“Judges were never meant to change with the culture or to change with the times.”
On January 19, 2018, preacher, activist and candidate for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District Mark Harris, joined Merion West’s Michael DeSantis for an interview to discuss the decline of religion in America, the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, and running for office while pastoring a large church.
Michael DeSantis: Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Harris. Given your role as a preacher, I would like to start by getting a sense of your views on the role of religion in the modern conservative movement.
Dr. Mark Harris: I think everybody in the conservative movement realizes that religion was instrumental during the very founding of our country.
Whether it be the “The Black Robe Regiment,” back during the revolution that stood together or the fact that gunpowder during the Revolutionary War was being stashed in churches—religion was important.
As far back as the founding of our country, religion has always played a major role, and I think it’s important that folks understand that we have the freedom of religion here in this country. The First Amendment reminds us that we need to respect people of all faiths and their freedom to exercise their religion.
Michael: You talk about how our nation was founded on religious principles. Do you believe we are still a nation with strong moral religious values or have we become more secular than religious? If so, has that changed the fabric of our country?
Mark: Well, I think yes. I think we have all seen a lot of things happen in our culture over really a generation. We’re coming up on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which a lot of people attribute to the fact that, unfortunately, coming out of the sixties and into the early seventies, the church sort of went silent [on the issue of abortion].
Michael: Six years ago, you were the leader of Amendment One, a bill proposed to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. Now this issue seems to be a thing of the past. How do you feel about the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage?
Mark: No, I thought the Obergefell decision was maybe in Justice Scalia’s words law “created out of whole cloth.” There was no constitutional legal basis for that decision, and legal scholars far greater than I have attested to that very fact. It was a severe disappointment, a huge overreach by the judiciary. We can only hope that maybe someday we may have a Supreme Court that looks at this decision and reverses it.
I get culture change; a culture shifts, but that’s what is unfortunate about a judiciary that doesn’t understand its role. Judges were never meant to change with the culture or to change with the times. Justices on our Supreme Court are to interpret the Constitution, as written by the framers. An activist court is what is creating chaos. We now today have judges who have put themselves in the places of kings, and they are trying to rule as kings.
Michael: You were incredibly close to winning in your last election, the 2016 primary for the Ninth Congressional District, coming within less than 200 votes of defeating the incumbent. You have raised more money than he has in your first quarter, so what are you going to do differently this time around from what you did in 2016?
Mark: Well, there are two factors that are pretty significant about this race. Number one, I resigned as pastor of First Baptist Church Charlotte. In the previous election, I tried to continue doing both.
It was a short campaign [in 2016], if you recall. It was a special election, so the leadership of the church asked me to stay and see how the primary would go. Of course, we lost by 133 votes. After a year of soul searching, we decided this was something we needed to do again. It was something that we genuinely believed God called us to do, so we needed to take a step of faith and do what was best for the community and what was best for the church.
I am in full campaign mode and have been since October. We have been campaigning full-time. I can knock on doors everyday. In fact you’re cutting into my time right now with this interview because typically, I raise money in the morning with phone calls and I grab a quick bite to eat, then knock on doors for about 3-4 hours.
Michael: In that case, I have one more question for you before I let you go out and do some more door knocking. Since you might become a representative for North Carolina in Washington D.C., who is your favorite political or cultural figure from North Carolina historically?
Mark: If I had to choose somebody from North Carolina history that has demonstrated tenacity, conviction, and courage for his convictions, it would be Senator Jesse Helms. I was 14 years old when I went to work in the Americans for Reagan office three days each week. This was an office Jesse Helms founded in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
I have great respect for who he was and what he was about, and I think that when I look at his courage of conviction and his willingness to always stand strong, that is the epitome of character, consistency and courage.
All throughout my youth from the first time he was elected into Congress in the early 1980s, he was still looked down upon by the elitists in Washington D.C. However, people from around the world like Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were good friends with him, even though she was a Democrat. With Jesse Helms, you always knew where he stood. He was always a gentleman.
Even today, I look at the culture and climate in Washington and people try to say, “What would Jesse Helms have been like?” I don’t think you would have seen Jesse Helms in Chuck Schumer’s face; there would have been a respect there, but there would have also been more of a stand-your-ground approach. I think that climate in Washington is missing something today, and I hope I can be a part of changing that.
Michael: Thank you for speaking with us today, Mr. Harris.
Mark: It was a pleasure.