of religion” by a state entity?    You are arguing against 200 years of legal precedence, going back to the 1st and 14th amendments?


Any guesses what that state religion would be?    Buddhism?  Judaism?   Islam?  Catholicism?   Or is it your understanding of Christianity?    Have you looked around the world?   Have the places where the state declared an official religion worked out so well?    What do you think this means for those of us North Carolinians who do not share your understanding of Christianity?  What about those Christians who have a different understanding of the relationship of religion and the state?

What type of religion do you have in mind for being the official state religion?  A religion that acquiesces?  A religion that tacitly sits by and supports your assault on the poor, on education, on women’s rights?

The current resolution overlooks the court ruling of the 4th Circuit, which stated:

To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord. …where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance.”

Then again, what you are proposing is consistent with everything else you have proposed in the last few years.

The Republicans who control the state legislature have slashed the budget of our public university by 414 million dollars in 2011  , and have just announced yet another $140 million dollar cut.

The Republicans who control state legislature wanted immigrant drivers in North Carolina to carry a driver’s license that has a special stripe.
Would you like them to wear special clothing too?   How about red letter “I” for immigrant on their clothes?   How about a separate section of town, and segregated lunch counters?

The NC Legislature has cut unemployment benefits:  The maximum weekly benefits have been slashed from $535 to $350, a 35 percent drop.  The maximum number of weeks has been cut from 26 weeks to between 12-20 weeks.     Sure, why don’t you cut funding for the poorest of the poor, at their moment of greatest need.    It’s consistent with everything you have put forth.

These issues matter to me.  This proposed legislature matters to me, because North Carolina matters to me.   I am a North Carolinian.  I have lived here longer than I have anywhere else in the world.   I went to college and graduate school in North Carolina.   I got married in the Duke Chapel.   Two of my beautiful children have been born in this state, one in New Bern, and one in Durham.   I teach at the University of North Carolina.    My family and I love this state, love her mountains (ok, rolling hills), love the beach, love the piedmont.  We love the people of this beautiful state.   We love NC BBQ (ok, we don’t do the pork, but still..), love the small towns and love the folks who have moved here and call her home.   I teach students from every town and county in the state, and love being a part of sharing knowledge with them.    I go all over this state, from the triangle area filled with transplanted Yankees to the small towns where our family lives, and I tell you that we North Carolinians are better than what you State Legislators are doing.    These values of bigotry and prejudice are not our values.

There is an absolute disconnect between the North Carolina that we live in, and the pathetic, misinformed, patronizing, prejudiced legislation coming out of the NC legislature.

To the arrogant, obnoxious state legislatures who apparently have neither read nor understood the Constitution of the United States, I could try to reason with you.  I could cite for you court cases and evidence from American history.    But honestly at this point I don’t feel like reasoning with bigoted morons.   If you understood law, or history, or common sense, or logic, I would appeal to those.     But I know based on experience that this is not likely to be persuasive. 800px-NCLegislature

So all I have to say to you is this:  Shame on you.
Shame on you and your prejudice.
Shame on you and your moronic arrogance.
Shame on you and your bigotry.

Remember Sesame Street?  Another program that your party has been trying to eliminate?
Some of us grew up watching it, and we know our letters and our numbers.   In light of that, here is our message to the state legislature sponsoring this resolution.    As a proud North Carolinian, one of the joys of belonging to this beautiful state is the right to use colorful language when it is warranted.   And believe you me, it is warranted now.  Shame on you.   And to honor Sesame Street:

The above message has been brought to you by the letters S.H.A.M.E O.N. Y.O.U. 
And the number 2013.  As in the year that you should realize you are living in.  

[The language in this blog post was slightly modified.]




  1. I have a feeling that these same politicians would fight tooth and nail against their understanding of “sharia law” being practiced in their state…and yet they can’t see the logical fallacies of what they are proposing here. It’s absurd.

