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State To Appeal Davidson Police Ruling

The North Carolina attorney general's office plans to appeal a ruling that says Davidson College police officers cannot enforce state laws because the school is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. North Carolina's Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that it violates the First Amendment to give government powers to a religious institution. However, the ruling also notes that Davidson is not a pervasively religious institution. Still, the unanimous ruling says judges felt they had to rule the way they did because case law doesn't make a distinction between schools that are overtly religious and those that only have religious affiliations. For that reason, the ruling encourages the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal. Davidson College officials are supportive of the pending appeal. For now, spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel says campus police officers will continue enforcing state laws. "We have received notification from the appropriate commissioning agency (North Carolina Criminal Justice Standards Division) that their needs to be no immediate change in the way that our police department functions," she says. "They are able to keep our students and community safe today the same way they did yesterday." The ruling stems form a 2006 case in which Davidson officers arrested a woman for DWI and reckless driving on a street adjacent to campus. The driver pleaded guilty, but challenged the officer's right to arrest her. Although Davidson students and faculty are not required to attend religious services, the court's ruling points out other religious requirements. For example, 80 percent of Davidson's trustees must be active members of a Christian church. In addition, the president of the school must by a member of the Presbyterian Church and live a life of "strong Christian faith and commitment."