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North Carolina getting a state religion? No.
North Carolina legistators are fighting over a church and state issue.
April 4th, 2013
02:06 PM ET

North Carolina getting a state religion? No.

By Eric Marrapodi and John Blake, CNN

(CNN)– Politicians often declare that the U.S. is a Christian nation, but a group of representatives in North Carolina wants to add a new wrinkle to that argument.

They want North Carolina to be able to make its own laws establishing religion.

Two Republican representatives in North Carolina filed a resolution Monday that would permit the state to declare Christianity its official religion and reject any federal laws or court rulings regarding how the state addresses the establishment of religion.

Critics say the resolution violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee that government will not prefer one religion over another. But a supporter of the resolution said it is about protecting another freedom.

The resolution reads in part, "The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize Federal court rulings which prevent the state, its public schools, or any political subdivisions in the state from making laws respecting the establishment of religion."

Rep. Carl Ford, the resolution’s co-sponsor, told the Salisbury Post the resolution's intent is to support county commissioners in Rowan, North Carolina, who routinely end their invocations at public meetings with "In Jesus' name, amen."

A Rowan County resident filed a lawsuit against the county in March saying that she was not a Christian and that evoking Jesus in a public meeting sends the message that county commissioners favor Christians.

“We’re not starting a church. We’re not starting a religion. We’re supporting the county commissioners in their freedom of speech,” Ford told the Post.

Ford did not respond to interview requests.

By Thursday afternoon, the resolution was dead.

Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, said, "the bill that is getting so much attention is not going to move. It's dead."

Shaw said it would probably be referred to committee but would not come before the legislative body for a vote.

When asked why it was not moving forward, Shaw said the legislation did not accomplish what the legislators who had submitted the resolution had hoped for it.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington-based organization that aims to protect religious liberty, said Ford's argument is “phony.”

“That’s quite a bizarre argument,” Lynn said. “They’re trying to say that the state of North Carolina has the right to trump the U.S. Constitution, that we have the right to decide what religion gets preferential religion in our state.”

David Graham, an associate editor for The Atlantic Monthly, said the North Carolina resolution signals the revival of the states' rights “nullification” theory: a legal argument invoked as far back as the 19th century that claims states have the right to void, or nullify, federal laws they oppose.

During President Obama’s presidency, conservatives have claimed that states could ignore duly passed federal laws dealing with health care and gun control, Graham wrote in a blog post for The Atlantic.

Courts don’t buy the nullification theory, Graham said.

“Nullification has repeatedly been ruled to be incorrect,” he said. “States don’t have the right to invalidate federal laws.”

The nullification theory won’t die, though, because it serves a purpose, Graham said.

“It’s good politics for the people proposing it,” he said. “If people are upset that the federal government is keeping them from praying at a City Council meeting or changing the way they get health insurance, a politician can say, 'This is wrong and I’m going to take a stand.' ”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts

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soundoff (2,110 Responses)
  1. Lu

    I guess I should be surprised that stupidity continues to exist in the lesser minds of lesser politicians. Wasn't this settled in April, 1865?

    April 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Well but the states' rights crowd has no better sense of history than they do anything else.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  2. Robert

    I think the new state religion in SC is a great idea. They should all be Hassidic Jews. I think some colorful yarmulkes (traditional skullcaps work when praying) would go great with those white sheets.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Fred

    They're gonna have to seceded to get that done. *eyeroll*

    April 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  4. duke

    This is a violation of the most core tennet of what this country was founded on. To even consider this shows what a total disconnect these people have from the true principles of what we are as a nation. I would ask any legislator who votes for this be brought up on charges of sedition and branded as Traitors

    April 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • abnguy

      You do not study history much. Many of our states had a state religion. I will list a few: Virginia, Florida, SC, NC, Maryland and Georgia state religions were episcipol and Connecticut, NewHampsire and Massachusetts state religion was Congregational. The last laws establishing a religion fell in 1960.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  5. Jeebusss

    Too bad the 14th Amendment explicitly denies states the right to decide if they want to follow federally protected freedoms. Apparently reading comprehension is not the Republican's strong point, although that shouldn't surprise anyone anywhere.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  6. TomNPitt

    Wouldn't it have been a beautiful thing if the Catholic Church had elected that Black Cardinal from Africa as the new Pope? Wouldn't you have just loved to hear the church and state conversations then?!?

    April 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Gwtheyrn

      No, I'd have gotten sick already of the weird jokes from NC yokels about a black man in white robes.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  7. EB

    This is why I departed from the right, the Republicans, the GOP in our last election. Given the path that they are on, I will not live long enough for them to return to a sane platform that I would be able to embrace and support with my votes. The future of GOP in the U.S. is dead. It is time now to bury the elephant.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Saraswati

      There are always going to be two parties in this country unless we change the system. The question is whether the GOP changes and survives or goes down and is replaced. Given the very high profile "conversions" we've seen on same-se.x marriage and gun control since the election I'd say there's a good chance they'll swing it around and survive in a party that by 2015 is radically changed.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  8. ELH

    Southern states tried going it alone once before and failed. North Carolina could give it another go if they want 'cause seceding is the only way they will get to establish a state-sponsered religion. Fools.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • d h grodsky

      just goes to show that ignorance and bigotry have no limitations–what a bunch of morons

      April 4, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  9. steve

    Put a Black guy in the White House and it's bound to bring out the right wing crazy crowd. laws that require every citizen to own a gun, laws that declare Christianity the official religion , in my home county they just passed a resolution on the county level to put " In god we trust" on the county seal. Sometimes I feel like Im living in the middle east.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • help save Texas from GOP

      Ironic Steve but True. I dont know why these people(Republcan extremists) dont just break from the RNP and call themselves what they are the Theocratic party of America? Heck lets help them in rebranding/naming and call them Theocratic American Party that way they have a nice acronym TAP . or even more apprapo Theocratic Christian Right American Party (T CRAP) NIIIIICE. 🙂

      April 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  10. Sly

    Carolina should embrace Islam, a better religion.

