“An activist court is what is creating the chaos we now have. Today, we have judges who have put them themselves in the place of a king, and they are trying to rule as kings.”
On January 19, 2018, Mark Harris, a preacher, activist, and candidate for North Carolina’s 9th congressional district joined Merion West’s Michael DeSantis to discuss his vision as he campaigns for Congress, the role of religion in politics today, and the North Carolinian he admires most from history.
Thank you for joining us today Dr. Harris. As a preacher, how central is the role of religion in the conservative movement today?
I think everybody in the conservative movement realizes that faith and religion have had a foundational role in our country’s history, even from the very founding of the country.
[This includes] the black robe regiment, back during the Revolution that stood together. A lot of folks, I think, don’t realize that where the gunpowder was being stashed during the Revolutionary War was actually in the attics of churches, and, of course, that’s something the British never saw coming.
So I think as far back as the founding of our country, religion always played a major role. I think it’s important that folks understand that we have the freedom of religion here in this country, and that is something to be preserved. The First Amendment, of course, reminds us of that; we need to respect people of all faiths and respect their freedom to exercise their religion.
You talk about how our nation was founded on religious principles. Do you believe we are still a nation with strong moral and religious values or have we become more secular and has that changed the fabric of our country?
Well, 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, [a ruling] which a lot of people attribute to the fact that, unfortunately, coming out of the 1960s and early 1970s, the church just sort of went silent.
Those voices had been strong once in this country, and they stood on principle and stood on faith. Christians are supposed to be engaged, so you could vote your values. Suddenly, you saw the church go silent, so if you really go back and look over the last 50 years, that how it’s been working out for us.
Our culture has changed a lot. Six years ago, you were the leader of a North Carolina amendment to define marriage as between a man and a women. Now this issue is a thing of the past. How do you feel about the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage?
I thought the Obergfell decision was—I think this was maybe in Justice Scalia’s words law—“created out of whole cloth.” There was no constitutional or legal basis for that decision, and great legal minds, great legal Scholars, far greater than I am, have attested to that very fact. It was a disappointment and a huge overreach by the judiciary, and we can only hope that maybe someday you may have a Supreme Court that looks at this decision and then reverses it.
I get culture change; they shift, but that’s what’s unfortunate about a judiciary that doesn’t understand its role. Judges were never meant to change with the culture and to change with the time. Justices on our Supreme Court are to interpret the Constitution, as written by the framers, and an activist court is what is creating the chaos we now have. Today, we have judges who have put them themselves in the place of a king, and they are trying to rule as kings.
You came incredibly close in your last election, within a couple hundred votes of defeating the incumbent. You have raised more money than he has in your first quarter, so what will you do this time around that is different from your previous near-victory?
There are two factors that are pretty major in this race. Number one, I resigned as pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte. In the previous election, I tried to continue doing both.
It was a short campaign, 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. And, of course, the way that it went, we lost by 134 votes. After a year of soul searching and speaking with my wife, it was a very determined decision, if you will. This was something we needed to do, something that we genuinely believed God called us to do. We needed to take a step of faith, and we needed to do what was best for the community, what was best for the church, and what we felt in our hearts that we needed to do.
So I tell you that because I am in full campaign mode and have been since October. We have been on the campaign full time. I can knock on doors every day. In fact, you’re cutting into my time right now with this interview because typically I raise money in the morning with phone calls, I grab a quick bite to eat, and then knock on doors for about three to four hours.
Very good, so before we sign-off and I let you get back to knocking on doors, I have one last question. You’re looking to represent North Carolinians in Congress, and I want to know who is your favorite political or cultural figure from North Carolina. There’s everyone from Billy Graham to Jesse Helms to Andy Griffith.
If I had to choose somebody from North Carolina that has demonstrated the tenacity, the conviction, and the courage of conviction, it would be Jesse Helms. I was 14 years old when I went to work in the Americans for Reagan office three days a week, [a group] Jesse Helms founded in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
I have a great found respect for who he was. When I look back upon his courage of conviction and his willingness to always stand strong—that to me is the epitome of character, consistency, and courage.
I remember in the seventies and even into the early eighties, after he was first elected, he was still looked down upon by the elitists in Washington D.C. Yet he rose in power, becoming the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In fact, he and Madeleine Albright became good friends, even with her being a Democratic Secretary of State. With Jesse Helms, you always knew where he stood. And he was always a gentleman.
Even today, I look at the culture and climate in Washington, and people try to say what Jesse Helms would have been like. I know you wouldn’t have seen Jesse Helms in Chuck Schumer’s face. There would’ve been a respect there, but there would’ve been a standing your ground as well. I think that the climate in Washington is missing something today, and I hope I can have a part in changing that.
Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Harris.
It was a pleasure.