Republican Bill Would Let North Carolina Establish a State Religion

North Carolina Republican state House Representative Harry Warren introduced a bill to let the state establish its own religion.

North Carolina Republican state House Representative Harry Warren introduced a bill to permit his state to establish its own religion.

Two North Carolina state House Representatives introduced a bill to permit the establishment of a state religion in North Carolina, arguing that the prohibition against doing so embodied in the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause doesn’t  apply to the states.  North Carolina House Representatives Harry Warren and Carl Ford, both Republicans, introduced the “Defense of Religion Act of 2013” (House Joint Resolution 494) after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Rowan County, North Carolina commissioners over the Christian prayers they say at the start of public meetings. The suit claims that Rowan County Commissioners have opened over 97 percent of their public meetings over the past five years with prayers that routinely mention the name “Jesus Christ.” The invocations typically make such declarations as “there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ.” House Resolution 494 also declares that public schools would be free to ignore federal court rulings that prohibit the establishment of religion in schools. ACLU of North Carolina’s Legal Director, Chris Brook, said, “The bill sponsors fundamentally misunderstand constitutional law and the principles of the separation of powers that date back to the founding of this country.” Rep. Harry Warren says he doesn’t expect the bill “will go anywhere,” saying it is more a symbol of his support for Rowan County than a serious effort to enact a new law. While the legislators claim the Establishment Clause doesn’t apply in their state, though, they do not claim that the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment is null and void in their state as well. Warren risks his reputation as a serious state legislator by introducing a frivolous bill he knows is unconstitutional, is destined to fail and which will embarrass the state.

Main Source: Salisbury Post, April 3, 2013

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