Lawmakers want state religion in NC, defying First Amendment

North Carolina lawmakers have asked the state's General Assembly to approve a resolution that would allow them to establish their own religion.

Gov. Rick Perry flirted with the idea of seceding Texas from the rest of the United States.

Mississippi lawmakers presented a bill to assert state sovereignty.

Now, a group of Republican lawmakers in North Carolina want to pass a resolution that would establish an official religion for the state, defying the First Amendment.

The resolution was prompted by a dispute between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rowan County, N.C., Board of Commissioners, after the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit March 13 demanding that the board stop its unconstitutional practice of opening government meetings with prayers that are specific to one religion.

Mike Meno, a spokesman for the ACLU of North Carolina, told MSN News that 97 percent of board meetings since 2007 have been opened with prayers specific to one religion: Christianity.

North Carolina and religion: Rep. Carl Ford is the other primary sponsor of the resolution. IMAGEVoteCarlFord.com: Screen shot

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of three Rowan County citizens, who said the prayers made them feel unwelcome and excluded because they represented only one religious viewpoint.

The primary sponsors of the proposed resolution – Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford – are both from Rowan County, and Ford is a former Rowan County board commissioner.

The resolution, titled the Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013, states that the state government and its subsidiaries be permitted to establish a religion, which the ACLU says flies from the face of generations of constitutional jurisprudence.

Calls to Warren and Ford for comment from MSN News were not immediately returned.

Warren told the local newspaper, the Salisbury Post, that the resolution was meant to act more as a "demonstration of support (for the commissioners) … than an effort to have the courts revisit everything."

"We filed the lawsuit because even after the courts ruled that they couldn't open their meetings with prayer, they continued to do so," said Meno, referring to a 2011 ruling by the courts in another ACLU case, which said that if local boards opened meetings with prayers, they could not indicate a preference for one faith. "They are using the resolution to justify what Rowan County is doing."

According to the ACLU, the Rowan County commissioners, who deliver the prayers themselves, "routinely call on Jesus Christ and refer to other sectarian beliefs during invocations."

One of the prayers have declared that, "there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ."

"Even if the resolution gets adopted, I'm not sure what impact it would have," said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina. "I think it's unfortunate to even imply that the First Amendment does not apply to the North Carolina state government or its subsidiaries."

Political commentator Charles Ellison told MSN News that topics such as the proposed North Carolina legislation were popping up all over the South.

"A lot of it has been escalating since the 2008 elections since President Obama was elected," he said. "Old-school conservatives are getting nervous about states becoming a lot more young, urban and ethnic and engage in these legislative gimmicks to keep their Bible Belt base energized."

Ellison pointed at North Dakota's recent passage of a very stringent anti-abortion measure, Texas' talk of secession and the city of Nelson, Ga., which recently passed an ordinance requiring everyone in the city to own a gun.

"When these sorts of laws are being passed, lawmakers are responding to demographic changes," he said. "They want to get their bases fired up for the next election."

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