Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts

July 4, 2017

French Pres.Macron Proposes Radical Changes in The Country's Government

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a radical overhaul of the country's government.
Speaking at the historic Palace of Versailles, he said he planned to cut the number of lawmakers by a third.
Doing so would produce a more efficient government and put France on a "radically new path", said Mr. Macron.
The French president says he has a broad mandate after sweeping wins in presidential and parliamentary elections this year.
If his proposed changes were not passed by Parliament within a year, he said he would take the decision to a referendum.
In his 90-minute speech, the 39-year-old leader vowed to return a "collective dignity" to France. 
"In the past, procedures have taken preference over results, rules over the initiative, living off the public purse over fairness," he said.
The proposed cuts would reduce the number of National Assembly members from 577 to 385, and the numbers of Senate members from 348 to 232.
French President Emmanuel Macron walks through the Galerie des Bustes (Busts Gallery) to access the Versailles Palace - 3 July 2017Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMr. Macron was criticized for the "pharaonic aspect" of his Versailles speech
He also announced:
  • the electoral system would be changed to allow more proportional representation, so more voices would be heard at government level;
  • France's state of emergency, put in place after terror attacks, would be removed by the autumn.
Mr. Macron is not the first president to convene a session at Versailles, the Grand 17th Century palace outside Paris built by Louis XIV, "the Sun King".
The decision to convene Congress at the palace has come in for criticism, however, and has provided further material for critics of Mr. Macron who have accused him of aloofness.
While he engaged freely with the press during his electoral campaign, he has made little contact since, and will not conduct the traditional presidential interview for the 14 July national holiday, Bastille Day. 
Three parties, including Jean-Luc Mélénchon's far-left France Unbowed, boycotted the event. Mr. Mélénchon accused Mr. Macron of "crossing a line with the pharaonic aspect of his presidential monarchy".
The front page of Monday's Libération showed an image of Mr. Macron as Jupiter, the king of the gods, holding forked lightning. Expressing concern, the centre-left newspaper said the session in Versailles was the latest manifestation of the president's authoritarian nature.
Media captionEmmanuel Macron's unconventional route to political stardom in France.
Mr. Macron's La République en Marche (LREM) party began life only in April 2016, but the former finance minister swept to victory in the second round of the presidential election on 7 May.
A month later, his party and its allies went on to claim 350 of the 577 seats in parliamentary elections, a win that gave him the mandate to push through wide-ranging social and economic reforms.
Meanwhile, police have confirmed that a suspected far-right extremist has been charged with plotting to kill Mr. Macron at the Bastille Day parade later this month.

October 15, 2016

Why it Matters to Have a Government Supporting Same Sex Rights

 Those dreams became a reality but realities can go back to dreams and nightmares.
Be careful how you vote if you believe in same sex Marriage. We need a congress, the executive branch with the Supreme Court that believe in it and is independent of religious rules.


Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, but there are other battlegrounds related to civil rights and nondiscrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Two polarizing questions: What sort of access should transgender people have to public bathrooms? And are the advances for LGBT rights infringing on the religious freedom of some Americans?


Hillary Clinton is a staunch supporter of LGBT rights; she has endorsed the Equality Act, a proposed federal law that would provide comprehensive protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Donald Trump says he would be a better president for gays than Clinton, yet major LGBT-rights groups strongly oppose him. Among the reasons: He has balked at endorsing same-sex marriage, his evangelical advisory board has included prominent opponents of advances in LGBT rights, and running mate Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor, last year signed a law that critics said would allow businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons.


Whoever wins the presidency can only do so much to influence national LGBT-rights policies, unless, perhaps, if the winner’s party sweeps control of Congress. The proposed Equality Act is unlikely to advance through a Republican-controlled House, even if Clinton wins. And the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage is unlikely to be threatened, though some conservatives cling to hopes that a Supreme Court reconfigured by Trump appointees might reverse the 2015 ruling extending that right to all 50 states.

On some fronts, however, the outcome of the presidential race could have a major impact – for example, in how aggressively federal agencies work to expand LGBT rights. Clinton would probably maintain or intensify the Obama administration’s efforts to bolster transgender rights. This could mean pressure on school districts to let transgender students use school bathrooms based on their gender identity.

Some transgender students have become activists on this issue, saying they face harassment and discomfort if forced to use bathrooms on the basis of the sex on their birth certificate.

