I live in North Carolina. That’s the United States east coast. My state has the Biltmore in the beautiful mountains to the west, Charlotte with major banking institutions in the southwest, well-known excellent hospitals and a major hub of technology businesses in Research Triangle Park, and our coastline in the east has beaches, a warm ocean, and the North Carolina sound is known for both Blackbeard’s activities and Roanoke Island (where an early colony vanished, leaving the word: “Croatoan” as the only clue regarding their disappearance). Large portions of The Hunger Games and Iron Man 3 were filmed here.
So, I like my state. Did we join with the bad guys* during the Civil War? Yes. Were we the home state of one of the worst US Senators in living memory, the late Jesse Helms? Unfortunately, yes. BUT for most of my life, we’ve had a Democratic governor. In 2008, North Carolina turned blue and voted to elect President Obama. We have a good education system and some wonderful universities (including Duke, of course—I did not go there for college, but I participated in some wonderful Duke programs in my early teens).
So, when I say that my state’s behavior on the governmental level since 2010 has been scary and out-of-character, I mean it. I cringe when my state is mentioned on The Daily Show because it used to be that we would get mentioned on the news because a hurricane had devastated our east coast or because of a record-setting outbreak of tornadoes in Raleigh in April 2011 that had meteorologists from all over the country in a tizzy.
Now, in 2010, as happened all over the country, a wave of scary, fringe-right Republicans (and I do mean fringe-right) came into office. In spring of 2012, there was a vote and Amendment One passed—strictly defining marriage between one man and one woman as the only legally recognized domestic union in the state. Politicians from both sides of the aisle argued fiercely against it, but it passed. For the record, the parts of the state with universities in them? They voted against Amendment One. As seen in the map below.
The counties in which I have lived and a county in which I intend to live? All voted against Amendment One. The state’s urban areas all fell under this category. But, like the rest of the world, North Carolina is getting better with time.
That said, we got a little scare as the speaker of our (currently terrifying) state house of representatives put forward but then buried (after a few days of embarrassing national media attention) a bill which would have attempted to render North Carolina exempt from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Stupid, right? The Supremacy Clause in the Constitution is there for a reason. And the First Amendment is . . . I mean, really important. You can read more about that story here.
It kind of gets worse, though. Spurred by interest in the topic, a poll found that one-third of those Americans who participated (hopefully they oversampled some demographic, because that is just too high a fraction) would favor making Christianity the official religion in their home states. It also found that one-third would favor making Christianity the official religion of the United States.
One. Third. Of Americans.
Guys, that’s terrifying. I don’t even want my religion as the official faith of my state or country, much less someone else’s.
Honestly, I was more comfortable when it was just a few state representatives in my state acting up while they’re still in power. Embarrassing, sure, but just a bump in the road of progress.
One-Third of Americans want an official** state religion. If that’s true, I don’t even know what to do about that. It’s scary.
*Guys, Lincoln and the Union weren’t perfect, but let’s not ever pretend that the good guys/bad guys line is not obvious. I don’t like the states having the power to set different ages of consent or requirements for a driver’s license, and you can disagree with me if you like. But the Confederacy was fighting for the rights of the states to own human beings because of their race. Those are called the bad guys. And I say “we,” because it’s not like I’m from NC because my parents happened to move here. My maternal grandfather’s grandmother remembered the Civil War, including the parts about her family’s slaves. Which they owned in some numbers, apparently. That makes me all kinds of uncomfortable.
**Talk about official state religions is a great time to use the “Muslim Test.” When conservative Christian politicians try to draft legislation to let prayers be said over a loudspeaker at a public school sportsball game or something like that, just see how they would respond to their own idea if it were in the form of Muslim prayer. As an outsider, I don’t see much of a difference between the idea of living in an officially Christian nation or an officially Muslim nation, but the sorts of people who draft this kind of legislation tend to see a huge difference.