Sponsor Of North Carolina Religion Resolution Apologizes

One of the North Carolina legislators who sponsored a resolution declaring the state can make its own laws about religion without involvement from the federal government and courts is apologizing for any embarrassment to his community and state.

The proposal's primary sponsors are Republican Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford of Rowan County. Warren tells the Salisbury Post the now-dead resolution was poorly written.

It declared that states are sovereign from federal oversight and could independently "make laws respecting an establishment of religion."

Warren says he only intended to allow Rowan County officials to continue opening meetings with prayer, not to establish a state religion. The American Civil Liberties Union sued county commissioners last month, accusing the panel of violating the First Amendment by routinely praying to Jesus Christ.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

(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 likely 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 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.'”

Previous Story

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina legislative leader says a resolution asserting the state can make its own laws regarding the establishment of religion won't be heard in its current form.

The chairman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Tim Moore, says he doesn't think the bill's sponsors intended to let the state sanction a religion.

Rep. Harry Warren, a co-sponsor, says the bill is only intended to allow Rowan County commissioners to open their meetings with prayers.

Warren and Rep. Carl Ford filed the resolution Monday, along with 11 co-sponsors.

Chris Brook of the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union says it's unfortunate the state is revisiting issues that have been resolved for centuries.

Previous Story

Two North Carolina lawmakers have filed a resolution asserting that federal courts don't have the authority to decide what is constitutional and the state can make its own laws on the establishment of religion.

Two Rowan County lawmakers proposed the resolution Monday, along with 11 co-sponsors. It declares the state's sovereignty and rejects the authority of federal courts' rulings on religion in North Carolina or on any constitutional issue.

Chris Brook of the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union says it's unfortunate the state is re-litigating issues that have been resolved for centuries.

Republican Reps. Carl Ford and Harry Warren sponsored the bill. Warren says the bill is only intended to allow Rowan County commissioners to open their meetings with prayers, not to establish a state religion.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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