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. kent

    sanford in south carolina, and these nuts in north carolina. wow. any chance the tectonic plates could subduct in the east coast? i thought not. sigh............

    April 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Lucifer's Hammer

      Better yet, maybe a direct hit in your neighborhood by a misc. 100000 ton asteroid.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • frank

      I notice that when fundiots are really pressed against the wall, they can't seem to get the job done with God. They have to enlist their pal Satan. Scare tactics were the favorite of early Xtian apologists as well.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  2. oh man

    Glad to know the Gods picked one of the most uneducated states to make this happen in.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  3. Woody

    If everyone in America wants to celebrate the birth of Jesus then everyone that wants to can go celebrate where he was born and raised . But just a word of warning . Jesus was born on the continent of Asia at Asia minor so that will put you at about Syria ! Where many people have been being gunned down lately ! Go enjoy your Jesus homeland and just hope you make it home !

    April 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • smfinley

      You know, you don't have to go to someone's birthplace to celebrate their birthday! That's what Chuck-E-Cheese and Chuck-a-rama are for! Do you always travel to your place of birth for your celebrations?

      April 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Racist Rebel Republican

      The problem with Syria is ISLAM, idiot.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  4. rosethornne


    April 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • ed

      That is the worst impersonation of another poster I've seem (Sh!tiswati). saraswati must have really gotten to you.

      April 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  5. frank

    This piece should be in the Onion & not in real news. That means money is being wasted on such foolishness.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  6. ritmocojo

    How did I know it was going to be a Southern state?

    April 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  7. TheRationale

    Wow, this is basic high school American government and law. This bill is a waste of time and money. It is guaranteed to fail and will only incur needless costs as it's pushed. Of course it's dead. The North Carolina government isn't entirely brain dead...

    April 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • JustHuman51

      No, they're not brain dead but now that the GOP controls both houses and the governor's mansion just see how far we regress. I live in Raleigh and I see all the regressive B.S. these morons are proposing. This is only the beginning of "The South Shall Rise Again". I hate to say it, but if we turn the clock back too far, we'll have to pick up and move to another state where idiots don't try to legislate their religion and morals.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  8. Victor Delta

    "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

    – Submitted by President John Adams in 1797 and unanimously ratified by the Senate.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  9. mitchell

    Ok North Caroiina so I guess you want to be all you can be and dectate which religion will be offically sanctioned Will you also set moral police on the streets to make sure it is all observed and dress codes and standards are met
    if so you the Muslium extremeist will certainly be availble to hit the streets and everyone else with you.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Ferathka

      I would love to know what happened to North Carolina. They use to be run by somewhat sane people.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • JustHuman51

      Not anymore. Here's another example. Tony Tata was Superintendent of Wake County Schools during one of the worst transportation foulups in recent history. During a particularly bad ice storm, he authorized the closure of our schools and put the buses on the road BEFORE the DOT had a chance to treat the roads. The result: my son (one of the lucky ones) got home at 2am the next morning. Guess what our Good Old (Boys) Party did for Mr. Tony. They appointed him Secretary of the DOT. A perfect example of the Peter Principle. 'Nuff said before I get ugly.

      April 4, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  10. Woody

    Religion is all man made and north america was not founded on any religion as north America was founded by people way before our religions that came from the mid east region . Your Jesus if he was was born on the continent of Asia at Asia Minor . Not the continent of north america ! The bible too was put together 300 years after Jesus .

    April 4, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  11. mike m

    When I read the headline for this article, I thought it was going to be about the Taliban wanting a state religion.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  12. james pfeiffer

    Will there be no end to the ridiculousness of Christian zealots? This is the exact same thing that Muslim fundamentalists want...a single religious theistic government. Anyone who thinks that Christians would be any better at this sort of government just have to look at the crimes perpetrated by so called Christians during the crusades and the inquisition, or the cruelty they perpetrated on innocent, non-Christian cultures throughout history! I was born a clueless lump of flesh, was dutifully indoctrinated by the Catholic church and now, many years later have, in my opinion, finally begun to understand religion and its dreadful role in keeping people sheeplike and dumb. After all, it is a bizarre thing that when science warns us of global warming that a sheepish Christian argues the opposite using a bible...scary!

    April 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Mike G.

      I couldn't have said it better; WELL SAID !

      April 4, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  13. J R Brown

    You know...a few years ago I would have laughed at the utter foolishness of this but I've seen lawsuits in the news by Muslims in state courts asking the courts to be required to take Sharia law into account in ruling on domestic violence issues and I've actually seen people supporting it on religious freedom grounds and THAT is incredibly offensive to me.

    Nothing should surprise us any more.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Morgan

      Where? Can you link a case, please? I'd be interested to see that.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Paul Hogue

      Are we then going to knock down a legal tradition of recognizing religious law going back before the establishment of our country? US courts have routinely recognized canon law (primarily Catholic) and Halakkah (Jewish law) in civil cases if the parties agree to arbitration under those religious laws. These would apply to situations such as divorce settlements, and cannot, by any stretch interfere with criminal law. That arbitration, which is narrowly defined, is the only situation in which sharia has been recognized by a court.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  14. LetsBeCivil

    Can we PLEASE stop pointing to a book written by men whose knowledge of the world comes from the Iron Age?

    April 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Why? We apparently still haven't learned many of the basic lessons contained therein. And would we object if it were not overtly religious Iron Age material? How about Cicero? What if we slide Archimedes in there?

      April 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  15. Farmerboy

    Exhibit A (or are up to Exhibit Z?) in why the GOP is making itself irrelevant in American politics.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Yes Farmer. In the long run I think it hurts everyone when one of them is this dumb.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  16. Tom in Desoto, TX

    Ah, a religious state, just like Saudi Arabia where freedom is surpeme like many other mid-east countries. Will the North Carolian's be wearing turbans and have prayer rugs? Will they have to give up moonshine and tobacci?

    April 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  17. Aletheya

    And people thought the Neanderthals went extinct...

    April 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Sally Hodges

      HAHAHAAAAAA!!! That made me snort coffee through my nose!

      April 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      There's a slot in the Affirmative Action program for snorters, FWIW...

      April 5, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  18. srichey321

    Well, i guess this is one way of getting Iran's respect.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  19. Fundies Gone Wild! They are Panicking!

    _ _

    April 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  20. Truthis

    In my lifetime I have watched this country progress and now I see it falling hopelessly into darkness. Religion will make us no better than Iran.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Religion was here all along. While "progress" was occurring, even! Religion, not rationalism that appeals to few and is understood by fewer, will be how whatever our true progress is (which is yet to be determined) doesn't backtrack in a generation or two.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • frank

      "Religion, not rationalism that appeals to few and is understood by fewer,"

      I think what you mean there, Canton is "appeals to the gullible who will endlessly argue with each other about it"

      April 4, 2013 at 7:49 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.