10.26.2005

Let Them Secede



Christian Group Wants To 'Redeem' US States

from Reuters

CHARLESTON, South Carolina - Cory Burnell wants to set up a Christian nation within the United States where abortion is illegal, gay marriage is banned, schools cannot teach evolution, children can pray to Jesus in public schools, and the Ten Commandments are posted publicly.

To that end, Burnell, 29, left the Republican Party, moved from California and founded Christian Exodus two years ago with the goal of redirecting the United States by "redeeming" one state at a time.

First up for redemption is South Carolina.

Burnell hopes to move 2,500 Christians into the northern part of the state by next year and to persuade tens of thousands to relocate by 2016. His goal is to fill the state legislature with "Christian constitutionalists."

The push comes at a time when Christian fundamentalism is a growing force in U.S. politics, displays of the Ten Commandments in government buildings are spurring litigation, and President George W. Bush is touting the evangelical Christian credentials of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

The organization, which claims about 1,000 members, held its first conference October 15-16 to promote its agenda. About 50 people from as far away as Ohio and Oregon attended.

Burnell picked South Carolina partly for its Christian majority and conservative politics.

"Historically, Southerners do have a states' rights mentality," he said. "Christians in the North are experiencing the most liberalism, or you could say persecution."

The organization's Web site says if it does not meet its goal of change, it will work to secede from the United States.

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union in 1860, and the first shots of the U.S. Civil War were fired from Charleston's Battery onto Fort Sumter.

The group's reception in South Carolina has been mixed.

Joel Sawyer, spokesman for Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, would not comment except to say, "We have a great state with a great quality of life that's certainly open to anyone."

Columbia attorney Herbert E. Buhl III, who does legal work for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he received "a nasty little letter ... calling me a liar" from a Christian Exodus representative.

Buhl said the letter came after he had represented Wiccan Darla Wynne, who successfully sued the town of Great Falls to remove the name of Jesus Christ from pre-meeting prayers. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 2004 with a federal judge that the town's prayers were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government.

"This should be a nonissue," Buhl said. "It's separation of church and state. This is black-letter law."

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