Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Godless Wednesday: North Carolina Tries To Establish State Religion

The North Carolina legislature  is considering a bill which basically purports to allow the state to establish a state religion. The text of House Bill 494 is
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.
As a local news report explains, the bill is in response to an ACLU lawsuit about explicitly Christian prayers being performed at public events:
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.
The idea behind House Bill 494 is that the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows states to do defy federal laws and ignore federal judicial rulings. Typically, such laws are quickly overturned by federal courts. In fact the North Carolina state constitution explicitly says (in Article 1, Section 5) "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."

Gee, I wonder what state religion the Majority Leader of the House (who has signed on to the legislation) would like to enact in the state?

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