    • “A religion that tacitly sits by and supports your assault on the poor, on education, on women’s rights?”
      So is he talking about Islam? Because the last time I saw news on religion, it was his religion hanging homosexuals, forbidding women from driving, stoning women to death for being seen in public with a man not of their family. Shariah is seen as the most oppressive to women and the poor. How many Churches have been burned and Christians murdered in Muslim countries? How many Christians have been murdered because someone says “that person said something bad about mohammed”? (I don’t capitalize false Gods) You live in a country that caters to your religion while spitting on Christians, where students in college are encouraged to stomp on Jesus’ name (imagine the uproar if it was mohammed they were ask to stomp on?) So please, SCREW YOU!

      • Thank you. I don’t like Christianity, but this guy is the pot calling the kettle black.

        Screw Islam, the most demented cult on earth, enslaving women for the past 1,400 years.

  2. Totally agree with you. Also, a minor nitpick: “cite” court cases rather than “site” court cases. You can delete my comment after the correction has been made.

  3. Mike in Wisconsin

    I’m originally from NC, and I’m so please the operative word is FROM. Stories like this make me want to join the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

    • Please DO join the Freedom From Religion Foundation and support them with your donation. You can do so here: You can bet that they will be all over this issue. As will be their local NC chapter, the Triangle Freethought Society.

  4. Another Angry Citizen

    Thank you for this column, Prof. Safi; very well said indeed. You may find this column on today’s Popehat to be of interest.

    Impeachment, anyone?

  5. no state needs an officail religion, can we say iran, indonesia and other places? for the professor, when will you tell the truth about islam and the destruction and hate it brings?

  6. To be clear I am deeply conservative and even more deeply Christian. I think that it is a mistake to try to push for an official governmental religion even at the state level. However, if a large portion of citizens in a state want to have a war memorial with a cross in it, it should be allowed, and not demonized because the majority should not bow for the whims of the minority. This would also go for any state that was Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish. It is disrespectful to all the fallen heroes when organizations like FFR try to tear down memorials over symbols that man of the fallen stood by. Also, I am in agreement with Dessertrek, there is a profound lack of honesty on this matter.

    • Well said. There are plenty of states available that’ll adopt these atheist, pro abortion, pro gay, pro transie/pedophile, pro legal drugs, liberal degenerates that move in & destroy the social fabric of hundred year old communities with their sicko idealogy & prefer a bent for sick religions like Islam that subjugate, enslave, torture & kill their women.

  7. buncha liberal stinkin idiots in these posts. the country was founded on christian principles and the constitution written with christian values. if you dont like christianity then move. note: i would highly suggest you bypass texas on your way.

    • Anton & Fish, it surprises me that ‘religious’ folks as yourself resort to degrading name-calling.

      Also, this great nation of ours was founded on religious freedom. My ancestors came here to escape the tyranny of the church in England. They came here because they wanted to be able to practice the religion of THEIR choice.

      That’s the beauty of America – the religious freedom that we enjoy in this country. Sadly, many right wing radicals seem to have forgotten that.

  8. While I don’t support the legislation as it is written – neither do most NC Republicans, by the way – only extremists benefit from hyperbole. There is not “200 years of legal precedence” on this issue, because the 1st Amendment did not actually apply to the states until the Supreme Court incorporated it via the 14th in Gitlow v. New York (1925).

    Whether praying before a legislative session constitutes what the Framers considered an “establishment of religion” – the charge of which is what prompted this bill in the first place – is somewhat debatable. The establishment clause, after all, was intended to prevent the government from imposing Test Acts, which required citizens to belong to a state-established religion in order to hold public office, not to prevent legislators from practicing their own religions. If the latter were the case, neither Madison nor Jefferson (the two men principally responsible for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) would have regularly attended worship service in the Capitol, but they did.

    So, thumbs-up for calling out a flawed bill, and a big fat “screw you” for historical inaccuracy in so doing.

  9. Kitty Cunningham

    Happily, it has been killed.

    I didn’t think it would actually fly, but I am appalled that it even came up.

    And, frankly, I thought “screw you” was mild.

