Inside Politics

Proposal to allow official North Carolina state religion dead in legislature

Thursday, April 04, 2013
North Carolina State Legislative Office Building

North Carolina State Legislative Office Building (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis' office said Thursday that a resolution asserting North Carolina has the power to set an official state religion is dead, and won't go any further.

The resolution, filed by two Republicans from Rowan County, declared "each state is sovereign and may independently determine how the state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion" - thereby claiming the federal government and courts have no authority to decide what is constitutional.

The bill's primary sponsors were Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, a tea party member. Eleven other legislators signed the resolution. Legislators introduce hundreds or even thousands of resolutions every year, honoring constituents or declaring their stances on issues, but they carry little legal weight.

Warren said in a statement that the bill was only intended to allow Rowan County officials to open their meetings with prayer, not to establish a state religion.

In March, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina sued the board of commissioners in Rowan County. The federal lawsuit accuses the board of violating the First Amendment ban on establishment of religion by routinely praying to Jesus Christ to start its meetings.

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