There’s also the matter of judicial appointments. Thus far, federal judges have generally been unsympathetic to arguments that certain types of anti-LGBT discrimination are permissible if in accordance with a person’s religious beliefs. Trump has told conservatives he’d place a high priority on religious liberty and would seek to protect Christians from having to violate their beliefs. Among the types of cases in question: Whether wedding photographers or bakers who oppose same-sex marriage should be penalized for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding.

At the state level, the election could have important repercussions for LGBT issues. In North Carolina, for example, the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Roy Cooper, opposes a law curtailing LGBT rights that was signed by his election opponent, incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. That law – which includes restrictions on transgender people’s bathroom access – has been the target of an expansive protest campaign.

In Indiana, Pence’s decision to forgo a second term to run for vice president boosts Democratic hopes of winning the race for governor. The Democratic candidate, former House Speaker John Gregg, has vowed to push for full LGBT civil rights if elected; at present Indiana is one of 28 states with no statewide nondiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians.

In Kentucky, there’s an intriguing U.S. Senate race matching incumbent Republican Rand Paul, who failed in his presidential bid, against Democrat Jim Gray, the openly gay mayor of Lexington. Gray is an underdog in the race.


Editor’s note: This story is part of an occasional Associated Press series examining the issues at stake in the presidential election between now and Election Day. Read more from “Why it matters.”

April 22, 2014

British PM Stresses England is a Christian Nation

Criticised ... Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire for stressing that En
Criticised ... Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire for stressing that England is a “Christian country” during his Easter address. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of sowing sectarianism and division after stressing in an Easter message that Britain was still a “Christian country”.
The criticism came in an open letter signed by 55 public figures, including writers Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett and the Nobel prize-winning scientists John Sulston and Harold Kroto.
Cameron, a member of the established Church of England, has been increasingly vocal about his beliefs recently, and in an article published last week urged Christians to be “more evangelical” about their faith.
Commentators suggest he is trying to build bridges with the Church, which opposed government plans to introduce gay marriage, and following vocal criticism from many clergy about the impact of the government’s austerity measures.
“Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things. I completely disagree,” the Conservative prime minister wrote in the Church Times, an Anglican newspaper.
“I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
The open letter, which was organised by the British Humanist Association and published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, disputes Cameron’s claims that Britain is still a Christian country.
“Constantly to claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society,” it says.
It adds that highlighting the social contribution of Christians above others, which was also a theme of remarks Cameron made to an Easter reception at Downing Street, “needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates”.
The 2011 census found 59.3 per cent of people in England and Wales said they were Christian, down from 71.7 per cent 10 years earlier.
The number of those reporting no religion was 25.1 per cent, up from 14.8 per cent in 2001.
Cameron has always been open about his faith but not evangelical, following the trend of British politicians to keep their religious convictions to themselves.
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair was a devout Christian but said he was careful not to speak openly about his faith while in office because “you always get into trouble talking about it”. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 2007 after leaving office.
A spokeswoman for Cameron said the prime minister had made clear as far back as December 2011 that he believed Britain was a Christian country, although he recognises the importance of different faith groups.
“He has said on many occasions that he is incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make the UK a stronger country,” she said.

March 23, 2014

Bittersweet Victory for the Separation of Church/State Vs. Salvation Army

The New York Civil Liberties Union announced the approval yesterday of a settlement in Lowe v. The Salvation Army,a 10-year old lawsuit on behalf of 19 Salvation Army employees, including two who claim they were fired in retaliation for protesting the imposition of religious requirements on employees paid with government grant money.  A 2003 national reorganization plan by the Salvation Army led to blurring the separation between the organization’s government-funded social service programs that employ some 300 people in New York, and its religious mission.  It began to require employees paid with government funds to give information on their religious affiliation and frequency of church attendance, and to commit themselves to providing social services in a manner consistent with the Christian religious principles of the Salvation Army.
In 2010 the NYCLU settled claims against government agencies that had also been sued.  They agreed to monitor the Salvation Army to make sure it does not impose religion on recipients of government-funded social services. In yesterday’s settlement, the Salvation Army agreed to provide employees in government-funded positions with a document indicating that it abides by equal employment opportunity provisions as to creed and sexual orientation, will not inquire into employees’ religious beliefs, and requires its employees to furnish social services using sound practices without regard to whether they conflict with Salvation Army religious principles. However employees may not undermine the Salvation Army’s religious mission. In the settlement, the Salvation Army will also pay $450,000 for damages and attorneys’ fees. Newsmax reports on the settlement.
It’s bittersweet because the money isn’t going to come out of supporting the SA’s religious mission, it’ll come out of its social programs.  So while church/state wins a necessary battle, the world still loses a little bit – and it didn’t have to if the SA felt that helping people was enough.  But no, it wanted to make sure people were Christian first, before the SA would let them join in the common goal to help people – but you cannot have a religious litmus test of your employees if you’re getting federal funding.
We’re always told that religion makes people more charitable.  If that were the case, it would seem like religious organizations like the SA wouldn’t boot people for not believing in Jesus.  But no, it’s Jesus first, and once you’ve got Jesus then we can move on to helping the poor.  Those aren’t the right priorities.  It’s just converting the needs of the impoverished into a commercial for your religion.

