North Carolina lawmakers favor the Christian religion


File photo of a liquor store in North Carolina. The General Assembly rejected a proposal to allow state ABC stores to open on Sundays.

N&O file photo

Last week, the General Assembly rejected a proposal to allow ABC stores to open on Sundays. North Carolina is one of eight states to ban liquor store sales on the traditional Christian Sabbath.

“I think we need a free Sunday for Lord’s Day,” said Rep. Pat Hurley, Republican for Randolph County.

Quick reminder. The state of North Carolina does not have the power to declare a “Lord’s Day” or to order its observance.

I admit that it is possible for Hurley to be confused on this point. In January, the Rowan County Commission finally paid the ACLU $ 285,000 in attorney fees for insisting, since 2007, on Christian prayers to open its proceedings. Commissioners who violate the constitution and induce debt have called the ACLU “bullies.”

A few months ago, State House passed a bill drafted by the NC Prayer Caucus requiring that a sign reading “In God We Trust” be placed in public schools. Representative Larry Pittman dishonestly explained that the law does not promote religion. It just “recognizes an important part of our history.” So as not to be outdone, Alamance County now wants to put a divine sticker on its cars.

In 2015, Senate Leader Phil Berger passed a law allowing magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples, even after the Supreme Court established their equality rights, based on alleged objections. religious officials. Christian magistrates, according to theory, do not need to offer equal protection to all Tar Heels. We have two levels of state funded and state empowered public officers – clerics and others.

The Supreme Court of the United States itself is moving ever closer to accepted Christian privilege. The Masterpiece Cupcake decision seeks to open a door for Christian conservatives to view much of the law as optional. There, an anti-gay business owner requested an exemption from civil rights laws on the basis of what he claimed was a religious mandate. He did not allege that the equality laws are unconstitutional; just that he should have the privilege of disobeying them. Special rights for believers.

In January, the energized right wing of the Supreme Court – Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Thomas – expressed enthusiasm for overturning decades of jurisprudence and expanding religious exemption rights. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a public high school football coach insisted on leaving his team unattended at the end of games, heading to the 50-yard line and praying ceremoniously in front of the crowd in violation of school district policies.

But judges showed no similar affection for religious freedom by upholding Donald Trump’s infamous Muslim travel ban. Everyone except the five majority judges understood that the restriction was what the president had repeatedly promised him – exclusion based on religion. The court, however, was openly satisfied with the pretext. False justification is enough to ban Muslims.

And two weeks ago, High Court conservatives rejected a request by a Muslim inmate that an imam be present during his execution in place of the Christian chaplain provided by the state of Alabama. Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor called the majority’s decision “deeply flawed” – violating the constitutional commandment that one religious denomination should not be preferred over another. The demand for robust religious accommodations apparently only works one way.

A few years ago, State Senator Jerry Tillman told his local newspaper that he was tired of being criticized for not aggressively expanding the government bond program. “People say it’s great that these coupons are going to Christian schools,” he noted. “But do they want the money to go to a Catholic school or a school that teaches Islam? »Ugh.

Tillman’s instincts are hideous. But still, he should have a chat with Rep. Hurley.

Gene Nichol is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina.

This story was originally published February 21, 2019 7:50 pm.

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