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. EnLGHT

    Midwest Rail, Christianity is banned in schools.

    April 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • sam

      Shut up, and clamp your foil hat on a little tighter, dumbass poe.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Noah z

      I love how people talk about things like Christianity being illegal in school...when they don't know what they're talking about...its outlawed it just can't be part of the curriculum or taught to the students. The students have always had the right and ability to pray for anything at any point in school!

      April 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  2. religions are kids playing make believe

    religion founded on moses.. though shalt not kill,,, then goes of to conquer and murder. Religions,, thanks to secular society, they are less dangerous in the free world.

    April 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  3. SixDegrees

    Too easy to refute this.

    Just have one of the other council members close a public meeting with "Allah Akbar!", and you'll see the whole proposal circling the nearest toilet drain.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  4. Hmmmmmm

    Just when you think the right wing just couldn't get any crazier . . .

    April 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  5. CNNuthin

    If the states and the country adopt a religion, I'd like to suggest it be Kopimism.
    he Missionary Church of Kopimism (in Swedish Missionerande Kopimistsamfundet), founded by 19-year-old philosophy student Isak Gerson, is a congregation of file sharers who believe that copying information is a sacred virtue. The Church, based in Sweden, has been officially recognized by the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency ("kammarkollegiet") as a religious community, after three application attempts.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  6. abrosenfeld

    So when do the witch burnings start?

    April 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • truth

      we're hearing the last squeals from the voodoo religious,, before they fade away into the dark ages, where they belong.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Too many more of those comments and reasonable people might be forced to conclude that "educated" people in the Dark Ages were smarter than "educated" people now.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Larry

      Once you establish a state religion then the faith tests begin. Plenty of Christians will be left out right away because they're too liberal but, as time passes, the only direction this could take is pushing to ever more fascist extremes of Conservatism. It's already a bit like this now all through the Bible Belt, but I can't imagine that it would be pretty for anyone not in that elite in NC.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      When the Vikings were havin' a blast???

      April 5, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  7. truth

    the religious are losing to science. As they look more foolish than ever,, they resort to this crap

    April 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • truth

      boo,, jesus is coming to get you

      April 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Answer

      Why not use those confirmed and proven prayers to wish those wastes away instead?

      Those almighty prayers.. use them.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • religions are kids playing make believe

      doctors cured more people that prayer.. Oh wait! Prayer never changed a single thing.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Yeah, those eugenicists look *great,* don't they?

      This is a touchy position conceptually. If you say that about prayer, don't you have to say that about meditation too?

      April 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Why doesn't science do anything with the nuclear waste? Instead of just playin' the role of antichrist???

      April 5, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  8. Fred The Truth Sayer

    MBAGuy12, you just got schooled so bas!

    April 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • WHAT?


      April 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  9. Answer

    Religious nutbags feeling threatened - oh those poor babies. Good.

    You're dying and we're loving it.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Answer

      With the hangman noose. Tighten around their necks.

      The image is just unflattering. XD

      April 4, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • fred

      "You're dying and we're loving it."
      =>ah, more positive encouragement out of darkness

      April 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      And the mob forms...

      April 5, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  10. joshua

    see dr owour prophet among us.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  11. John

    I take it the Republican representatives in North Carolina who sponsored this goofy bill never took a high school civic's class.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Bill


    April 4, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  13. Chuck Boone

    Nullification is not a north south thing. Check out the states that have essentially refused (read nullify) the Real ID act, led by Maine (real red neck state). And if at the time of the civil war, there were northern states refusing (read nullifying) the fugitive slave act, which sent the southern slave owning states into a tizzy about the support for federal law. Most people support federal and states rights based on what outcome they want, but considering "nullification" merely a north/south, redneck/enlightened debate is quite naive and actually doesn't recognize the fact that nullification has worked as a type of civil disobedience (or state disobedience). And there is more...


    April 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  14. Liberals are hhypocrites and know it alls

    MBAGuy 12- No he, like you, is ignorant. I do know the difference between illiterate (him) and ignorant (he and you). You have shown your trur colors. Now go away, off to support your liberal and misguided agenda. Wow you have an MBA! How impressive and how typical it is that you have to let everyone know! It's actually relatively easy, some of us didn't stop there!

    April 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • John

      I'm intrigued, why is Separation of Church and State "liberal and misguided?"

      April 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  15. Oldguy

    By forbidding the practice of Christianity, Islam, Hindi, Shinto, whatever - we are officially endorsing/establishing the religion of Athiesm.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Who has forbidden the practice of any of these religions? Could you name one single example?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Hypatia

      "Religion of atheism"? Idiot!

      April 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Oldguy

      @ Saraswati: The atheist who sued this time - and the one before that - and the other one before that -

      April 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • sam

      Shut the hell up.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Bytor

      Calling atheism a religion is like calling not collecting stamps a hobby.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Please tell us, when did an atheist sue a person of faith, any faith, for being that faith and win? Just one instance will be enough

      PS how exactly is atheism a religion again?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Answer

      Oldguy - near death. It's a good thing. Bye bye.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  16. Mark Gerardy

    North Carolina, if you freak-a-voids want a civil war, go ahead, my tax dollars will happily fund the United States military to knock you zealots down a few notches. Keep it up, because I think the answer to your neo-KKKhristiaNaziism is going to be aggressive laws stripping your phony religions of their tax exempt status, and that just for starters. I sincerely hope that the next generation of young people that you alienate with your vile rhetoric no only take a stand against this kind of junk, but also cripple religion which has gotten out of control and drunk on arrogance and unchecked power. There needs to be some demolition and leveling in order, and I think North Carolina needs to be the pilot test case to show the rest of the right wing bible thumpers who is boss in the country – it is not them. The Confederency is dead, get over it!

    April 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • JackBear24

      Wow!! 2, count em, 2 very rural state senators make some kinda weird stance and the whole damned state has to pay the price. Not sure where you're from but in my wide travels I have noticed that ignorance is universal. I'm willing to bet that even the great state of West Utopia that you live in has a couple of idiots living there. I may even be responding to one now.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Gwtheyrn

      You might be able to make that case, Jackbear, if it weren't for the fact that the majority of people in North Carolina think this way. In fact, were such an act put to a public vote, I'm certain that it would overwhelmingly pass. People in the South are an embarrassment not just to the United States, but to humanity as a whole.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      "...............neo-KKKhristiaNaziism............." OOoooeeewww, you must be a communist hating a different denomination of socialism...

      April 5, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  17. DustyOnes

    As a Catholic I say "WRONG". The whole point of separation of Church and State is to not allow a State religion. Read the Danbury Baptist letters to Thomas Jefferson. The founding Fathers did not want a Presbyterian Connecticut, Quaker Penn or a Catholic Maryland. They did not want to be like Europe.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  18. Jason

    This is a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment and also challenges the 14th Amendment.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Let's just stick with the 1st-whacking out about the 14th all of a sudden isn't helping people appreciate government.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  19. Ruth

    First of all, who says the government has any right to establish religion or have anything to do with religion?

    April 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • EnLGHT

      Who says it has the right to ban religion?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Cite one instance where religion has been banned.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Who knows what "freedom" means?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Double J

      "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose?"

      April 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  20. Eli Cabelly

    I believe we had a war about state's rights and whether or not state laws could supersede federal laws. Federal won over state, because the North won against the South.

    Is it time for another Civil War to remind the southerners that they live in a nation, not a confederacy?

    April 4, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Don't encourage them-it's already Crazy White Supremacist Week.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:31 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.