February 9, 2014

Federal Legal Benefits to All Gay Married Couples in All States and Jurisdictions

The U.S. government will recognize same-sex marriages as equal to traditional marriages in all federal legal matters, including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday.
The expansion of such federal recognition will include 34 states where same-sex marriage isn’t legal, but the new federal benefits being extended to those states will apply only where the U.S. government has jurisdiction, Holder said.

For example, a same-sex couple legally married in Massachusetts can now have their federal bankruptcy proceeding recognized in Alabama, even though it doesn't allow same-sex marriages. In the past, the U.S. government could challenge the couple’s joint bankruptcy because Alabama doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Holder’s announcement was revealed in an advance copy of a speech he will deliver at the Human Rights Campaign’s New York City gala this weekend.
Holder plans to announce that the Justice Department will issue a memo Monday that recognizes same-sex marriages “to the greatest extent possible under the law."

The move affects how millions of Americans interact with their federal government, including bankruptcy cases, prison visitation rights, survivor benefits for police officers and firefighters killed on the job, and the legal right to refuse to testify to incriminate a spouse.
The Human Rights Campaign, an advocate of gay rights, lauded Holder for his support of same sex marriage in a recent speech to the Swedish parliament.
In an excerpt of his speech provided in advance, Holder compared his work for the gay rights cause to the 1960s civil rights struggle and then- Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s support for equality.

"This means that, in every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States -- they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law," Holder said of his initiative.
Under the new policy, the Justice Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples -- including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouses.
Also, the government won’t contest same-sex married couples their rights in states where previously prosecutors could argue that the marriage is not recognized in the state where the couple lives, Holder said.

Couples in same-sex marriages will be allowed to file for bankruptcy as a couple. This ensures alimony and domestic support debts aren't discharged in bankruptcy cases. Federal inmates with same-sex spouses will now have full visitation, compassionate release and other benefits.
The Justice Department's policy change will extend benefits to same-sex couples who benefit from federal programs such as the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, Radiation Exposure Compensation program and to the families of police officers and firefighters who receive benefits from the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program.

"Just like during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation's struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher," Holder said. "As attorney general, I will not let this Department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history."
In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said that "this landmark announcement will change the lives of countless committed gay and lesbian couples for the better.
"While the immediate effect of these policy decisions is that all married gay couples will be treated equally under the law, the long-term effects are more profound. Today, our nation moves closer toward its ideals of equality and fairness for all,” Griffin said.

CNN’s Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

January 3, 2014

New Poll Shows Americans Have Lost Faith in Government


Americans enter 2014 with a profoundly negative view of their government, expressing little hope that elected officials can or will solve the nation’s biggest problems, a new poll finds.

Half say America's system of democracy needs either "a lot of changes" or a complete overhaul, according to the poll conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just 1 in 20 says it works well and needs no changes.
Americans, who have a reputation for optimism, have a sharply pessimistic take on their government after years of disappointment in Washington.
The percentage of Americans saying the nation is heading in the right direction hasn't topped 50 in about a decade. In the new poll, 70 percent lack confidence in the government's ability "to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014."
The poll comes about two months after partisan gridlock prompted the first government shutdown in 17 years.

People feel somewhat better about their personal lives. Most have at least some confidence that they'll be able to handle their own problems in the coming year. A narrow majority say they'd do a better job running the country than today's leaders in Washington.
Local and state governments inspire more faith than the federal government, according to the poll, with 45 percent at least moderately confident in their state government and 54 percent expressing that much confidence in their local government.

