Religious References In N.C. Court Spark Controversy

Under pressure from local religious conservatives, a state judge has withdrawn his request that references to God be removed from his court sessions in four North Carolina counties.

District Court Judge James M. Honeycutt wrote to county officials on March 9 asking that bailiffs stop using the phrase "God save the state and this honorable court" in their calls opening court sessions and that the phrase "so help me, God" be removed from courtroom oaths.

Honeycutt wrote, "We are seeing in our court system an increasing number of people from cultures around the world, cultures that are not necessarily Christian in background."

The judge added, "I believe that the burden should not be on those individuals to speak up and request an oath that does not mention God or use the Christian Bible." Honeycutt requested the changes take place by April 5.

Three days later, Honeycutt withdrew his request, saying he would discuss the matter with county officials before making a final decision. Honeycutt is among nine judges that preside over court sessions in a district that includes Alexander, Davidson, Davie and Iredell counties.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Honeycutt's request for removal of references to God from court sessions "did not sit well with some members of the community."

A former Davidson County commissioner told the Journal that Honeycutt's request was "totally in opposition to the very basis of our Constitution, the very basis for our laws."