Published On: Thu, Apr 4th, 2013

State may declare official religion under new bill

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

Several North Carolina Republican state representatives are seeking the establishment of an official state religion under a new bill introduced on Monday, April 1.  State Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury) introduced House Joint Resolution to Proclaim the Rowan County, North Carolina Defense of Religion Act of 2013.

Section 1 of their joint resolution reads, “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 reads, “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.”

The bill does not specify which religion would be the official one if passed.

Jason Bivins, a professor with the Department of Philiosophy and Religious Studies at N.C. State University, said the bill seems to be an “obvious misreading of the Constitution”.

He commented, “Most respectable scholars have long acknowledged that the text of the First Amendment’s ‘establishment clasuse’ probably covers more than simply establishing a state religion.  This proposed bill seems to overlook entirely the 14th Amendment to the Constitution whose Equal Protection Clause most assuredly applies to states and localities.”

Bivins points to the Lemon Test from the 1971 Supreme Court decision Lemon v. Kurtzmann.  “Legislation is held to be Constitutional only if it 1) shows a secular legislative purpose, 2) has a primary legislative effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion, and 3) does not foster excessive government entanglement with religion.”

He said the legislation seems to be off-base.  “It seems to me what’s going on is an attempt to lay some groundwork (on the basis of established religion) for opting out of the Affordable Health Care Act.”

Reps. Ford and Warren did not answer a request for comment by press time.

Read the full text of the bill

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