By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
November 8, 2019
The march for loosening alcohol control laws and liberalizing alcohol sales continues to advance unimpeded across North Carolina. Results from the last two elections are proof, excuse the pun.
In 2016 there were 27 alcohol referendums held in Alexander, Bertie, Burke, Camden, Cleveland, Davidson, Davie, Gaston, Haywood, Johnston, and Stanley counties. Every referendum succeeded with votes in favor by an average of 62.3% to a 37.1% margin.
Tuesday’s election reflects similar results with every alcohol referendum passing.
Bladenboro in Bladen County approved beer sales (67.17% to 32.83%) and unfortified wine (67.03% to 32.97%).
In Duplin County, the town of Beulaville approved a referendum for beer sales (59.41% to 40.59%), an ABC store (59.06% to 40.94%), and Mixed Beverages (58.08% to 41.92%).
Citizens of Siler City in Chatham County approved the sale of beer (53.47% to 46.3%), and wine (54.27% to 45.73%).
In Cabarrus County, the people of Harrisburg approved the sale of beer (67.59% to 32.41%), and wine (68.11% to 31.89%), while the folks in Concord approved the sale of Mixed Beverages (66.84% to 33.16%).
Kingstown of Cleveland County approved beer sales (52.25% to 47.75%) and wine sales (52.45% to 47.66%). Waco, also of Cleveland County, a town so small that it only has a single convenience store which doubles as a post office, approved beer sales (66.04% to 33.96%).
In the tiny historic town of Bethania of Forsyth County, voters approved a Mixed Beverages referendum by only two votes (26 to 24; 52% to 48%).
Coats in Harnett County backed beer sales (64.86% to 35.14%) and Mixed Beverages (67.79% to 32.21%).
The City of Saluda in Polk County approved the sale of Mixed Beverages by a whopping 77.27% to 22.73%.
In Wayne County, the little town of Fremont approved the sale of Mixed Beverages 57.75% to 42.25%.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said he believes the trend shows a huge swath of the church is no longer fully engaged on the alcohol issue as in the past.
“None of the churches in these communities contacted the Christian Action League and asked for help in developing a campaign to defeat these alcohol initiatives. I think that if they had called us, we could have turned some if not all of these back. There was a time, 30 to 40 years ago, if there were an alcohol referendum on the ballot in a city or town in this state, the League would be contacted, and nearly every mainline church in the community would join forces to defeat it. There was a consensus among churches that easier access to alcohol was inherently problematic, bringing with it a host of social problems. Such conclusions are still true, but today it’s unusual to find more than a handful of churches willing to offer any opposition,” said Rev. Creech.
Rev. Creech added he felt that the causes for tepid opposition by the churches were many.
“There is a general decline, doctrinal and moral compromise, in mainline churches. The vast majority of pastors avoid preaching on anything that smacks of politics. Some are unnecessarily afraid of the IRS. Even stronger and more conservative churches don’t take up the issue of alcohol because it seems inconsequential to the bigger national issues such as abortion, religious liberty, and LGBT activism. Moreover, many, I think, are just concerned about the optics. We’re now living in a time when alcohol is celebrated, and they don’t want to be perceived as unloving legalistic backward Prohibitionists. They don’t want to be seen like someone from The Flat Earth Society,” said Rev. Creech. “But alcohol is America’s number 1 drug problem, and there is a way of approaching the subject scientifically that shows limiting or restricting outlets is a wise and critical move for stemming the flood of alcohol-related harms.”
Creech also noted that dropping opposition to alcohol makes communities more vulnerable to another threat, the legalization of marijuana. “If our churches aren’t willing to stand-up to alcohol, I wonder if they will stand-up to pot, which some will argue is less intrusive than alcohol,” said Rev. Creech.
In December of last year, Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg), an ardent proponent for the legalization of marijuana, told The Daily Tar Heel that he believed marijuana legalization should “be patterned after the way North Carolina legalized liquor after Prohibition.”
Alexander said, “What you would have is a situation where let’s say Orange County decided that it wanted to liberalize. Well, you could do it either by a vote of the town council, or the county commission, or a petition from the citizens that would create a referendum.”
What Alexander described was the state’s current local option for alcohol sales as a model for the legalization of marijuana across North Carolina.
Creech said the arguments in favor of marijuana legalization would also be the strikingly the same as the ones made for lifting controls on alcohol sales:
• It’s needed to generate more tax revenue.
• It’s needed to enhance economic growth.
• It will create new jobs and new opportunities.
• It will provide a better means for control and regulation.
“Our churches need to see that neglecting the alcohol issue not only further exacerbates the opportunity for increases in all of the quantifiable damage done to individuals, families, and society by its use and abuse, but it also sets us up for the approval of another drug which will yet add more trouble to all of the existing harms from booze,” said Rev. Creech.