When asked to name up to 10 world or national problems they would "like the government to be working on" in 2014, Americans chiefly cite issues that have dominated — and often flummoxed — the White House and Congress for five years. Health care reform topped the list. It is likely, however, that those naming the issue include both opponents and supporters of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul.
Jobs and the economy were next, followed by the nation's debt and deficit spending.
Some issues that draw ample media and campaign attention rank lower in the public's priorities. No more than 3 percent of Americans listed gay rights, abortion or domestic spying as prime topics for government action.

Regardless of the issue, however, Americans express remarkably little confidence that the federal government can make real progress.
For instance, 86 percent of those who called health care reform a top priority said they want the government to put "a lot" or "a great deal" of effort into it. But about half of them (49 percent) are "not at all confident" there will be real progress, and 20 percent are only "slightly confident."
This yawning gap between public desires and expectations is one of the poll's most striking findings. Even on an issue completely within the federal government's control, the budget and national debt, 65 percent of those who called it a priority say they have no confidence in the government's ability to fix it. Another 20 percent are only "slightly confident."
When it comes to the issues people cited as most important to them, 80 percent want the government to spend significant effort working on them. Yet 76 percent say they have little or no confidence the government will make real progress.

But asked generally about the role of government in society, the AP-NORC Center poll finds Americans divided on how active they want government to be. Half say "the less government the better." However, almost as many (48 percent) say "there are more things that government should be doing."
On the economy, an area historically driven by the private sector, the poll finds a clear public desire for active government. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say "we need a strong government to handle today's complex economic problems."
Even among those who say "the less government the better," 31 percent feel the nation needs a strong government to handle those complex problems.
Americans don't feel terribly optimistic about their own economic opportunities. Although 49 percent say their standard of living surpasses their parents', most are broadly pessimistic about the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. And they are mixed on whether people like them have a good chance to improve their standard of living.
Few are hopeful that the pieces are in place for the government to improve. About half are pessimistic about the country's ability to produce strong leaders generally. And 61 percent are pessimistic about the system of government overall and the way leaders are chosen.
Kathy Wooters of Houston's Kingwood community is among those who think the federal government should just get out of the way.
"We have too big of a government. I'd like it to be less in control of our lives," said Wooters, 57, a mother of four and grandmother of nine. "We are adults," she said. "We can make wise decisions with our money," rather than have the federal government dictate insurance choices and dole out more assistance to those who "want everything for free."
Wooters, a Republican
and tea party supporter, said she taught her children to fend for themselves and avoid debt.
The AP-NORC Center poll was conducted online Dec. 12-16 among a random national sample of 1,141 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for all respondents.
The survey was conducted by GfK using KnowledgePanel, a probability-based Internet panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Respondents to the survey were first selected randomly, using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

October 21, 2013

Happiness in New Jersey For Gay Couples but Massive Confusion from the Government

