By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
April 24, 2015
RALEIGH – Speaker Tim Moore told the press on Thursday that the N.C. House would not consider a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) this session. Two RFRA bills were waiting in the wings, one in the House, HB 348 – NC Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and one in the Senate, SB 550 – NC Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
On the House side, primary sponsors of the legislation included, Representatives Jacqueline Schaffer and Dan Bishop. On the Senate side, primary sponsors, included Senators Warren Daniel, Buck Newton, and Dan Soucek.
Moore said, “For this session, the bill is not going to move.” He said the measure in its “current format, at the current time, is not the proper path to go.”
The decision comes after discussions concerning RFRA in the House GOP caucus proved to divide its members. Governor Pat McCrory showed less than a lukewarm response to the legislation, saying, he would not sign a RFRA bill.
Gays and Lesbians claim the measure is a means to discriminate against them under the guise of religion. They contend the legislation allows certain businesses to refuse to serve them. Large corporate interests such as American Airlines, IBM and Red Hat in the Tar Heel state, have jumped on the band-wagon, pressuring lawmakers with various threats not to approve RFRA legislation.
When Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence signed a RFRA bill in his state last month, big business responded by canceling arrangements to travel to Indiana or follow through on plans to expand their business in the Hoosier state. That prompted Pence and Indiana lawmakers to amend the legislation to include enumerations of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” which essentially changed the bill from a shield for the religiously oppressed to a sword that that the LGBT community could use to discriminate against certain religious groups.
Wal-Mart also expressed its opposition to a RFRA bill in its home-state of Arkansas and IBM executives sent Governor Bobby Jindal a letter signaling their opposition to a similar measure in Louisiana.
“But RFRA doesn’t discriminate against any group of people,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “In my entire career of observing legislation and politics, I have never seen a subject about which there has been more misinformation, and even purposeful deception, than RFRA. It’s astounding! Gay activists have perpetrated this deception. The media has facilitated the mischaracterizations. And in steep ignorance of what RFRA actually does, corporate interests have severely exacerbated the problem by flexing their political muscle and threatening to retaliate against passage of a RFRA bill,” he added.
“Religious Freedom laws such as the ones proposed in the North Carolina General Assembly are really about preventing the government from harming citizens without proving in court that it has a compelling reason, and there was no other way to uphold the law. The law is only a balancing test that requires the court to weigh the state’s interest as opposed to a person’s religious liberty. It’s not a trump card in any sense. It doesn’t guarantee any winners or losers,” said Creech.
The need for RFRA laws came to national attention recently when some people of faith were being forced to participate in the celebration of events that violated their core religious convictions. They have been faced with the loss of their homes, their businesses, and their life-savings, simply for opting out of an event. A fundamental American value has always been that the government should not force people to speak, write, sing, create art, and celebrate certain events against the dictates of their conscience.
“There’s an obvious difference,” said Dr. Creech, “in a retailer selling a microphone indiscriminately to anyone who wanted to buy it than making the retailer of that microphone, who happens to be a pacifist, sing into it at a pro-war rally. To make a conservative evangelical Christian or an Orthodox Jew sing into that same microphone for a same-sex wedding is the same kind of scenario. RFRA, however, doesn’t even guarantee protection from that, but only ensures a citizen gets a fair hearing in court. Who, for heaven’s sake, would be opposed to a fair hearing in court? This hysteria against RFRA is madness.”
The issue of RFRA may be dead in the N.C. House, but it’s apparently not dead with the people of North Carolina. Recent polling has determined 90 percent of North Carolinians agree citizens should have the right to exercise their personal religious freedoms, 82 percent say citizens who have their religious freedoms violated should get a fair hearing of their grievances heard in court, 85 percent believe the state’s citizens should be free to live and work according to their faith without fear of being punished by the government, and 65 percent say there should be a law requiring the government to prove in court that it is absolutely necessary to violate a citizen’s religious freedoms before such liberties are violated.
Faith and community leaders representing thousands of citizens across the Tar Heel state also signed onto a joint letter Friday in response to the announcement that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was dead in the House.
The letter representing a wide span of various beliefs and a diverse assortment of leaders, seeks to convey to Governor Pat McCrory, Sen. Phil Berger, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, and House Speaker Tim Moore, that the people they represent want limits placed on government’s overreaching power. These people expect their leaders to boldly represent their concerns by passing legislation that effectively protects religious freedom.
Take Christian Action:
Contact the following elected officials and urge that they revive and support the RFRA legislation:
Governor Pat McCrory: 919.814.2000
Speaker of the House, Tim Moore: 919.733.5708
President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Phil Berger: 919.733.5708.
Make plans to attend the Religious Freedom Day of Action this coming Tuesday, April 28 in Raleigh. RFRA supporters are encouraged to meet at 10:00 a.m. on the Halifax Mall behind the Legislative Building on Jones Street. All the information for finding, as well as speaking with your lawmakers on this issue, will be provided.