By Dr. Mark Creech, Executive Director
Christian Action League
June 30, 2017
It’s been a grueling week at the North Carolina General Assembly. Lawmakers wrapped up most of their legislative agenda for the 2017 Long Session in the early morning hours on Friday. They worked long hours each day, often late into the night, and the Christian Action League lobbied them each step of the way.
So intense has been the pace that there hasn’t been sufficient time to provide you with separate stories on each bill of concern as we normally do. However, we’ll try to get you caught up as soon as possible.
Just let me say this much: It’s been a session of highs and lows.
We are thankful for the good things lawmakers provided in the state’s budget, which included funds for crisis pregnancy centers and greater school choice. We are grateful for language in the budget that addressed human trafficking and raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction – something that will keep 16 and 17 year-olds from being prosecuted for low-level crimes as adults.
But it has been disappointing and deeply disturbing to observe the way some in the Majority Party (Republicans); sponsored and vigorously supported legislation for gambling and alcohol interests.
Some will argue the alcohol legislation which passed was simply “modernizing” our current ABC system. That’s pure spin! Actually, these alcohol-related measures expanded alcohol sales at the expense of public health and safety more than any measures we’ve seen in decades.
Some will argue the gambling bill allowing non-profits to have gaming nights for fund-raisers isn’t really gambling. “It’s all just for fun and no one is going to get hurt. Besides it’s for a good cause,” they say. That’s just more spin!
The Gaming Nights bill is, unfortunately, the state’s affirmation of Las-Vegas style gaming beyond its compact with the Cherokee. Furthermore, it just whets the public’s appetite for a practice that is predicated on the losses and pains of others – something that typically preys on the most vulnerable among us – something that undermines our commitment to hard work and diligence – something that capitalizes on the lowest part of human nature – our greed and a spirit of covetousness.
The bill may not directly be about establishing Casinos. Nevertheless, it will create the kind of context for such to flower. It’s foolish to think otherwise.
Moreover, there were Sunday-related bills that demonstrated a tacit disrespect for churches. These Sunday-related proposals (rolling back the time for earlier Sunday alcohol sales and expanding Sunday hunting) diminish the church’s capacity to have a maximum impact for developing morality and virtue in our culture. There is nothing wrong with government supporting the kind of environment that provides for religion to flourish. Sunday-related bills work against this.
To some degree, our lobbying activity helped modify the harms in these proposals, fashioning bad bills into better ones. We salute the way lawmakers worked with us. Still, it would have been better had these measures never been given consideration, much less have passed.
Recently, I spoke with a high-ranking member of the Majority Party in the N.C. House and said to him, “My friend, I was here during the days when the Democrats were in control. At that time, they were the ones pushing for the loosening of restrictions on alcohol and gambling. When such measures arose, Republicans would almost unanimously vote against them, but now it’s the Republicans putting forward and passing this nonsense. You need to understand something, it’s quite difficult for us to fight our friends.”
There is a sense in which the challenges before us have always been complex, but this seeming change of direction concerning vice and insensitivity to religious influence by many Republicans makes our efforts considerably more complex.
In response, the Christian Action League will need to enlarge, as well as make for better efficiency, our networking with thousands of pastors and churches across North Carolina. If Christians remain complicit with this direction, we will share in its negative consequences and shame. We must rise to this occasion.
As we approach the celebration of the birth of our great Republic on July 4th, let me draw your attention to something the author of the first exhaustive dictionary, Noah Webster, said:
“Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the Christian religion…The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his apostles…to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”
John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:
“The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young gentlemen could unite….And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had United all Parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence.”
Our freedom is totally dependent on whether the great principles of the Christian faith remain a moral compass for our laws. To our demise, we have already abandoned these far too much and liberty is in peril.
God save the great state of North Carolina. God save our great Union, the United States of America.