A Dignified Death

Ken AshfordConstitution, Godstuff, Local InterestLeave a Comment

After making North Carolina a punchline for a couple of days, the Speaker of the NC legislature does the right thing:

The Republican speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives killed legislation on Thursday that aimed toestablish an official state religion.

House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Charlotte) announced Thursday afternoon that the bill would not be receiving a vote in the full House, effectively dropping the measure. Loretta Boniti, a reporter for News 14 Carolina, broke the news on Twitter, and it was confirmed in a breaking news alert posted on the home page of wral.com, a Raleigh-based television station. Tillis' decision followed several days of national media attention on the bill, which also said that the state government did not have to listen to federal court rulings and was exempt from the requirements of the First Amendment.

The bill, which was drafted by state Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), was intended to address an issue in Rowan County, where the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the county commission in an attempt to block commissioners from having a Christian prayer at the beginning of meetings.

The North Carolina measure responds to the ACLU suit by declaring that each state is "sovereign" and no federal court can prevent a state from "from making laws respecting an establishment of religion." Though Warren, one of the bill's authors, told HuffPost Live that the measure was not seeking to create a state religion, the drafted legislation would clearly allow for such an action.

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.

The North Carolina bill seeks to play the First Amendment both ways. It says that the state is exempted from the establishment clause under the First Amendment, which establishes the "separation of church and state." The clause reads that "Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion." But the North Carolina bill asserts that prohibition does not apply "to states, municipalities, or schools," and that North Carolina could establish a state religion. The bill then goes further, portraying this reasoning as a protection of the freedom of religion, including the state lawmakers' right to exercise their own religious beliefs.