ACLU: State religion proposal misreads Constitution

Posted April 3, 2013

— A House resolution that supports creating an official religion in North Carolina and ignoring any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.

House Joint Resolution 494 was filed by Republican Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, but a dozen other GOP House members have signed on as co-sponsors.

The resolution grew out of a dispute between the ACLU 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.

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.

The resolution would refuse to acknowledge the force of any judicial ruling on prayer in North Carolina, noting that the First Amendment clause prohibiting government establishment of religion applies to Congress and not to state or local governments.

"It demonstrates a misunderstanding of constitutional law," said Sarah Preston, policy director for the ACLU in North Carolina. "This really is about everybody's ability to exercise their own religion freely and not have interference from the government and not be excluded by their own government."

prayer woman with olive chapel baptist church State religion resolution unlikely to get House vote

Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, said he decided to co-sponsor the resolution simply in support of public prayer. He said he doesn't think the proposal, which carries little legal weight, violates anyone's right or is unconstitutional.

"We have a right as individual members to pray and open our meetings with prayer, and I certainly support that right," Burr said. "I want that my right and that any other right of any other elected officials or other individuals in this state to be protected and for them to have the freedom of speech and their freedom of religion to practice it as they so choose."

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, said the state's rights argument is well worn.

"This bill is exactly parallel to the positions of white segregationists during the '50s and '60s," Luebke said.

Although the idea has stirred debate this week, it might be short-lived. Sources in the GOP leadership say it's doubtful it will ever come up for a House vote.


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  • dumbhick Apr 5, 2013

    To me this just looks like another campaign tactic. It will never hold up, but can't you just see the slick fliers in your mailbox come campaign season. "Democrat candidate A voted against Jesus"
    while "GOP candidate stands up for Christianity".

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 4, 2013

    @smartmoney, what happened to “petition the government for redress”? If someone has a beef, they need to leave the country? Really? Is that what you think being an American is?

    For the record, I have been X-ing out “God” on my dollar bills for 20 years...after pushy religious people (in the 1950’s) changed our National motto of inclusion “E Pluribus Unum” (from many, one) to something self-serving that split our country...Christians vs. everyone else...with “everyone else” comprising 25% or tens of millions of people.

    But, why should you care about doing unto others as you would have done unto you? You just tell people to like it or leave the country.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Apr 4, 2013

    The bottom line is this folks -

    If all of the beliefs of every single taxpayer, including atheism, witchcraft, etc., aren't represented - none of them should be.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Apr 4, 2013

    soyousay - "By selectively deleting posts, from any side, that meet the guidelines, moderating becomes manipulation"


    But WRAL mods are famous for deleting certain comments, thereby biasing the views, and news.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Apr 4, 2013

    stymieindurham - "Why can we not ban the ACLU to Europe where they should flourish with their ideas?"

    Do you even know what they do?

    If YOU needed them to protect one of your liberties, they'd be there for you, you know.

    That's all they do, work to protect liberties guaranteed by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    What's wrong with that???

    If they weren't here, then those of you who don't understand its works would be complaining about lost liberties that they help keep in line.

    Maybe you need to move to Afganistan where Islam is the religion of the land, and you might well be beaten to death for some little sin you committed.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Apr 4, 2013

    NoTimeForStupidity - "Guess the ACjokeLU won't have a fight with this one. Maybe they can help Billy fight the voter ID law. But they'll lose there too."

    The ACLU didn't lose on this one.

    The legislators let the bill die.

    And as for calling the ACLU "the ACjokeLU", if some legislators were proposing Witchcraft as the religion of NC, and the ACLU stepped in to stop it - would you still call it a joke?

    It cuts both ways you know, and the bottom line is - ALL taxpayers need to be represented, or NONE of them should be.

    In letting this bill die, NO special interest group, i.e. religion, will be, and that's exactly the way it should be.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Apr 4, 2013

    Legislators need to start working on bringing jobs to this state and stop wasting their time (and our tax dollars) working on personal agendas like this and like the groundhog in the plastic box thing.

    I'm an ordained minister, but even I believe that religion has no place in government meetings or buildings because not all who pay the taxes to support those things are of just one religion, or even believe in religions or in God, and to do those things while taking tax dollars from those who don't believe is taxation without representation - and that's wrong.

    "Render unto Caesar..." - even Christ gave him his due even though Caesar was an unbeliever.

  • soyousay Apr 4, 2013

    Maybe they can help Billy fight the voter ID law..

    whose Billy? but of course they will

  • soyousay Apr 4, 2013

    By selectively deleting posts, from any side, that meet the guidelines, moderating becomes manipulation

  • stymieindurham Apr 4, 2013

    Why can we not ban the ACLU to Europe where they should flourish with their ideas?