New Jersey Gay Marriage Lawsuit

With the advent of same-sex marriage in New Jersey, couples are thrilled and, in many cases, confused about how to proceed.
Advocates and others are claiming that the state of New Jersey did not give ample instructions to town clerks and others on how to administer marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriages were scheduled to begin Monday at 12:01 a.m. The New Jersey Supreme Court last week refused to delay a lower court order for the state to start recognizing marriages. The case, however, is still on appeal.
Several couples planned to marry minutes after the state began recognizing the unions. Yet other said they had not been able to get a license. New Jersey law requires that couples wait three days between obtaining a license and getting married.
"There's a lot of mass confusion and it boils down to the fact that the state should have issued guidance a week ago," said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality.
Stevenson said he has 15 volunteer lawyers who are scrambling to find judges who are willing to waive the three-day requirement for couples.
"We're hoping to make miracles happen, but I wish we didn't have to," he said.
Karen and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, two plaintiffs in the lawsuit that brought same-sex marriage to the state, said they have not been able to get a license to wed.
The couple said the clerk in their hometown of Aberdeen told them Friday that she could not issue them a marriage license without further instruction from the state.
Gov. Chris Christie had instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with municipalities to issue licenses. The clerk did not immediately return a call to comment Sunday. A Christie spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.
"It's just very frustrating after being made to wait for so many years. The state had an order from a judge. It's clear they did nothing to prepare and to communicate," Karen Nicholson-McFadden said. "It's terrible. It sucks some of the joy out of Friday," when the court made its ruling.
The couple plans to try again for a license Monday and get married as soon as they can. They've been together for 24 years and have two children.
"We will do it as soon as we can because we've waited for so long. You don't want to tempt fate," Karen Nicholson-McFadden said. "You want to make sure the moment you can you have every one of these benefits and protections and then we go into party planning mode."
Little seems to have changed since the court's decision Friday. On the New Jersey Department of Health's website under "How to Apply for a Marriage License," requirements include "Be of the opposite sex."
Mayors in cities and towns including Newark, Jersey City, Asbury Park and Lambertville plan to open City Hall late Sunday and marry couples as soon as possible.
But confusion reigned Friday when applying for licenses, and Stevenson said he expects to see far more weddings in the coming week.
"If they could, hundreds and hundreds of couples would get married tonight," Stevenson said Sunday. "But with this waiting period, it's not going to be as many as they hoped."
There is now also a push in the state legislature to gather enough votes to override Christie's veto of a same-sex marriage bill. Christie does not support same-sex marriage and has said he wants to put the issue on the ballot.
Democratic Sen. Ray Lesniak said even though the Supreme Court's decision was unanimous and strongly worded, there is a chance it could be overturned. By codifying same-sex marriage into law, it would add another layer of protection.
"There's also a limbo period now," he said. "Yes, it's easy for us to say a strongly worded unanimous decision by the supreme court on this day leaves little chance that this decision will be overturned, but by an override we will eliminate any change in the future.
Source: USAToday
pic: AP

October 6, 2013

Three Ways To Deal With The Debt Ceiling Before Default of The Nation

The United States is in the midst of its first government shutdown in nearly 20 years, and the practical effects on millions of Americans are significant. Even more worrisome: the impending debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department estimates the U.S. government will reach on or around October 17th.
The debt ceiling is the statutory limit of allowable federal debt, currently set at $16.7 trillion. Up until about one hundred years ago, Congress approved every individual new bond issue, but early in the 20th century Congress began to expedite the process by simply creating a debt limit and allowing the Treasury Department to borrow as it sees fit any amount below that. More recently, politicians have been squabbling over the debt ceiling and essentially threatening a default. Nobody is sure what the outcome of a default would be, but financial markets–which depend greatly on U.S. debt as a source of liquidity–would likely freeze up.
The possibility that Congress won’t reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling has gotten economists and legal experts thinking of ways to get around the debt ceiling without Congress’ approval. Here are three possible strategies:
1. The Trillion-Dollar Coin: This idea, first raised by Jack Balkin, a Professor of Constitutional Law at Yale Law School, takes advantage of a loophole in the law which allows the Treasury to mint platinum coins without limit. The purpose of the law is to allow the creation of commemorative coins, but there’s nothing in the law that would prevent the minting a coin of any value. Therefore, to get around the debt ceiling, Balking suggests minting two platinum coins worth $1 trillion dollars and then just depositing them at the Federal Reserve in order to write checks based on the value.
2. The 14th Amendment: Another potential option is for the President to declare the debt limit unconstitutional because of in the 14th amendment. It states, ”the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned.” The 14th Amendment was written to prevent Southern congressmen from threatening to default on U.S. debt unless the Confederacy’s debt was paid off too. University of Baltimore Law Professor Garrett Epps has argued that this amendment basically makes the debt limit unconstitutional and would allow the Treasury to continue to issue bonds without Congress’ approval.
3. Premium Treasury Bonds: While the previous two strategies for obviating the debt ceiling were prevalent during the last debt-ceiling showdown, the idea of issuing so-called “premium” Treasury bonds is newer. The idea was first raised earlier this year by Matthew Levine at Dealbreaker. Understanding the idea requires knowing a little bit about how bonds are sold. Bear with:
Bonds have both a “par” value and often times a different price at which a bond is actually sold to the public. Normally this is because interest rates can change pretty quickly: Say I want to issue a bond for $100 at a 4% interest rate, but a few weeks later, when I actually get around to issuing the bond, interest rate rises to 6%. To sell my 4% bond will require selling the bond at a discount to par–somewhat less than $100. The opposite would happen if interest rates falls to 2%. If I’m selling a 4% bond in a 2% environment, I’ll be able to garner more than $100 in that environment.
So how does this apply to the debt ceiling? The debt ceiling law only applies to the face value of bonds issued, rather than the actual value of the money raised. So when past Treasury debt expries, the Treasury Department could simply roll it over into bonds with much lower face values but that bring in higher revenues and pay out higher interest rates, allowing the total debt of the U.S. to continue to rise while still staying within the debt-limit law.
And as Levine points out, this is something that, unlike the platinum coin scheme, governments around the world have resorted to strategies like this before. It was a somewhat similar scheme involving derivatives that allowed the Greek government to hide the true value of its debt from EU officials until its debt crisis a few years ago. In our imagined scenario, however, Treasury wouldn’t be trying to hide the debt from the public. It would simply be looking for a way to skirt a law that doesn’t make a lot sense to begin with.
The brilliance of the premium bond scheme is that unlike the 14th amendment or platinum coin scenario, there isn’t an obvious way that opponents of it could challenge it in court. As former Treasury Chief of Staff told the Washington Postone of the reasons the Obama White House has shunned the 14th amendment strategy is because it could be challenged in the courts, and the reason it avoided the platinum coin strategy is because the Fed might not play along. As for premium bonds, all we would need would be willing buyers for the bonds. And if recent history is any indication, that won’t be a problem at all.

