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2018 CAL Legislative Wrap-Up

Christian Action League Staff
October 10, 2018

The Christian Action League (CAL) wishes to express its sincere thanks for the support of its ministry.

The CAL, the oldest Christian public policy organization in the state, places such matters as the sacredness of home life in the roles of a husband and wife, the precious gift of unborn children with their inherent right to life, the right of every person to practice his or her faith freely without government interference, far above popular emerging trends.

The CAL contends traditional Christian teaching with the Scriptures as a sole, infallible and sufficient guide is an indispensable support for human happiness and political prosperity.

Furthermore, the CAL believes every Christian is obligated to be his “brother’s keeper” by peacefully seeking to influence and shape a government which secures the highest possible good for all of its citizens.

Gifts to the CAL, which fund lobbying activities in the North Carolina General Assembly, as well as other means for addressing public-policy from a sound Christian worldview, are making a difference.

Report

The Short Legislative Session of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2018 was exactly that, it was very brief, only a few weeks. But here are some highlights of what the CAL addressed.

Alcohol Policy

Alcohol policy remains a signature issue for the CAL. Its contentions in the public square are not prohibitionist in nature, although the CAL encourages abstinence from beverage alcohol. Instead, however, as it relates to law, the focus is about preserving and advancing policies that work to minimize alcohol-related harms.

Unfortunately, this year, in the interest of business objectives, state lawmakers passed some ill-conceived reforms to North Carolina’s alcohol policies which have diminished protections for public health and safety.

HB 500 – ABC Omnibus Legislation was a gargantuan piece of alcohol legislation with five bad provisions in it. In addition to direct lobbying of individual lawmakers, Rev. Mark Creech, executive director, testified in two committees on the proposal and urged legislators to remove each of the five provisions, which he contended were dangerous.

One section of the bill allowed brewery employees to sample their products for “sensory analysis, quality control, and educational purposes,” while in retail operation or while serving pints at a special event.  Rev. Creech reminded lawmakers that employees are responsible for checking IDs and monitoring the amount patrons drink. Allowing them to sample products could compromise these responsibilities.

A second provision allowed non-profits or charities to double the number of raffles and the size of their prizes for the fundraisers they hold, while also lowering the threshold of accountability for these nonprofits to secure an ABC permit for their event.

A third provision allowed liquor distillers to sell their branded merchandise like cups, t-shirts, hats, etc. Rev. Creech told lawmakers that North Carolina has a serious underage drinking problem resulting in one young person dying every week. He explained that alcohol advertising plays a huge role in underage drinking.

A fourth provision would have relaxed the restaurant requirements for securing a liquor-by-the-drink permit so that movie theaters might serve mixed beverages. When speaking to the Senate Commerce Committee on the legislation, Rev. Creech charged that the provision, if passed, would further whittle away at places families could go without being confronted with alcohol sales. Relaxing the restaurant requirements for a liquor-by-the-drink permit, he said, would also open the door to an escalation of bars, which the state, technically by definition, does not have.

Finally, a fifth provision would have allowed the sale of malt beverages, unfortified wine, and fortified wine on passenger-only state ferries. This provision, Rev. Creech explained, authorized a state agency to sell booze, not to mention the hazard it could cause for passengers on a ferry when someone had too much to drink and becomes problematic. On the water, law enforcement cannot be swiftly accessed.

Other concerns expressed were related to questions of the state’s liability. For instance, if an individual drinks too much and there is an incident such as falling overboard, driving a car off the ferry drunk, etc., it appeared the way the bill was written the Department of Transportation could be culpable.

The CAL wishes it could have stopped all of these bad initiatives, but could not. However, the worst of them were amended out of the measure. At the CAL’s behest, state legislators did not advance provisions in law that would have placed bars in movie theaters and allowed the sale of alcohol on state ferries.

Gambling

The CAL also vigorously opposed a bill this year, HB 279-Fantasy Sports Regulation, that would have legitimized Daily Fantasy Sports Gambling in North Carolina.

If one doesn’t know what Fantasy Football is, Forbes has provided a good definition, which says, “[I]t’s a game where a group of players, called a league, select from among a bunch of real-life professional footballers to assemble fantasy teams. Then, based on the way each real-life footballer performs throughout the season, the fantasy teams are assigned points. The player whose fantasy team won the most points throughout the season wins the game.”

Gambling on these teams is involved.  DraftKings and FanDuel are the two largest betting sites. Fantasy Football is very popular. Thousands of bloggers, reporters, writers, and podcasters write about it. Multiple ESPN shows are dedicated to it. 

“Daily fantasy sports, on the other hand, is a slightly different little beastie,” says Forbes. “Instead of players waiting throughout an entire football season to know who won and who lost, in a game of daily fantasy sports, results are announced each day. So you may place your bets in the morning, and by the time the sun comes down, you’ll know if you won anything for your troubles.”

