RALEIGH, N.C. A prestigious North Carolina private college cannot have police officers with the power to arrest suspects and enforce state law because the school is a religious institution, the state Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
A three-judge panel agreed that the state Attorney General’s Office shouldn’t have commissioned Davidson College officers as law enforcement with powers similar to city police or county sheriffs. An attorney familiar with the case said it might apply to other private colleges with religious affiliations.
Allowing the school’s security officers to carry out laws on behalf of the state violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against laws establishing religion by creating “an excessive government entanglement with religion,” Judge Jim Wynn wrote in the unanimous opinion.
The police power “is an unconstitutional delegation of ‘an important discretionary governmental power’ to a religious institution in the context of the First Amendment,” Wynn wrote before he left the state bench to join the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week.
The unanimous ruling means there’s no automatic appeal to the state Supreme Court. But Wynn, joined by Judges Donna Stroud and Cheri Beasley, urged the Supreme Court to consider the case if an appeal is sought ...