- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2013

The White House has responded to last year’s rash of secession petitions, and no, President Obama has not agreed to allow any of the states to secede.

Jon Carson, the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said in a response released Friday that “as much as we value a healthy debate, we don’t let that debate tear us apart.”

“In a nation of 300 million people — each with their own set of deeply held beliefs — democracy can be noisy and controversial. And that’s a good thing,” Mr. Carson said. “Free and open debate is what makes this country work, and many people around the world risk their lives every day for the liberties we often take for granted.”

Petitions filed on behalf of each state seeking to secede peacefully from the union began popping up on the White House’s We the People website days after the Nov. 6 election. The website states that any petition receiving 25,000 online signatures within 30 days of posting will receive a review by the appropriate executive department and a reply from a White House staffer.

Mr. Carson’s post, titled “Our States Remain United,” came in response to nine petitions. Eight of those were filed on behalf of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The ninth petition called on the administration to deport “everyone that signed a petition to withdraw their state from the United States of America.”

At least one secession petition was filed on behalf of each state in the weeks following the election, but not all of the petitions garnered the requisite 25,000 signatures. Signers were not required to live in the named state, and they were permitted to sign multiple petitions.

The eight states represented in the petitions that did qualify for a White House response all were among those that seceded from the union in 1861, spurring the Civil War.

Mr. Carson touched on the Founding Fathers and the Civil War in his seven-paragraph reply to the petitions, noting that more than 600,000 soldiers died in the war and saying of the union that the founders “did not provide a right to walk away from it.”

“So let’s be clear: No one disputes that our country faces big challenges, and the recent election followed a vigorous debate about how they should be addressed,” Mr. Carson said. “As President Obama said the night he won re-election, ‘We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future.’”

Andrew Sullivan of Nebraska, who said he signed several secession petitions, argued that the White House response calling for unity was at odds with what he described as Mr. Obama’s efforts to split Americans into competing political factions.

“The president is entitled to his own words, but they don’t match with his actions,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Clearly his actions are dividing the country.”

The secession petitions emerged as an apparently spontaneous grass-roots reaction to the 2012 presidential election. No political party or movement, including the tea party, has claimed credit for organizing the effort.

Critics blasted the petitions as an unpatriotic and immature response to Mr. Obama’s successful re-election bid.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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