A church-affiliated college near Charlotte can keep its campus police force without violating the First Amendment separation of church and state, the N.C. Supreme Court has ruled in a closely watched case.
The Nov. 10 ruling in State v. Yencer reverses a N.C. Court of Appeals decision holding that Davidson College is a religious institution for the purposes of the First Amendment’s establishment clause and granting it police rights was unconstitutional.
Davidson has ties to the Presbyterian Church, but the Supreme Court found that the college’s main purpose is “secular education” and that the church “does not run or control the college.”
It started out as a simple DWI arrest on the campus of Davidson College. Five years later, it's turned into a First Amendment case that could put into jeopardy the ability of many of North Carolina's private colleges and universities to have their own police forces. The case of State v. Yencer received coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education, considered the paper of record in the world of higher education. Private college and university campuses in other states "are watching it very closely," said Hope Williams (pictured), president of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, an advocacy group for the state's 36 private post-secondary schools.
By SYLVIA ADCOCK, Staff Writer email@example.com The N.C. Supreme Court last week agreed to stay the effects of a case involving Davidson College that raised questions about whether church-affiliated college campuses could have sworn police officers. The state Attorney General’s office had filed an application to stay the effects of an appellate court ruling that [...]
It's not every day that First Amendment issues get raised in a drunk-driving case.
But last week the Court of Appeals threw out a DWI case involving an arrest by a Davidson College police officer, agreeing with the defense that Davidson is a religious institution and giving police powers to the school is unconstitutional.
"We hold that the delegation of police power to Davidson College ... is an unconstitutional delegation of ‘an important discretionary governmental power' to a religious institution in the context of the First Amendment," Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a unanimous opinion before his departure to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Allen Brotherton, who represented the defendant, said he thinks the opinion should have an impact on the way campus police departments on all church-affiliated schools in the state operate.