Amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage apparently isn't enough for one group of conservative Christians. They want to secede from the union and form a sovereign state governed by religious principles.
"Our Christian republic has declined into a pagan democracy," said Cory Burnell, president of ChristianExodus.org, according to the Web site WorldNetDaily.com. Rather than continuing to try to influence the current system, the group reportedly plans to establish an explicitly Christian nation in what is now the state of South Carolina.
Burnell, whom the article identifies as a math teacher and cell-phone dealer from Denton, Texas, called the approval of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts "the straw that broke the camel's back," which he hoped would "finally wake up" complacent Christians about America's decline.
Gay marriage isn't the only sign that 20 years of attempts by Christians to return American to its "moral foundation" have failed, according to the ChristianExodus.com Web site.
Abortion, the banning of school prayer and removal of the Ten Commandments from public display are listed as other indicators of failure, despite the fact that conservatives now have the "right" people in power, with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and the White House.
The problem, the Web site says, is that votes of conservative Christians are being diluted by liberals.
Its solution is to coordinate the move of 50,000 or more Christians to a single conservative state in the United States. Concentrating their populations in strategic legislative districts and encouraging local residents to join their ranks, the emigrants eventually could elect majorities to both houses of the state's legislature, which in turn would rescind the state's ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
After first considering Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina, they have settled on South Carolina, Burnell reportedly told WorldNetDaily.
Emigration will commence once 50,000 persons have signed a declaration of intent to join the effort or the federal government "forces sodomite marriages on our local communities," whichever comes first, according to the Web site.
The Web site also said the group plans to help members find employment in their new communities.
"The success of ChristianExodus.org will lead to an independent Christian nation where people may once again worship God under the protection of a friendly government," according to the Web site. "In addition, such a nation will be free of burdensome taxation and federal meddling in local affairs. Matter of factly, the liberties we have lost to liberalism over the past century will be restored in one fell swoop."
The idea is borrowed from the Free State Project, a Libertarian-backed effort to move 20,000 people to New Hampshire as a way to restore personal liberties and limit government.
ChristianExodus.org goes a step further, however, by proposing outright secession and setting up a sovereign government to be controlled through the electoral process. Contrary to popular thought, supporters say, the Constitution doesn't outlaw secession. They believe it is unlikely today that the federal government would employ troops to stop secession, as was done during the Civil War.
According to the WorldNetDaily.com article, Burnell evisions a peaceful and brokered "political divorce" instead of a bloody war. He said about a dozen people are working on the project, and about 1,500 have sent e-mails supporting the idea.
Burnell hopes to have a constitutional convention by 2014 and to elect a president of the new nation, which will still be called South Carolina, in 2016.
Burnell is listed as author of a paper on the Internet describing a similar plan of managed emigration to achieve "Southern independence."
"We should gather thousands of like-minded Constitutionalists, Christians and Southerners—our people dispersed among the enemy in all 50 states—and relocate to a target state," the paper said. It identifies Burnell as northeast Texas regional chairman for League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a hate group.
The League of the South, which describes itself as a Southern nationalist organization, denies it is a racist group.
Burnell said in an e-mail that he has resigned from the League of the South to commit full time to ChristianExodus.org. He said he presented the paper to "Southern Nationalists" as a way to generate support for the concept for ChristianExodus.org, which was developed in November 2003.
"ChristianExodus.org is not a plan for 'Southern' independence, rather it is an organization to achieve Christian independence if necessary," Burnell said. He said the effort is not sectional, partisan or heritage-oriented, but "encourages allegiance to God's kingdom first and adherence to His precepts even when in conflict with civil laws of the land."
Burnell said he attends a non-denominational Christian church and previously was member of a Baptist church. He said the board of directors includes himself, a rancher in Washington state, a CPA in Texas and a retired minister in Florida. He declined to identify them by name to protect their privacy.
He said the group is currently recruiting additional directors and officers to serve in newly created roles.
The group had planned a formal launch in late June, but went public earlier when WorldNetDaily covered the story. "We're playing catch-up now," Burnell said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.