The North Carolina Supreme Court recently issued a unanimous decision in State v. Yencer, upholding the constitutionality of Davidson College’s law enforcement authority under the State’s Campus Police Act. In ruling in favor of Davidson’s campus police power, our Supreme Court brought North Carolina law back in step with Establishment Clause decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court as well as appellate decisions in other States which have examined the specific question of campus police authority delegated to religiously affiliated private colleges.
The Yencer case involved a 2006 arrest by a Davidson College police officer of a driver on a road near campus. Immediately following the arrest, the defendant initially pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and reckless driving. But she subsequently appealed based upon a theory that the State’s delegation of campus police authority to Davidson was unconstitutional because the College was a religious institution. More specifically, the defendant contended that Davidson College’s affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) made it a religious institution, and therefore, the State’s delegation of law enforcement authority to the College’s campus police force violated the prohibition against excessive entanglement of church and government contained in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
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