    America is now over 50% non-white, so we should throw out Christianity – in fact, ban it.

    Praise Allah – a good God, a good religion, and the appropriate religion for the US Government.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • TrollSlayer

      Obvious troll is an unsuccessful troll

      April 4, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Britta

      Wait.. what does race have to do with religion, exactly? There are Christians of all colors out there.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  11. Lycidas

    It won't pass and not should it.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  12. Thoth

    This is not the view of the majority of North Carolinians. The bill is being proposed by reps from Rowan County because they are trying to build a basis for a defense against a pending ACLU suit against them; which Rowan Co has nearly no chance of winning – nor will this bill go any further than being read on the floor. While I am an atheist, there is a lot of gross generalizations being made about NC that are far from accurate. Medical Schools at Carolina, East Carolina, and Duke are top ranked programs. As are the Veterinary School and Engineering programs at NC State. A local (NC) poll indicates the majority of North Carolinians (religious or not) are against this bill.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • ME II

      Good point. thanks.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Saraswati

      "A local (NC) poll indicates the majority of North Carolinians (religious or not) are against this bill"

      The point is that in most states you would never even see something like this proposed. This is just the extreme end of what's happening down there. This is the same state where the voters just last year, by a greater than 20% margin, passed not only a same-se.x marriage ban but a ban on civil unions and partnerships.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Wow-Man

      But a majority of NC did vote these people into office?!?!?

      April 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Thoth

      I symapthize

      Have you considered burning down the court house?

      What about a mob running these yahoo's out of town on a rail?

      Until you do, few others will feel for you.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • help save Texas from GOP

      and yet NC residents voted these clowns into office.....go figure.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  13. Alias

    I'm going to with hold judgment of NC for now.
    I will be looking at the Editorial page of some NC newspapers, and finding the 'Letters to the Editor' section.
    This could be fun.

    April 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Name*Jeff

    CNN got the establishment clause wrong. It forbids law based on religion, period. It doesn't just ban law favoring one religion over others. Read it and see that it is broader than is often claimed.

    April 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Akira

      Um, lol??, do you have reading comprehension problems?

      April 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Name*Jeff, the name of the game is to provide half truth, so you believe the lie.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

      HeavenSent

      Name*Jeff, the name of the game is for Christians to provide half truths, so you believe the lie.

      .
      You nailed it on the head HS

      April 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      mental illness,

      That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

      Hebrews 6:18

      Amen.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

      HeavenSent

      mental illness,

      That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

      Hebrews 6:18

      Amen.
      .......
      Ah yes...quotes from men who speak on behalf of the gods. It is impossible for a figment of ones imagination to physically lie or speak....hence men write and speaks on behalf of the gods. God could not lie before manno more than Tinker Bell could.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  15. MTATL67

    Republican cry and whine that their rights are being attacked and not a minute later they are trying to force their believes on everyone else. The wording of this guys bill can not be describe any other way than treason

    April 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  16. saldunn

    NC is my state and I am ashamed of some of the stuff that the Republican controlled congress is proposing. We have to do better in 2014

    April 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  17. tet1953

    I wouldn't want a Christian based government any more than I would want an Islamic based government. Religion is at the base of most of what is wrong with the world.

    April 4, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • No Gods No Master

      This is true.

      April 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Mary Ann

      You are 100% correct!

      April 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  18. Great, let them secede

    Let them go form a christian county and live in the kind of place the so desperately want and so richly disserve

    April 4, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Trust in God

      I pray you all read "23 minutes in Hell" and then ask yourself, what if by chance i am wrong in my decisions to follow Christ or not. The alternative is to follow Gods commands and the reward is Heaven so if you are wrong then what do you have to lose?

      April 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • pfr1nk

      Hey 'trust in god', what if YOU are following the wrong god? Week after week you are making 'the real god' angry.

      /Pascals wager is obviously flawed. The fact that you dont recognize that speaks volumes about your reasoning ability (or lack thereof).

      April 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    I blame it all on too much FOX News!

    April 4, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  20. Colin

    Dear North Carolina Christians:

    God here.

    Please do not make a state religion based on me. Because, you see, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.

    God

    April 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • LogicalPhD

      Lol, awesome!

      April 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Richard Ackerman

      Dear god,

      Thanks for your posting. I know it must really be you because your message is timely, clear and concise. It also seems to make more sense and less open to interpretation than "other" works that are attributed to you. After all, look how screwed up the Westboro Babtist Church got it.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • ezduzit757

      Awesome post!

      April 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • DougNJ

      Colin, thank you for doing all the typing on our behalf.

      April 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Sally Hodges

      Clever post, but we all know you are not God... because SHE is BLACK and you are obviously not.

      April 5, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • Credit to God for his creation

      Colin, a number of your points are complete fabrications and lies, blasphemy. God does listen to prayers, and supernatural is normal for God, that's why he's God. The apostles, prophets, Jesus and many others throughout history knew and know that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob made the universe. God is as powerful and almighty as ever. Should you ever want to be saved, you'll need to believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth died for your sins, and rose again the 3rd day. God has great patience love and mercy, but so does a large ship you jump off when traveling across a huge ocean. You can drown in if you're not careful on your voyage through life, similar though not the same results if you rejecting God.

      No, I don't expect you'll listen, or care.

      April 5, 2013 at 6:03 am |
    • Ticktockman

      Nicely done.

      April 5, 2013 at 10:02 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.