Clearing up confusion on the “NC wants to establish a state religion” nonsense

A brouhaha is erupting both in this state and nationwide over reports that the state of North Carolina wants to “establish a state religion” by way of a “bill” introduced in the state house. I’m hoping to clear up some confusion about this as our local Democrat-friendly mainstream media seems to want to throw misleading and in some cases false terms around with wild abandon, which further complicates attempts at setting the record straight.

To begin with, the “state” is not trying to “establish a religion.” A few well-intentioned but misguided GOP House members have filed a JOINT RESOLUTION (not a “BILL” – big difference) essentially stating that North Carolina – by way of the 10th Amendment –  does not have to “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.” More from Charlotte station WBTV:

ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) – Just days after state lawmakers joined the fight for prayer in “the name of Jesus” before Rowan County Commission meetings, a local church has joined the fight and put its money where its mouth is.

Cornerstone Church has purchased the first of several billboards that show support for commissioners, urging them to continue to pray in the name of Jesus.

“It’s very exciting,” pastor Bill Godair told WBTV on Wednesday.  “I was thrilled about it.”

Godair had tried to donate $10,000 to the county’s legal fund to fight the ACLU, but when the church was told that may not be legally possible, Godair turned to the billboard idea.

On Monday, House Joint Resolution 494, called the Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013, was filed by Republican Representatives Carl Ford and Harry Warren.

Warren represents Rowan County and is in his first term.

Ford represents Rowan and Cabarrus counties. He was on the Rowan County Commission when the American Civil Liberties Union first raised the objection to sectarian prayers at meetings more than a year ago.

The resolution, which would back county commissioner’s use of sectarian prayer in meetings, is co-sponsored by nine other Republican Representatives from across the state.

The proposed resolution says citizens should not lose First Amendment protection “by virtue of their appointment, election, contract, employment, or otherwise engagement,” and “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.”

Let me respond to what these GOP reps are doing by saying this: While I can’t stand the ACLU, and I understand the GOP reps in question are trying to protect Rowan County Commissioners and their right to say a prayer before meetings, this is NOT the way to go about doing it. This is a local – and by local I mean COUNTY issue – and should have stayed there.   Let the Rowan Commissioners fight this thing in court – which they’ll have to do, thanks to the ACLU’s lawsuit.  Bringing this resolution before the state legislature has not only complicated the matter, but it’s also bought an unnecessary “outside” microscope to this state, which doesn’t need the distraction.  Furthermore, why bring forth a resolution that would have a strong probability of being struck down by the courts if it was an actual bill passed and signed into law by the Governor (which won’t happen – as resolutions don’t need the Gov’s signature)?  All in all, in spite of the “good intentions” involved here (and you know what they say about “good intentions”), this resolution should be yanked. Period.

Not surprisingly, this resolution has liberals almost literally foaming at the mouth with indignation and “outrage”, with many – including, unsurprisingly, some in our local media – incorrectly calling it a “bill” when it in fact is not a “bill” but a resolution – an important distinction, as explained below:

Resolutions and Bills
Difference between resolutions and bills.

This part is especially key: “a resolution has no life after the term of the session in which it is adopted.” Legislators are in the 2013-2014 legislative year. Their session is up in July. You do the math as to how long this resolution would stay in effect IF it even went anywhere, which it won’t.

I’ve asked the Charlotte Observer’s Andrew Dunn and WRAL’s Laura Leslie, who each did reports on this for their respective news outlets, to please update their stories to alert people as to the differences between a bill and a resolution. Dunn has said he would, but Leslie has yet to respond. I also asked Leslie to correct her report referring to this legislation as a “House Bill.”

What’s important to understand about all of this however, is that the goal was/is never to “establish a state religion.” This was done in response to the ACLU’s push back against the Rowan County Commissioners saying a Christian prayer before public forums, and the GOP legislators merely want them to be able to do that without the ACLU being able to do anything about it. The ACLU and the GOP in this state do not get along, as I suspect is the case in many other states. Even saying that, as noted earlier good intentions oftentimes make for bad law and this one should be shelved/dumped, but in this particular situation I wanted it to be noted how this all started and why, and to assure people that this state is *NOT* trying to establish an “official state religion”, contra to the hyperventilating at the Huffington Post, NBC News, and local news outlets like WRAL and the Observer who either outright imply or report the “seek to establish a state religion” allegation as fact.(1)

(1) I’d even go as far as to say if this WERE a bill and NOT just a resolution, and it happened to pass both the state house and senate, the Governor would very likely veto it.

Update – 6:30 PM: Forgot to mention a couple of notable responses to this “bill” from well-known local Democrats. First up, Chris Fitzsimon at the liberal NC Policy Watch in Raleigh, which describes itself as a “progressive, nonprofit and non-partisan public policy organization” (huh?):

And from Pam Spaulding, NC-based blogger at Pam’s House Blend (part of the nationally known Firedoglake blog), and whose specialty is gay rights issues:

“Teahadists”? “George Wallace” (raaaaaaacism!)? Stay classy, y’all.

Comments are closed.