By Rev. Mark Creech, Executive Director
Christian Action League
December 12, 2019
The long session of the North Carolina General Assembly traditionally runs from January to the middle of July. The 2019 Long Session, however, was extended well into November.
The delay was mainly the result of a stalemate between Republican lawmakers, who possess the majority in both chambers, and Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, over the state’s budget. Cooper has insisted on Medicaid expansion, while Republicans have been unwilling to concede the point. Both sides have said they were willing to make compromises. Still, it appears that “never the twain shall meet” on the matter.
Having succeeded in getting the Governor to sign a few narrow spending bills which keep the state moving, the General Assembly has now adjourned. Nevertheless, lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene again as early as January 14th, long before the standard time, which would be in the Spring of 2020. It is not entirely clear to what they will devote themselves when they return in January.
Budget battles are not high on the Christian Action League’s radar, but there was relevant legislation of much concern to conservative evangelicals, which was considered in 2019.
Here’s a legislative wrap-up of the year.
A Major Pro-Life Measure Passed, was Vetoed, and Died
SB 359 – Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was a major pro-life bill that passed, was vetoed, and died. It would have made it a felony for doctors to deny appropriate medical care to babies born alive after a failed abortion. It would have also required nurses and other staff to report such incidents. The legislation passed both chambers earlier this year before being vetoed by Governor Cooper, who erroneously claimed the law wasn’t necessary. In April, the Senate overrode the governor’s veto, but the House could not find enough votes to do the same.
Unfortunately, the bill’s failure occurred on the heels of a federal judge’s decision to knock down North Carolina’s 46-year-old statute banning abortions after 20 weeks, as unconstitutional. Because of the federal court’s ruling, there is now nothing in North Carolina law that clarifies what constitutes the viability of an unborn child. There is no protection for a child that is born-alive as the result of a botched abortion.
So, unborn children have never been more vulnerable in this state than they are today.
Attempted Advancements of LGBTQ – Assaults on Religious Liberty
This year, Democratic state lawmakers also filed bills designed to advance the cause of the LGBTQ+ community in the Tar Heel state.
HB 514 – Equality for All – purported to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, education, credit, and insurance. The legislation would have elevated “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a “protected status” equal with enumerations in law such as “race, color, national origin, age, and religion.”
The truth, however, is that this legislation would have done nothing to provide “equality for all.” Instead, it would have punished those who believe that God created us male and female and that the two very different genders were created for each other. It would have established in law that to act on traditional beliefs about human sexuality and marriage is a punishable form of bigotry.
HB 516 – Mental Health Protection Act would have outlawed “conversion therapy.” Conversion therapy is a form of counseling, a psychological or psychiatric treatment that seeks to help individuals overcome same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria. Professionals who would be penalized or disciplined for violating this proposed law included fee-based pastoral counselors.
HB 515 – Full Repeal of HB 2 would have repealed the compromise legislation that supplanted HB 2 in 2017, commonly known as the “bathroom bill.” HB 2 was common-sense legislation that prohibited people from using a restroom, shower, or locker room opposite their biological sex because they subjectively identified with that sex. The Christian Action League was disappointed that lawmakers repealed HB 2. Nevertheless, the compromise measure still preempts regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities by any state or local government, except by an act of the General Assembly. Moreover, it prohibits a local government from enacting or amending an ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations. This last section of the law pertaining to local government ordinances expires December 1, 2020.
Fortunately, these LGBTQ bills never gained any traction. It should nonetheless be noted; Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order in August banning the use of state and federal funds for “conversion therapy” to minors. The Christian Action League holds such bans are “unethical” by denying people the therapy of their choice. Although abuses have occurred, Conversion Therapy, when provided by trained professionals, has been helpful for many in overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions.
Alcohol and Gambling Have a Banner Year
2019 was a banner year for alcohol and gambling interests in North Carolina.
HB 363 – Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act was a historic compromise between beer wholesalers and craft breweries. It now allows breweries in North Carolina to sell, deliver, and ship up to 50,000 barrels annually without having to go through the state’s three-tier system of alcohol control. Ninety-two percent of breweries across the country produces less than 7,500 barrels a year. The Three-Tier system is an indispensable means of minimizing the harms that are inherently attached to alcoholic beverages. It provides critical checks and balances. Because of the independent buffer of a wholesale distributor between the supplier and the retailer, there are built-in safeguards against corrupt, manipulative, or abusive industry practices. To whatever level the three-tier system is compromised, the clarity of the chain of custody that scrupulously traces the product from production to sale is lost. Protections against sales to minors are lost, as well as many other cases of abuse. Securities against contaminated or counterfeit products are lost, and an accurate means of collecting excise taxes is lost.
