Published August 16, 2004
NEW YORK – Nearly 140 years after the Civil War, another group of Americans wants to secede from the union.
Christian Exodus (search), a California-based group, wants God to be its commander in chief. Decrying what it perceives as the unjust secularization of the United States, it wants a sovereign state of its own.
But rather than eye the Golden State — a "lost cause," says the group's founder — it'll settle for South Carolina (search).
Cory Burnell (search), Christian Exodus' founder and president, told FOX News that the group narrowed its focus to the Bible Belt state based on an electorate that is already "Christian-leaning," has its own ports and — unlike its neighbor North Carolina — is no hub of liberalism.
Christian Exodus' mission, according to its Web site, is to scrap the "tyrannical authority" of federal government in favor of a constitutional republic, with the Ten Commandments rather than the U.S. Constitution as government's guide.
Phase One of the group's "plan of action" in breaking down the wall between church and state is to enlist groups of 1,000 members to move into 12 designated House districts in South Carolina, with the goal of voting 12 "Christian sovereigntists" into the state government by 2008.
Subsequent similar phases will then go into effect. If by 2016 group leaders have not achieved the kind of government they want, Christian Exodus will throw down the gauntlet and seek independence.
The group comprises "mainstream evangelical Christians" who oppose abortion under all circumstances, want prayer in schools and hope to live far from "sodomites."
But don't call them isolationists.
"We want to use the existing apparatus [of the United States] to put us in a position to protect our liberties, but we don't want to wall ourselves off from the rest of the world," Burnell told FOX News.
"We have to look at the great mission posed to us by Jesus Christ: Go as a disciple to nations," he said. "We want to go into the rest of the world."
Burnell’s effort is viewed with skepticism by not only expected critics but also by some who share his general religious convictions.
A spokesman for Bob Jones University (search) — a nondenominational Christian university that “stands without apology for the old-time religion and the absolute authority of the Bible — said the school would not be part of the campaign.
"As Christians, it's not our job to start a new country," Jonathan Pait, a spokesman for the university, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "It's our job to spread the kingdom and the kingdom is not of this world. It's of the heart."