Dir. Says to Have Done Otherwise Would Have Been Unnecessary and Lacking in Christian Grace
By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
June 11, 2020
Gyms and fitness centers in North Carolina will be able to open up and bars will get the same treatment as restaurants unless Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes a bill passed by lawmakers this week.
“I’m tired of wasting time while these businesses flounder. This bill addresses the Governor’s complaint about flexibility. Let’s get these businesses open,” said Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), who championed the measure.
Under House Bill 594, the Governor could — in response to a spike in coronavirus cases — institute statewide closures, but only if he has the support of the Council of State. Further, local health directors could, by their own authority, institute orders in their counties. These caveats were added after Cooper vetoed a similar measure, House Bill 536, on June 5.
“The spirit of requiring Council of State concurrence in this bill is the notion that one person should not have unilateral, unchecked power to close every establishment in all 100 counties without at least a basic check on that power,” Gunn wrote in a Tuesday press release. He emphasized that every state that borders North Carolina (Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia) has already reopened gyms, bars and restaurants.
Although Tar Heel restaurants have been allowed to reopen at half capacity, bars have not. The new law would allow them to serve 50% of their customer capacity outdoors.
The Christian Action League monitored the legislation, but offered no opposition. Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League said he had inquiries about the measure, primarily because its provisions were about bars and other establishments that serve alcohol.
“I think some people think just because the legislation is about bars and serving alcohol, the Christian Action League would automatically oppose it. But this isn’t true, and it didn’t seem to make any sense to oppose the bill. Even though the League has considerable angst about the negative potential to human flourishing which come with bars, the proposed legislation didn’t actually provide them with any expanded privileges. It only sought to restore their capacity to serve to the same degree they were before the pandemic, with half of their patrons seated inside, and half of them seated outside,” said the Rev. Creech. “The legislation requires parameters to be clearly marked and any drinking is supposed to take place only within those parameters. Moreover, the law would only be temporary, lasting until Governor Cooper lifts the restrictions he’s put in place by executive order.”
Creech added, “You can take this to the bank. I won’t stand up and oppose any measure regarding alcohol unless I am sure it poses a serious threat to public health and safety. In this situation, any threat for exacerbating alcohol-related problems above and beyond the current circumstances seems rather innocuous. Moreover, these are very trying times for businesses and to oppose such legislation, I feel, would be lacking an expression of Christian grace.”
The latest measure comes on the heels of lawsuits filed by bars and gyms after the Governor refused to allow them to open on May 22, when Phase Two of his reopening plan began.
“Gov. Cooper’s inconsistent actions have left businesses and families struggling and frustrated. It is time to let the private sector lead with smart health and safety measures to get North Carolinians back to work,” NC Speaker of the House Tim Moore said in a press release about H594.
The newly ratified bill requires fitness center employees to have daily temperature checks and to wear masks unless they’re leading a fitness class with social distancing. Gym members are “strongly encouraged” to wear masks under the bill. Like restaurants, gyms would also have to limit capacity to 50 percent.
Gov. Cooper has 10 days to either sign or veto the bill.