House Bill 389 – ABC University Athletic Facility authorized boards of trustees at the University of North Carolina’s system schools to sell alcohol throughout their stadiums and athletic facilities, eliminating what one Senator called “one of the last family-friendly venues in the state.” Proponents of the measure insisted the universities could better control and regulate alcohol use and abuse when alcohol sales are allowed stadium-wide. But scientific peer-reviewed alcohol research and common sense deny their assertions. College binge drinking is currently at crisis levels and institutions of higher learning have never succeeded in making a dent in solving the problem. This law will only serve to exacerbate problematic drinking on college campuses.
Sadly, there was also the alcohol measure alleged to modernize the state’s ABC system, SB 290 – ABC Regulatory Reform. SB 290 was initially ABC reforms for distilleries. It passed both the Senate and the House. But lawmakers later rolled the language of the House bill, HB 536 – ABC Omnibus Regulatory Reform, which had only passed the House, into SB 290. Most of the Christian Action League’s concerns in the original HB 536 had been eliminated from the measure, but rolling the numerously remaining bad provisions from HB 536 into SB 290 and making it one bill, created a parliamentary procedure that allowed some of the most egregious provisions form HB 536 to avoid any vetting by Senate Committees. Therefore, Senate members could not be adequately informed on its dangers because the measure was to be considered only on a vote of concurrence. Some of the harmful provisions which remained in the measure allow distilleries to sale unlimited bottles of their liquor from the distillery rather than in an ABC store. It provides for deeper discounts on beer and wine. It authorizes a common area entertainment permit for common areas to drink alcohol at multi-tenant establishments like the mall. It allows for the delivery of malt beverages and wine directly to people’s homes. It allows breweries to sell their products for on or off-premises consumption regardless of the results of an alcohol election. And it provides for liquor tasting events at ABC stores.
This year, the House ABC Committee also took up legislation, HB 971- Modern Licensure Model for Alcohol Control – an initiative that would have privatized liquor sales in the state. The bill didn’t move, but if it had moved, the Tar Heel state would have seen a severe increase of liquor outlet density, greater access of liquor to youth, increased hours of sale, and increased consumption levels. The proposal to privatize liquor sales in North Carolina would be a disaster for alcoholic beverage control and regulation. The focus of ABC is to regulate and control the sale of spirits. The focus behind privatization is profit.
The League was able to stop one gambling measure, HB 929- Gaming Commission, a bill that would have legalized Daily Fantasy Sports Gambling. The bill was defeated 16-12 in the House Judiciary Committee. Proponents of the bill argued that DFS gaming is already taking place, and HB 929 would have provided needed regulation of the industry. However, lawmakers considered the same legislation the year before and at that time Stop Predatory Gambling solemnly warned it would “put internet gambling into every home, every dorm room, and onto every smartphone in North Carolina – a far greater expansion of commercialized gambling than constituents, legislators and state media had been led to believe.”
Other gambling bills succeeded. HB 130 – Allow Game Nights allows non-profits to sell alcoholic beverages and have Casino-style gambling nights as fundraisers. It passed with little opposition in either the House or Senate.
Last, SB 154 – Allow Sports/Horse Race Wagering Tribal Lands, authorized the Cherokee to have sports wagering and horse race wagering on the reservation. To North Carolina’s shame, this bill also passed by wide margins in both chambers.
Other Measures and Issues of Interest for Concerned Citizen Christians
Other measures and issues of interest for concerned citizen Christians in 2019 included:
The General Assembly passed HB 325 Opioid Epidemic Response Act. The proposal removed restrictions on the use of State funds to purchase needles, hypodermic syringes, and other injection supplies to be provided freely to addicts. Needle exchange programs claim to be about reducing drug overdoses, while also preventing and lessening the transmission of deadly diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV. The objective is to offer a means for addicts to exchange old needles and syringes for new ones, while also providing advice on safer injection practices and ways to avoid and manage an overdose. Such approaches, however, enable current drug use, increase injection drug use, and dangerously scatter used and discarded needles throughout the community. The discarded needles pose serious public health hazards for children, law enforcement officers who have to frisk suspects, and other public employees, especially garbage collectors. These programs are also known for increasing crimes near the exchange sites. Although the initiative is well-intentioned, the Christian Action League opposes needle exchange programs. Drug treatment programs of this kind should not be funded at taxpayer expense. Needle exchange programs mostly facilitate drug-related harm, and more often than not, only make matters worse.
