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Day May 25, 2004

Is this the South rising again, or just folks who didn’t pay attention in history class?

Cursor.org featured Christian Exodus today, a Texas non-profit planning to congregate 50,000+ Christian conservatives in one of three southern states and then secede from the United States. The plan is fascinating — committed members will select a state (Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi are candidates), move there into strategic legislative districts, and gain a majority to force a secession vote. The vote would be triggered by sheer numbers, or by an attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in their state of choice (or nationally).

It’s an interesting plan, but it’s not going to work. Secession doesn’t work like that. There is no procedure for secession in the Constitution, although there is no specific prohibition against it. Thus, precedent is likely to govern our reaction to future attempts at state secession. And the track record there isn’t good. Unilateral secession without national consent is precisely what triggered the Civil War — slavery was simply the issue that created the secessionist movement.

Following the war, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. White (74 U.S. 700) that ratification of the constitution and admission to statehood meant that the Union including Texas was an “indissoluble relation.” Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, writing for the majority, went on to say that the only means of revocation is “through revolution or through consent of the States.”

Christian Exodus seems to be planning an entirely legalistic secession, but they’re ignoring the fact that even if secession were viewed favorably by outsiders, consent of Congress is required, according to Texas v. White. The law and precedent is thin here, but it seems unlikely that Congress would approve secession, and highly likely that a unilateral secession attempt would be dealt with as a rebellion against federal authority.

Not a good plan.