April 3, 2013

Theocracy For North Carolina, Hell No They Want One Official State Religion


"White American Jesus" just isn't as influential as he used to be, no matter what craziness Southern states cook up

Forget the theocracy, North Carolina (Credit: Twin Design via Shutterstock)
On your knees, North Carolina! On Monday, state lawmakers moved to declare an official state religion. The bill seeks to block any of those pesky federal restrictions laid out in the First Amendment.
As WRAL first reported, the bill is a response to a move by the ACLU last month against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. The ACLU says the board “has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers,” a stunning, defiant number. The new bill proposes that “Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion” and that “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.” Shorter: nyah nyah nyah — you can’t make us stop talking to Jesus at government functions.
Conservatives have been trying to weasel God into the government for, oh, ever, and the tension between Christianity and American politics in recent years has made for some frequently absurd moments. It has, however, occasionally also yielded thornier and more ambiguous conflicts. Earlier this year, the Obama administration moved yet again to try to smooth the ruffled feathers of religious-based employers who’ve balked at having “their rights violated by the mandate” to cover contraception. At the time, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted the need for “providing women across the nation with coverage … while respecting religious concerns.” And in February, the House overwhelmingly approved using federal aid to rebuild churches, synagogues and other religious buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy, ignoring, as the New York Times pointed out, plenty of constitutional precedent that has “barred the direct use of tax money to build, repair or maintain buildings devoted to religious services or other religious activities.” 
The North Carolina push comes at a time when bozos like Tim Huelskamp, a Republican congressman from Kansas, can still declare their political choices are dictated not by the common good but “the Judeo-Christian model God ordained.” Yet the cold hard truth is that white American Jesus just isn’t as influential as he used to be. Last month, a University of California, Berkeley, study revealed that one in five Americans have “no religious preference” — double the number who were undeclared in 1990. And though one third of Americans identify as conservative Protestant, those numbers hardly say, “Let’s make a whole damn state officially one big Baptist potluck,” now, do they?
And that’s why North Carolina’s absurd little stunt is so pitiful. It represents a desperate power grab, a huffing and puffing and a “We’re still here, Lord!” against the backdrop of a nation that is increasingly less religious, and in particular, less Christian. And regardless of how or even if we Americans worship, we didn’t sign up for a theocracy here. This isn’t what America – and that even includes North Carolina — was ever meant to be.
Just last year, Louisiana state Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican, supported Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher program to funnel state funds to religious schools – until she realized religious schools aren’t necessarily Christian. She swiftly clarified that “I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools.” It’s a sentiment that North Carolina’s lawmakers are now trying to seize, despite its utter wrongness.
The Founding Fathers weren’t trying to impose religion on America. They were trying toliberate us from religion. It was Thomas Jefferson who declared that “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” And it was uber-Founding Father Roger Williams – a minister, in case you forgot – who first helped create the “lively experiment” of separation of church and state upon which the United States was founded. He did so because it was the right thing to do. He did because as a man of God he understood what North Carolina seems to have forgotten — that “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”
Mary Elizabeth Williams
Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

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