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Religious establishment proposed in North Carolina

Religious establishment proposed in North Carolina

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.

WRAL.com reported on the bill after it passed out of committee:

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?

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Gregory Orloff

It's rather ironic that conservative hardliners in America's "religious right" fulminate against the specter of a Muslim "fifth column" imposing Shariah law on our shores, yet seem bent on doing the very same thing: imposing their brand of religion on everyone as a matter of public policy. An Evangelical Protestant Taliban would be no better for America than an Islamic one. Freedom of religion is one of the bedrocks of our democratic republic and civil society -- a cherished American principle best not tampered with.

One would think we would have learned by now, given history's many and manifold lessons, that making Christianity "official" through political sanction and government sponsorship weakens, harms and compromises the Church, crippling its integrity and freedom to sustain a prophetic witness to the "powers that be" when needed as a voice of conscience in larger society. Forced religion is no religion at all: it just turns religion into social conformity, lip service and rote ritual devoid of head and heart. It's no substitute for a free-will following after Christ Jesus and the attendant ascetic, kenotic effort -- both personally and communally -- to strive to love neighbor, love enemy and treat others the same way we want to be treated in response to his gospel.

It's with good reason that Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

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billydinpvd

They'd be right if this were the early 19th century: Massachusetts only stopped having an established church (Congregationalist, natch) in the 1830s. What struck me odd about the resolution is that it didn't seem to come right out and say that which religion they wanted to establish..,

Bill Dilworth

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