Wednesday, August 18, 2010

North Carolina Appeals Court Says Presbyterian College's Police Force Violates Establishment Clause

In State of North Carolina v. Yencer, (NC App., Aug. 17, 2010), the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the campus police force at religiously-affiliated Davidson College is unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause for the state to delegate discretionary police powers to a religious institution. The holding came in response to a motion by a defendant in an impaired driving case who sought to suppress evidence obtained by campus police officers.  In reaching its conclusion, the Court of Appeals indicated it felt bound by two earlier North Carolina Supreme Court decisions that had reached a similar result as to the police forces at Campbell University and Pfeiffer University. The court expressed doubt whether it would have reached the same conclusion regarding Presbyterian Church affiliated Davidson College if it were not bound by state Supreme Court precedent.  It cited U.S. Supreme Court cases upholding grants to church-affiliated colleges that are not pervasively sectarian.  The Court of Appeals encouraged the state Supreme Court to grant review to consider the case without the constraints of precedent faced by the court of appeals. North Carolina's Campus Police Act under which the Davidson College police force was certified was enacted by the legislature specifically to assure that colleges originally established by or affiliated with religious institutions could have police forces. Yesterday's Raleigh (NC)News & Observer reported on the court's decision.