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Lawmakers In North Carolina Introduce Bill To Adopt An Official State Religion

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(credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

(credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

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(CBS Charlotte) — Republican lawmakers in the state of North Carolina are pushing to adopt an official state religion that would deem the state exempt from court rulings and the Constitution.

House Bill 494 originated out of Rowan County, where two GOP lawmakers (backed by nine other Republicans,) filed the legislation after a lawsuit threatened to prohibit county commissioners in Rowan County from beginning their meeting with a Christian prayer. According to wral.com, the legislation grew out of a dispute between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In a federal lawsuit filed last month, the ACLU says the board has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.

During a similar lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners in Forsyth County in 2011, the court ruled that saying prayers associated with any one religion at government functions was unconstitutional.

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter that stated: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In the United States, there is a wall of separation between church and state. While the separation of church and state is not stated in the Constitution, it is implied.

Under the United States Constitution, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause are considered “Religion Clauses” of the First Amendment.

Both prohibit Congress from adopting a national religion, in addition to prohibiting our country from having a religious preference.

But on a state level, North Carolina lawmakers seem to think that there is gray area in the First Amendment. The Rowan County Republican legislators who filed the bill believe that the First Amendment does not apply to state and local governments.

House Bill 494, otherwise known as a joint resolution to proclaim the Rowan County, North Carolina defense of religion act of 2013, reads as follows:

SECTION 1. 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. 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.

While it’s doubtful that the Rowan County Republican lawmakers will succeed in establishing an official religion in the state of North Carolina, one thing is certain — a lot of our taxpayer dollars will be wasted fighting this battle.

-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte

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