  10. You don’t go far enough in citing the absolute authority of the U.S. Constitution as the highest law in the land. Article VI, Clause 2 says: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

  11. I am encouraged by the outburst by Omid Safi. He is a good Muslim. The Muslim who applies the teaching and examples of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, the “excellent example” of conduct according to the Qur’an (33:21).
    Do not deny the ideologically driven persecution of non Muslims in Islamic republics. Do not deny the fearful European answer to the encroaching inevitability of censorship of criticizing Islam.
    Do not fight with swords as Mohammad commanded his followers to do Qur’an 9:29. But with the sword of truth “Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…” (John 18:37). These are the words of my Prophet, Priest and King. Jesus The Christ. Son of God.

    • Islam is a rabid cult, not a religion. Anyone that turns a region of the world upside down because the Qaran or Allah is insulted in psychotic. They’ll only appear to be a friend until the opportune time is at hand.

    • How about if we drop your liberal tail in the middle of Algeria Marty? Sicko, fragile, liberal, ever forgiving academics with inputs that never affects them.

      • Anton, We need to get one thing straight! Stop calling people names!!
        Most people who are awake to the totalitarian political system that comes with Islam end up sounding like you! You come across quite agitated! I will not allow myself to go there. So I couch my words in ideology. I am not an academic. I am a Christian. I am to love my enemies. Not hate them. I hate Islam not Muslims. Get that? I love Muslims (my enemies) I hate Islam (lies).
        Why do I hate Islam? Because it is not true. It turns Jesus the Son of Man into a prophet after Mohamed. I mean you no Insult. Carry on!

      • I am not sorry like Candace is. No, on the contrary, I am free to speak and so is Professor Safi and so are you. I trust God(Jesus) and his plan to return. Until then I will tell as many as the Lord leads.
        However we need to here the opinions of Muslims so we can here how incompatible Islam is with Christian values. Too many Muslims practice lies.
        I do not need to be air lifted to a Muslim dominated country because I live in a Muslim dominated neighborhood

  12. If he is really for religious freedom, why does he still belong to the intolerance that is Islam ? Is he afraid his co-religionists will kill him if he leaves ?

    • Islam is turning Europe in to a cesspool. They’re on welfare, tie up the legal system, while marching the streets saying there’s no religion but Islam. This is done because they know that the naive, morons & self righteous will let them. No one thought Hitler would go the ends that he did. At this moment, Christians are being hunted, murdered, their homes & churches burned. How can people be so apologetic and in such denial. Rockets launched into Israel daily, without retaliation. Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat them.

      • Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

        People are so apologetic and in denial because they have been taught all of their life that religion doesn’t matter, that people are for the most part the same regardless of where they are from, and that “peace, love, and togetherness” is the only true way to live. People like this will not survive for long when they meet the enemy and realize that religion and sharia really does matter to the Islamist, that people are very different in their morals, beliefs, and world views, and that true peace will only be known when Allah defeats all other religions and establishes the True Caliphate.

        When that time comes, people like Candace Datz will wonder where they went wrong.

        • Amen Marbran, posted another daily horror story on women.
          How would Candace Datz justify this.

  13. Well said, Candace! Look at these shameful comments! We are a minority, and we have to deal with so many bigots from all religious groups and sects. Light and love will prevail.

    Thank you for your excellent article, Omid! You are our contemporary Rumi.

    • Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

      sleepless, you use the word “bigot.” Can you tell us how the factual comments are bigoted? A bigot is a person so prejudice that he will not entertain any discussion from the opposition, letting only his hate fill the discussion. So how are some of the FACTS presented in any discussion of Islam “bigoted” when the Islamist refuses to engage in the discussion?

      And Omid Safi refuses to respond to any of these comments because he is “going to let the venom of some of these comments be testimony to their own ugliness.” That’s avoidance, pure and simple, because Safi knows that he cannot defend the actions of his brethren in the Middle East, Indonesia, etc.

  14. Omid Safi

    Dear Candace and Sleepless, thank you so much for your very kind words. I am going to let the venom of some of these comments be testimony to their own ugliness. We have got serious work ahead of us, and are going to keep reaching out to all of us in justice and compassion. We have seen this kind of venom before, towards Jews, towards African-Americans, towards gays/lesbians, towards Irish, towards Mormons, towards Native Americans, towards the poor, towards… it goes on and on. I don’t want to spend my life fighting hatred towards Muslims, but rather hope that we can be part of curing the underlying disease: prejudice and hatred.
    Blessings to you and yours,
    omid safi

    • You forgot Christians on your list of hated people. Christian persecution is growing all the time in Islamic republics. The Sharia ends up subjugating non Muslims when Muslims apply their religious law to the state law of the country.
      Christian persecution or sectarian violence if you prefer is not confined to Muslim countries, North Korea for instance they are not Islamic.
      Just for the record, I love Muslims.

