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Resolution declaring authority to create official religion won’t move

RALEIGH The resolution that would assert North Carolina and its counties have the right to declare an official religion won’t be voted on, the office of House Speaker Thom Tillis said Thursday. That means it’s essentially dead.

A pair of representatives from Rowan County drew national attention this week after filing a measure that says the state is not subject to the First Amendment prohibition on creating laws on an official religion.

The “Defense of Religion Act” – filed by Rep. Carl Ford of China Grove and Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury – also maintains the federal government and court do not have authority to decide what is constitutional.

“[E]ach state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion,” it reads in part.

Both said the resolution was intended to support Rowan County commissioners in their legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU sued the board last month to stop regular Christian prayers before its meetings. The suit claimed that commissioners opened their meetings with a “sectarian” prayer 97 percent of the time over the last five years. It says that the use of religious terms like “in Jesus’ name” are divisive and violate the Constitution.

The commissioners have vowed to fight the suit, and have drawn supporters from around the state. The Rowan legislators’ resolution originally had a dozen co-sponsors, but it did not get the support of House leadership.

Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ spokesman, said the measure would not move and won’t be voted on.

Resolutions like the Defense of Religion Act do not become law if they are passed. They are generally used to honor dignitaries or groups, or to launch commissions to study issues.

Dunn: 704-358-5235 Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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