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. brian

    Why are backwoods people in the South so religious?

    April 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Dave


      April 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Flo Glatt

      Hey, not all us small town southerners are religious zealots. NC and Texas are just wrong to try to force ANY religion on the citizens of their states.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness


      Why are backwoods people in the South so religious?
      On average...lower IQ

      April 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • ToWit

      Answer: because they ARE backwards!

      April 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Good Doctor

      That's easy. a *whole lot* of them are BREATHTAKINGLY, STAGGERINGLY ignorant, they're frightened (the two usually go hand in hand, don't they?) and they have nothin' else to do. I mean, now that brutalizing and murdering minorities is (kinda) illegal.

      Next question?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  2. happily agnostic

    So glad I don't live there anymore. (I'm sure the feeling is mutual, of course.)

    April 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Ditto. I enjoyed some nice parks but that's about the only good thing I can say about my time there. I had to buy a book summarizing all the different Christian denominations just to understand the conversations. It also reset my estimation of where race relations in the US stood – I'd never actually heard real, live people use racist language before I moved there...in most parts of the US it's something most moderately educated folks just here on TV shows. In NC there were students at top universities using racial slurs and waving confederate flags...freaky stuff.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  3. ToldUSo

    Dang! I was sure Texas would be the first official American Taliban state.

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

      As a Texan, I'm shocked we weren't first either. We're first in most other things stupid and right-wing.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • lovinthatsomanyhateonnd

      lol actually i think the tea party here in AZ have beat them to it...bunch of guano crazies

      April 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness


      lol actually i think the tea party here in AZ have beat them to it...bunch of guano crazies
      I live here as well...TOTALLY agree. Jan Brewer the former X-Ray Tec can't even speak properly. You mix the Mormon reps from Mesa and Chandler area with the ignorance Midwest mass that moved here and this is what you get. Old and middle aged pi s s ed off white people at the world.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  4. emskadittle

    wasn't this nullification thing settled 150 years ago, 700k boys lost their lives over it

    April 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Nuthins ever SETTLED dealing with socies. Their FEELINGS change with the lunar cycle...

      April 5, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  5. Vic

    Every state of the Union is represented in the legislative process; therefore, 'nullification' is wrong!

    The United States of America is a Christian country by the vast majority of its people!!! No one can touch that!
    that's all you need!

    I am a born again Christian Protestant, and I believe in the "Separation of Church and State!!!" If you think thoroughly about it, you would realize it PROTECTS BOTH!!!

    April 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  6. Michael

    These people are the most ignorant and stupid of mankind. Read Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and John Adams with their views on establishing a state religion. Only the ignorant and stupid will continue electing them.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  7. phneutral

    My goodness, how backwards.

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

      What is odd is that this is happening in North Carolina, which is not a backwards state overall.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Gwtheyrn

      Bull, JFCanton. I've been to that state. It's completely bass-ackwards.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  8. jboh

    Only from the TEA party. What sane American would support these taliban wannabes?

    April 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  9. whitepine

    And to think the people of North Carolina voted these people to run their government? These people are acting more like the Muslims of the Middle East each day.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Socies share their wymen, the ones they don't kill in the womb...

      April 5, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  10. oldbones24

    Wasn't North Carolina the first state to secede the last time? and people call Florida dumb.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Alan S

      Old Bones: South Carolina was the source of the 1861 secession.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  11. JFCanton

    So it's a ridiculous idea-but the genesis of the idea does show where a problem might be created. The politician doesn't stop being Christian when the public hearing starts; if invoking Jesus is something you do ALL the time, it's more unreasonable than reasonable to expect you not to do it in the context of your (elected!) job. The people electing you had the ability to determine whether your doing that would bug them. So a court shouldn't countenance a lawsuit complaining about it.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  12. ally buster

    I would like to remind the representatives behind this resolution that the debate regarding the supremacy of the federal government has already been decided. It was decided Appomattox Court House, Virginia in 1865.

    They should "pray" that we don't decide to enforce that decision-

    April 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  13. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It's not really so extraordinary that Christian Politicians with a frothing Christian base would set themselves up to be persecuted by the evil, secular, Federal Government that has been spreading its evil and its evil social agenda across the great state of North Carolina for years now. They want to be seen trying to establish Red State Christendom and they want to be seen brought down while trying with all their might. What electable fellows they will be in the aftermath.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  14. cindy

    Why can't law makes leave some things alone!!! They don't need to control everything we do!

    April 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  15. GIUK

    Just cut off NC's Federal highway funds, disaster money, etc and watch as they change their tune about Federal power.

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

      What highway funds? Have you ever driven on a NC highway? My old dirt road has a smoother ride and fewer potholes.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  16. Doug in NYC

    I have yet to figure out why we fought so hard to keep the South, they are nothing but "takers" and not "makers". Oh and please take Pennsylvania with you!

    April 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I always tell people if they want a relaxing job they should move to NC. Not only did people work far fewer hours when I was there, but at the companies I've worked for in the north and west you can't reach an NC office after hours. I'm actually not knocking this part about NC...the relaxed lifestyle was the only thing I liked down there. But they by no means pull their weight...the cost of living and rent were just so much lower for so many years that it was worth opening an office even if less got done.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • cyn507

      you mean Pennsyltucky?

      April 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Alan S

      Doug: Yeah! You're right. Let's get rid of the South. And Pennsylvania. Not to mention all them hicks in the Midwest. And California - well, we don't want those characters in our USA, do we? Colorado is too hilly. Arizonans are too conservative. Texans wear silly hats. Hawaii and Alaska aren't even connected to the real USA. Just us New Yorkers, right? Let the rest of the country secede!

      April 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  17. Darryl

    I'm a christian and I'm pro life, but I'm not seeing how this could even be construde as separation of church and state?

    April 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  18. Rynomite

    This state is great to visit due to an abundance of great Golf courses. That said... While NC has a certain old world charm, it'd be scary to actually live in the 'old world'.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  19. Robert

    As well as Shalom (hello) y'all. Has a nice ring.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  20. bkiser

    The worse mistake this state ever made was to vote obama in 2008.

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

      At least they gave you something to talk about.

      April 4, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Mike from CO

      "The worse mistake this state ever made was to vote obama in 2008."

      Absolutely the worst thing. So much worse then fighting for slavery...

      April 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
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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.