Updated. Some Republican lawmakers in North Carolina proposed a law that would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, perhaps even on a county-by-county level. While the bill does not say which religion would be established, it’s not hard to guess which one.
Update: House Speaker Thom Tillis announced that the bill would not come up for a vote in the full house, effectively killing the bill for this session.
House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Charlotte) announced Thursday afternoon that the bill would not be receiving a vote in the full House, effectively dropping the measure. Loretta Boniti, a reporter for News 14 Carolina, broke the news on Twitter, and it was confirmed in a breaking news alert posted on the home page of wral.com, a Raleigh-based television station. Tillis’ decision followed several days of national media attention on the bill, which also said that the state government did not have to listen to federal court rulings and was exempt from the requirements of the First Amendment.
The resolution 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.
Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered an explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.
In a 2011 ruling on a similar lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not ban prayer at government meetings outright, but said prayers favoring one religion over another are unconstitutional.
The text for the resolution is here.
Of course, this really isn’t about “defending religion”, it is about putting forward a peculiar reading of the tenth amendment that is popular in certain circles. Be that as it may, what do you Episcopalians in the US, descendants of a State-Church tradition as we are, think of the idea of state (or, if perhaps county) governments picking a favored religion?