  15. Dear Prof Safi,
    Greetings from Indonesia

    I am basically with you for the following reasons: 1. Any State does not have and is not capable to embrace any religion; it is humans that think themselves need a religion for their spiritual needs; 2. We have a plenty of politicians in my country who try to make the Republic of Indonesia embrace Islam; the chair of Islamic Party, which is closely related to IM, is now a suspect for beef-import corruption. His party is widely known as a faithful party of Islam, yet practicing corruption is needed to fund his party. To end my comment: please investigate what is behind the curtain of the politician prayers.

    For American Christians, I feel it is important for us to stick on “respecting/honoring your neighbors, and not making funny at others in the name of Jesus”. Whatever Prof Safi says, we have no reservation to take Jesus for blaming his words, and himself as a renowned scholar who rarely is an enlightened Muslim.

    Peace be with you all,
    Abraham Silo Wilar
    A Christian scholar from Indonesia who resides in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    • Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

      Mr. Wilar, please share more of the current events from Indonesia with Omid Safi. Just last month a Christian church was destroyed in Bekasi (by the local government, not a mob!), while almost 1,000 onlookers shouted “Allahu Akbar!” One man reportedly shouted through a loudspeaker: “They’re infidels and they’ve built their church without permission.”

      Look it up on YouTube, there are plenty of videos of this event. Since 2004, some 430 Christian churches have been attacked or destroyed in Indonesia, all because the “infidel” did not obtain the proper permits, or made “repairs” that were not authorized, or simply because the local Muslims got tired of looking at the kuffars’ place of worship.

      Would “Dr.” Safi care to address those activities, or is just more religious equivocation and misapplied relativism in order?

  16. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  17. I am sickened by some of the comments of others that have posted here. I find it incredible that people would even think this way. I totally agree w/ this post. Thomas Jefferson the author of our constitution saw first had over 200 yrs ago how state religions can impeded liberty and what was that religion?? Answer : the Christian religion. Freedom from religion allows Christians and people of other faiths to practice their religion. A state sponsored religion is no guarantee of religious freedom.

    • Ha ha…

      I posted this awhile back: “Mr. Wilar, please share more of the current events from Indonesia with Omid Safi. Just last month a Christian church was destroyed in Bekasi (by the local government, not a mob!), while almost 1,000 onlookers shouted “Allahu Akbar!” One man reportedly shouted through a loudspeaker: “They’re infidels and they’ve built their church without permission.”

      Look it up on YouTube, there are plenty of videos of this event. Since 2004, some 430 Christian churches have been attacked or destroyed in Indonesia, all because the “infidel” did not obtain the proper permits, or made “repairs” that were not authorized, or simply because the local Muslims got tired of looking at the kuffars’ place of worship.

      Would “Dr.” Safi care to address those activities, or is just more religious equivocation and misapplied relativism in order?”

      I come back here because there’s been an update and I see this for my comment:

      “Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment”

      So no one, not even “Dr.” Safi deigns to respond to my post. Instead, they mark it as “low quality” in hopes that it will stay hidden. Typical cowardice on display whenever the subject of Islam comes up. Everyone knows how evil that “religion” is yet everyone is too scared to do anything about it.

  18. Hey, Omid Safi…

    Father Francois Murad, a Catholic priest serving in Syria, just had his head sawed off by Syrian “rebels,” aka jihadists from Jabhat al-Nusra – or the Nusra Front – while dozens of others stood watching chanting “Allahu Akbar!” There’s video of it on LiveLink if you have the stomach to face reality.

    As a practicing Muslim (I assume you are) perhaps you should use your blog to address the increasingly obvious militant aspects of Islam, rather than criticize a legislature that follows the practices of a more peaceful religion. But then you’d be putting yourself in harm’s way should someone accuse you of being an apostate.

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