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North Carolina Lawmakers Seek To Establish Official State Religion

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File photo of a bible. (credit: Eli Meir Kaplan/Getty Images)

File photo of a bible. (credit: Eli Meir Kaplan/Getty Images)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A pair of North Carolina legislators has introduced a resolution asserting the state can make its own laws regarding the establishment of religion and that the federal government and courts have no authority to decide what is constitutional.

The resolution, filed by two Republicans from Rowan County, declares “each state is sovereign and may independently determine how the state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

The resolution is titled “A Joint Resolution to Proclaim the Rowan County, North Carolina Defense of Religion Act of 2013.” It goes beyond religion to claim federal court rulings on any constitutional issue have no authority in the states.

” … the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people,” the resolution states, invoking the Tenth Amendment.

The resolution is nothing more than political grandstanding, said Marci Hamilton, church-state expert at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. “Were they to pass this bill, it would be unconstitutional and nothing but the subject of litigation,” she said. “It would take the federal courts about five minutes to hold that it’s unconstitutional.”

She said it concerned her because elected officials must pledge to uphold the federal and state constitutions. “It does show me that the elected officials are willing to pander to what they perceive as their voters, regardless of what the Constitution requires,” she said.

The bill’s primary sponsors are Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, a tea party member. Eleven other legislators signed on to the resolution. Legislators introduce scores of resolutions every year, honoring constituents or declaring their stances on issues, but they carry little legal weight. But Hamilton said a resolution could still be unconstitutional if it was considered a government endorsement of a particular religion. The resolution does not specify any religion.

Warren said in a statement that the bill was only intended to allow Rowan County officials to open their meetings with prayer, not to establish a state religion. Ford did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The House Rules chairman said Wednesday that the bill won’t be considered in its current form. Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said he didn’t believe it was the intent of the bill’s sponsors to let the state create or sanction a religion, but rather to express opposition to a lawsuit they perceived to infringe on religious freedom.

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