Commissioner Ronda Jones surprised the Stokes County Board of Commissioners Monday night with a request that the board consider a resolution supporting the separation of church and state as guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
She told the board her request for the resolution was a reaction to public comments prior to the recent passage of a resolution supporting HB2.
“I am going to speak on behalf of all the Christians that believe in love, acceptance and peace,” she said. “Those recently labeled as phony Christians. Because of my respect for the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, I have tolerated being insulted as Commissioner and Christian repeatedly, but, as of today, I will be asserting my own freedom of speech.
“For those of us who believe in love, acceptance and peace, we must gain the courage to no longer allow someone else’s religious view to be promoted as superior to our own,” she added. “I encourage all ‘phony Christians,’ like myself, to look in the eyes of those who judge our religion or beliefs and say, enough, no more.”
Jones argued that recent attempts to use religious beliefs as a basis for laws and policy was nothing but bullying.
“I would like to apologize to all the phony Christians for allowing Mr. and Mrs. Timm to have your freedom of speech while we have enabled you to have ongoing toxic and dangerous rhetoric,” said Jones. “I apologize that we phony Christians gave you a false sense with our silence that we agree with your determination to not honor the separation of church and state. Not to worry, it won’t happen again. If anyone uses their personal religious beliefs to execute legislation or laws devoted to their beliefs clearly it is an establishment of religion which is prohibited according to the First Amendment.”
Jones told the board she had recently attended a Baptist Joint Committee, a Christian group focused on separation of church and state, meeting in Greensboro and noted that Baptists had frequently suffered persecution throughout history because of state sanctioned religion.
“Religious liberty is best protected when church and state are institutionally separated and neither tries to perform or interfere with the essential mission and work of the other,” she said. “Separation has been good for both church and state.”
Jones also encouraged voters to question future candidates on their position on the separation of church and state.
“I will not vote for any candidate that does not or current elected official who have demonstrated disregard for separation of church and state,” she said. “I will not support any form of legislation that places hardships or disadvantages on law abiding, tax paying citizens, due to being different than myself, for either religious or personal beliefs.”
Other commissioners had little to say about Jones’ comments, but E.A. Timm, who has used the term “phony Christians” in public comments before a number of local elected bodies and in a Letter to the Editor in today’s Stokes News, defended his statements during the public comment potion of Monday’s meeting.
“It is very clear,” he said. “You cannot stand for right and support wrong and immorality.”
He argued that the North Carolina Constitution used to require that all elected officials be Christian.
“In order to hold office you had to know right from wrong,” he said. “You could not support immorality and hold office.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.