S. Carolina Targeted for Christian State

Cory Burnell has given up on ever seeing the U.S. government adopt a conservative Christian agenda, so he and others who share his beliefs are trying to take matters into their own hands.

Burnell, 28, is one of the founders of ChristianExodus.org, a group that hopes to gather conservative Christians for a series of mass moves to South Carolina. The goal is to bring enough voters to the state to establish a government based on the Ten Commandments and conservative Christian values.

And if the federal government doesn't like it, Burnell said he and the other members of the board have not ruled out the possibility of the state seceding from the United States.

They are hoping to have people move to the state in groups of 12,000. Though the group currently has just about 600 members, Burnell said it has been only been in existence for a few months, and he is hoping to have 50,000 to 70,000 supporters in South Carolina by 2016.

But the transformation of South Carolina won't have to wait that long, he said.

"We'll be able to begin the debate with the first wave," Burnell said.

What put them over the top, Burnell said, was seeing what the Republicans have done since they gained control of the White House and both houses of Congress, even with a supportive majority on the Supreme Court.

He pointed out that abortion is still legal, No Child Left Behind has resulted in spending on public schools "exploding," a Ten Commandments monument was ordered removed from an Alabama courthouse and there has been no progress on getting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"About a year ago we were sitting down and we saw that the Republicans had no intention of fixing anything," he said. "They're not conservative, so we were at the end of our rope. We thought, 'We need to do something serious here.' "

It was around that time that a group of libertarians were announcing their Free State Project — a call for libertarians to move to New Hampshire, where they will work within the political system to reduce the size and scope of government.

• Read About the Free State Project.

Burnell liked the idea, and his first thought was to join them in their move to the state that decorates its license plates with the motto "Live Free or Die." But then he and the others had second thoughts.

"We can't agree with libertarians on everything — drugs, for instance," he said. "So we realized we needed to do something like that for Christians."

The group turned its attention on the Bible Belt, first narrowing the field to Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.

"On the Christian issues, we know how those states vote," he said.

To help narrow the field to one, the board of ChristianExodus.org considered other issues, though, such as the geographic size of the states and the fact that of the three, only South Carolina has an ocean coastline.

Burnell and the others also looked at a University of North Carolina study of Southerners' attitudes that said 10 percent of Southerners replied they believed the South would be better off as an independent nation, and that support for that view was highest in South Carolina — roughly 20 percent.

Of the three, South Carolina is the only one that was among the 13 original states, and is listed in the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, as a sovereign nation.

"We could lay out that it has the right to independence if it asked for it," he said.

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