Executive Director says Cooper and McCrory are playing politics with our religious freedoms at our expense
By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
April 10, 2015
RALEIGH – North Carolina’s Attorney General, Roy Cooper, announced Wednesday that if he were Governor of the state he would veto two Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills waiting in the wings to be considered by the General Assembly.
Cooper is expected to announce his candidacy for Governor as a Democrat.
Cooper also told the Associated Press that he opposes the magistrate’s bill championed by Senate President, Phil Berger. SB 2 – Magistrates Recusal for Civil Ceremonies allows magistrates and register of deeds to opt-out of the performance of same-sex marriages, if they hold a sincerely held religious objection. The Senate passed the measure with bi-partisan support. The House Judiciary I Committee had a public hearing on the bill, but has not voted on it.
The two RFRA measures to which Cooper referred are HB 348 and SB 550. Cooper argues that there are laws already on the books that sufficiently protect religious freedom. Moreover, he says a RFRA bill would just hurt people, as well as the state’s economy.
Governor Pat McCrory has taken a similar approach and says he doesn’t support the magistrate’s legislation. He has said, “I don’t think you should have an exemption or a carve out when you swore an oath to the constitution of North Carolina and to the constitution of the United States of America.” The Governor also contends RFRA legislation isn’t needed and has queried, “What is the problem they’re trying to solve? I haven’t seen it up to this point.”
McCrory has declared he would not sign either of the bills, but he has not been so demonstrative as to say he would veto them. In North Carolina, if the Governor chooses not to sign a bill ten days after its presentation to him, it still becomes law. Should the Governor veto a measure, the bill dies unless the General Assembly by a 3/5 majority in both chambers votes to override the veto.
“It’s disappointing and even a matter of angst for conservative evangelicals, when they see their leaders playing politics with something as critical as their religious liberty,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
Dr. Creech says Cooper’s announcement that he would veto the bills if he were Governor is “pure political posturing” in his anticipated run against McCrory’s re-election campaign in 2016. He says Cooper wants to appeal to the political left, especially the highly organized and well-funded gay activists.
“McCrory,” says Dr. Creech “appears to want to be neutral because he doesn’t want to offend religious conservatives who make up the base of the N.C. Republican Party. It seems he wants to appear as a centrist to garner support from moderates whom he believes he needs in 2016.”
Additionally, Dr. Creech believes that, between Cooper and McCrory, it is only Cooper who would gain any political advantage from opposing the magistrates legislation and RFRA.
“Cooper will energize his base by declaring his unequivocal opposition,” said Dr. Creech. “They’ll love him for it. It will fire-up those leftist leaning, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, secularists who make up the Democratic Party – people who reject the authority of the Bible as a guiding principle for governing unless their interpretation tows or advances the Party line.”
“But on the other hand,” says Dr. Creech, “McCrory has nothing to gain by coming out against the religious liberty principles contained in these bills.” Dr. Creech advocates that by acknowledging that he is ignorant of RFRA’s purpose and by threatening not to sign the measure, his neutrality is not perceived well by Christian conservatives, but instead is seen as vacillation and weakness on the nation’s first freedom – religious liberty. He adds that Christian conservatives take such actions very personal.
“The Christian people I represent are really peace-loving people. They don’t enjoy confrontation. They are squeamish about protests. Many are very reluctant to even be involved with politics, and when they do get involved they do so out of what they deem a necessity. But here is what the Governor should understand. When you alienate these Christian people, they just don’t show up to help with a campaign or at the polls,” said Dr. Creech. “So what’s McCrory to gain? He loses considerable energy from his base in a futile effort to appease people that aren’t likely to vote for him anyway.”
Dr. Creech says it is also plausible gay activists put Cooper up to announcing he would veto the religious liberty bills to serve a double purpose, (1) to move and energize the left around his candidacy, (2) to provoke McCrory to also declare that he will veto. “By McCrory declaring that he will veto, the Governor perceives he nullifies any political capital Cooper might gain from declaring his promised veto if he were Governor. But gay activists know McCrory won’t actually gain any political capital with their supporters, they just want him to declare a veto to increase pressure on lawmakers not to take-up or pass the legislation,” he said. “They don’t really care about McCrory and never will. They just want the promise of a veto. It’s a political ruse.”
In recent days, considerable controversy surrounded a RFRA bill that passed in Indiana and was later amended because critics argued it fostered discrimination against gays and lesbians. Gay activists and the media engaged in a major disinformation campaign that was bolstered by corporate interests who spoke against RFRA in error.
Religious freedom laws like RFRA simply restrict the government’s infringement on individual freedoms and work to ensure liberty. Across the country, real people are facing serious threats to their freedoms and even their livelihoods. Both the North Carolina and the federal constitutions identify the right to religious liberty, but RFRA law provides a guideline for the courts and ensures a fair hearing. It doesn’t choose winners or losers. It only requires that if the government interferes with a person’s religious freedom it must show a compelling state interest to do so, and, if it does interfere, it must do so with the least restrictive means possible.
RFRA laws currently exist in 19 states. The hypothetical horrors its opponents have listed against it have not happened in the decades they’ve been in place. RFRA laws have never been an impediment to any state’s economy.
“It doesn’t make sense for either Cooper or McCrory to come out against these bills,” says Dr. Creech. “Not unless they really don’t understand the issues, or worse still, they’re just playing politics with our religious liberties at our expense.”