The Christian Action League supported HB 507- Animal Fights/Criminalize Attendance of a Minor Act. Cockfighting and dogfighting are already illegal in North Carolina. Nevertheless, contests are still being held across the state and children attend too. Because this should be unacceptable, the proposed legislation would make it a felony to bring a minor to a dog or cockfight. The House passed the legislation. However, on the Senate side, the bill was sent to the Senate Rules Committee and unfortunately never taken up by the Senate chamber.
HB 437 – Education on the Holocaust and Genocide would have required the Jewish Holocaust and genocide be taught in middle and high school English and Social Studies classes, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The proposal was named the Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act in honor of a Polish native who survived multiple concentration camps before relocating to Raleigh, where she died in 2011 at age 85. New data shows that two-thirds of American millennials have no idea what Auschwitz was; 22 percent said they had never heard of the Holocaust. In the United States, there is a rise in antisemitism coupled with distortion and politicization of the Holocaust. HB 437 would address this issue in an attempt to make sure these atrocities are never forgotten. The measure passed the House, but was shuffled off to the Senate Rules Committee, where it was never taken up by the Senate.
Democratic lawmakers filed HB 587 – Repeal Death Penalty. There are 141 offenders currently sentenced to death in North Carolina, but there hasn’t been an execution since 2006. But if certain Democratic lawmakers ever get their way, the Death Penalty in the Tar Heel state will be repealed. The Christian Action League strongly opposes any repeal of the death penalty. The League holds that Capital punishment is moral, and a responsibility God gave solely to the state in Genesis 9:6. The commandment reads: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” This command of God has never been repealed and remains pertinent for every nation in every era. It forbids personal vengeance, but serves to rightly secure justice for victims, restoring a disturbed equilibrium in the universe, while also protecting the lives of the innocent. The legislation was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, which never took it up for consideration.
New Specialty “In God We Trust” License Plate. North Carolinians, who, for years, chose between the declarations “First in Flight” or “First in Freedom” on their standard-issue license plates are now able to declare “In God We Trust.” The new “In God We Trust” specialty plate became available on July 1. In addition to the national motto, which appears at the top of the license plate with a screened flag background, the tag also includes the English translation of the state motto: “To Be Rather Than to Seem.” Adopted by the Legislature in 1893, its Latin version, “Esse Quam Videri,” appears on the state seal. Before this latest plate was available, state lawmakers had approved an earlier version of an “In God We Trust” specialty license plate. It donned a bald eagle and required a portion of the fee for the plate to go to the N.C. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund. This plate also remains available. The Christian Action League was instrumental in getting the legislation passed for both plates.
Wildlife Resources Commission Delays Action on Lifting Sunday Hunting Ban – The NC Wildlife Resources Commission has decided to gather public input before deciding to open game lands to Sunday hunting or to continue the restriction. In 2019 the Commission opened Sunday hunting with archery equipment on private property. In 2015, the Outdoor Heritage Act lifted the long-standing more than a century old ban on Sunday hunting with firearms on private lands. A revision in 2017 removed several exceptions and transferred the regulatory authority of Sunday hunting on public lands from the North Carolina General Assembly to the WRC. A survey in 2018 reveals that Sunday hunting on public lands is a divided topic with 53.2% in favor, and 46.8% opposed. According to the survey, respondents opposed to Sunday hunting cited concerns such as animal rights, safety concerns and potential conflicts with other user groups, and religious beliefs. Public meetings on the subject were slated to be held by the WRC between October 2019 and February 2020. The Christian Action League has been a long-time opponent of lifting the ban on Sunday hunting. The League’s opposition was explained in the editorial below:
2019 was a momentous year for matters of great moral import to North Carolina. The need has never been more evident for a ministry like the Christian Action League.
The League’s Board of Directors, staff, and executive director, Dr. Mark Creech, deeply appreciates your partnership while it strategically speaks truth to power.
The League firmly holds that traditional Christian teaching with the Holy Scriptures as a sole, infallible, and sufficient guide is an indispensable support for human happiness and political prosperity.