Proposal would allow state religion in North Carolina

Posted April 2, 2013
Updated April 3, 2013

— A resolution filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide.

The resolution grew out of a dispute between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In a federal lawsuit filed last month, the ACLU says the board has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.

Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered an explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.

In a 2011 ruling on a similar lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not ban prayer at government meetings outright, but said prayers favoring one religion over another are unconstitutional.

"To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord," the court said. "Where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance."

House Joint Resolution 494, filed by Republican Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, would refuse to acknowledge the force of any judicial ruling on prayer in North Carolina – or indeed on any Constitutional topic:

"The Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people," the resolution states.

"Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion," it states.  

The Tenth Amendment argument, also known as "nullification," has been tried unsuccessfully by states for more than a century to defy federal laws and judicial rulings from the Civil War period to President Obama's health care reforms to gun control.

The resolution goes on to say:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Eleven House Republicans have signed on to sponsor the resolution, including Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, and Budget Chairman Justin Burr, R-Stanly.

Article 1, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution requires the state to observe federal law: "Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force."


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  • dave25 Apr 9, 2013

    If the US was a Christian Nation then we'd vote to help the poor and let private charities bail out Wall Street.

  • dave25 Apr 5, 2013

    You know they've gone too far when Franklin Graham thinks it's a crazy thing to do.

    Guess what. The bill is dead, it couldn't stand up to even the lightest scrutiny.

    Now, realize that your arguments in favor of it were a) totally bogus and b) deeply embarrassing to your state, and to the nation. It's almost like you guys have no idea what this country is about, and moreover, that you're proud of that ignorance.

    Arrogant and stupid is no way to stumble through life, guys. Little wonder you felt the need to cotton to George W. Bush. He's the living embodiment of that kind of outlook.

  • Dnut Apr 4, 2013

    "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." Thomas Jefferson
    April 3, 2013 3:36 p.m.
    >>>>Man, you folks do know how to take things out of context, When Jefferson said this, it was in part Greek, and it was a reference letter to Thomas Cooper 1814, about the common law of England....good try though..See, this is the problem, we take out of context so much, and twist to ourselves, thinking history validates what we are trying to pursue....

  • dave25 Apr 4, 2013

    These guys are such huge 'victims'....as the majority religion.

    They're so convinced they're oppressed, put upon, but the only people trying to shove their religious views in everyone's face all the time, interestingly, aren't Muslims.

    You see, these guys are convinced, CONVINCED...that any day now Sharia Law will be installed as the official state religion.

    Why on Earth should we allow their unhinged paranoia, their incoherent ramblings about the dangers of the 'other', their view that their book is the immutable and un-erring word of the Almighty (and, of course, nobody else's is) to break with 300 years of religious plurality in the United States.

    Guess what guys; you and the Taliban are birds of a feather. You don't like women very much, you're religious fundamentalists, you're armed to the teeth, and if someone is seen to be out of step with your failed interpretation of 'God's Law', you find it pretty easy to justify the actions of a guy like Eric Rudolph. Don't you.

  • junkmail5 Apr 4, 2013

    When prayer is as offensive as porn, get back to me.- TruthBKnown Returned

    To some it's MORE offensive.

    Some folks aren't offended by porn at all, but ARE offended by being forced to sit through a group prayer in a work environment of a religion they don't belong to.

    So I'm getting back to you right now.

    Which was the point.

    If you're in a park, and you observe someone praying, or someone else on a towel facing Mecca and praying, do you vomit uncontrollably or run screaming? Of course not.
    TruthBKnown Returned

    No, because they're not a work colleague, doing it AT WORK, out loud, with a large group of other co-workers, DURING WORK TIME.

    Not sure why you're still even confused about this.

    Who is conducting that government business? Government employees, who feel led to pray for spiritual guidance to give them wisdom to perform their job- TBKR

    Then do it on their own time. Or individually, silently, as christ TOLD YOU TO.

  • junkmail5 Apr 4, 2013

    Lemme be clear though- the proposal itself says:

    Whereas, this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools;

    then immediately follows that with:

    "Whereas, in recent times, the federal judiciary has incorporated states,
    8 municipalities, and schools into the Establishment Clause"

    So at the same time it says "The constitution says the 1st amendment doesn't apply to us.... except federal courts who DECIDE WHAT THE CONSTITUTION SAYS decided it DOES apply to us"

    Then it goes into a bunch of 10th amendment nonsense that has been repeatedly discredited not only by every single legal case ever, but by the direct words of the people who WROTE the constitution, who were VERY clear that the federal courts DO get to decide what is constitutional and what isn't.

    And they've decided the 14th amendment extends the 1st amendment to the states.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Apr 4, 2013

    "Because a government body, on government time, should be doing government business."

    Who is conducting that government business? Government employees, who feel led to pray for spiritual guidance to give them wisdom to perform their jobs. It's a personal need one might have, and to say they cannot pray (when it isn't hurting a single soul in the room), is ridiculous. This law proves that, and it's common sense.

    People get WAY too bent outta shape over religion. The establishment clause is there to prevent the state from being the way England was, FORCING religion on people. It was never designed to disallow religious expression on the part of government employees.

    Tell me again how someone saying a prayer (that you are perfectly free to ignore and play Scrabble on your "smart phone" during said prayer) somehow forces YOU to pray or worship.

  • junkmail5 Apr 4, 2013

    Tell me how you, citizen Kane, are being forced to pray or otherwise worship simply because others in the room are doing so?

    Please explain that. I'll hang up and listen now.
    TruthBKnown Returned

    You are essentially being forced to attend a religious observation.

    In a public, government, setting.

    It's like saying you don't understand the problem by having porn plastered over your offices walls, I mean, the female employees aren't REQUIRED to post their own porn so they have no right to complain about yours, right?

    No, of course not. But that's the argument you're making.

  • junkmail5 Apr 4, 2013

    No, this allows a group (if they wish) to pray together. If no one objects in a city council meeting, why shouldn't they be allowed to pray together?
    TruthBKnown Returned

    Because a government body, on government time, should be doing government business.

    Which explicitly should not include any religious matter.

    go pray on your own time, not the taxpayers.

    Apart from which, Jesus explicitly told you to pray IN PRIVATE.

    Not out loud in groups.

    Matthew 6:5-6

    Maybe you should try listening to him?

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Apr 4, 2013

    Thing is, this isn't FORCING anyone to pray or worship.

    Tell me how you, citizen Kane, are being forced to pray or otherwise worship simply because others in the room are doing so?

    Please explain that. I'll hang up and listen now.