Proponents of the measure contended that Daily Fantasy Sports was not gambling, but the initiative was only to regulate something already taking place.  But when Gambling watchdog groups like Stop Predatory Gambling out of Washington D.C. and Casino operators are saying that Daily Fantasy Sports is gambling, it’s a sure bet that it’s gambling.

Deceptively, the bill’s proponents purported the measure was not gambling and only offered guidelines and a means of supervising the growing industry, when in truth it represented state affirmation of another form of gambling and a massive expansion of it.

This same initiative (although not the same bill number) was voted down (7-4) last year by the House Committee on Regulatory Reform, but it was strangely revived in the House Judiciary Committee this year. When voted down in this manner, a bill defeated in committee is not supposed to be taken up again in the same legislative biennium. Nevertheless, bills that were unquestionably dead have a way of illegitimately coming back to life. Such is the corruption that surrounds gambling.

Although the League was able to beat back this legislation once again, the pervasiveness of greed behind gambling initiatives is perpetual. It never gives up. This legislation is likely to return in future sessions.

In God We Trust

The Christian Action League also strongly supported and advocated for HB 965 – National and State Mottos in Schools Act – legislation that would have placed the National Motto, “In God We Trust,” and North Carolina’s State Motto, “Esse Quam Videri,” which means, “To Be Rather Than to Seem” in prominent locations in public schools.

The legislation passed the House by a large margin of 94-15, but when it reached the Senate, the measure was sent to the Senate Rules Committee, where Senators failed to act upon it.

Religious Liberty

Lastly, many Christians were following the case of the pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, Andrew Brunson, who was unjustly imprisoned by the Turkish government. Brunson was charged with the “crime” of “Christianization,” which Turkey equates with an act of terror. If Brunson had been convicted, he was facing at least 35 years in prison.

President Donald Trump, who is a strong advocate for religious liberty, led the way in securing Brunson’s release. Much credit should also be given to North Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who visited Brunson twice in prison and diligently worked to get bipartisan support in Congress for putting pressure on Turkey to let Brunson go.

The CAL held that the Brunson case was not simply an issue for federal authorities, but one for state lawmakers too, because Brunson had not only American citizenship but North Carolina citizenship.

So in conjunction with these concerns, the CAL worked closely with Sen. Tillis’s office and state lawmakers to shepherd a Resolution through the North Carolina House and a Senatorial Statement through the North Carolina Senate that called upon the Turkish government to free Pastor Brunson. The House Resolution passed unanimously, which is highly unusual for a floor vote, and the Senatorial Statement garnered the names of 48 out of 50 Senate members.

House Resolution:  https://dashboard.ncleg.net/CalendarItem/2017/H/0/2018-06-13/21859/Document

Senatorial Statement: https://christianactionleague.org/wp-content/Brunson-SENATORIAL-STATEMENT.pdf

On Friday, October 12th, a Turkish Court released Pastor Brunson. The next day, Saturday, Brunson was at the White House, where he thanked President Trump and others for their efforts to get him released. Then, in a remarkable moment, Brunson knelt, placed his left hand on the President’s shoulder, and prayed for him.

Brunson prayed, “I ask that you pour out your Holy Spirit on President Trump, that you give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country. I ask that you give him wisdom in how to lead this country into righteousness. I ask that you give him perseverance and endurance and courage to stand for truth.”

What a moment! The CAL is thankful to God for its Christian brother’s liberty. Moreover, supporters of CAL will likely be very happy knowing that the organization they support with their gifts and prayers was a part of the efforts to gain his freedom.

This report only highlights what the CAL addressed in the legislature during the 2018 Short Session, but it doesn’t take into account the many other things the CAL was doing outside of the Legislature throughout the year.

The CAL also worked to equip churches and communities to address early Sunday alcohol sales via brunch ordinances. It pushed back against groups calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana. It protested ordinances passed by towns and cities that infringed upon religious liberties. And there were also its many efforts to educate and keep citizen Christians culturally engaged for Christ’s sake in the Tar Heel state.

Addendum

As an addendum to this report, there is another urgent matter which North Carolinians will likely face during the 2019-2020 Legislative Biennium, set to start in January. It is a question that could be every bit as monumental as the fight against a state-operated lottery more than a decade ago, or North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment in 2012, or the battle over HB 2 in 2016.

The issue concerns a forthcoming proposal to substantially change the state’s current policy for liquor sales – a revision that will undermine the health, safety, and well-being of the state’s citizenry.

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director, has described the issue in this way:

“As a religious leader in North Carolina, my stance has always been to encourage abstinence from beverage alcohol. Of course, not all Christians agree with this position. But regardless of one’s convictions, alcohol is legal, and it is here to stay. That leaves a very difficult question that must be answered: Concerning public policy, how do we deal with this very unordinary commodity in a manner that encourages people to be cautious and responsible?

“My twenty-year tenure as executive director of the Christian Action League has shown me that some brilliant people addressed this question decades ago, at the time of Prohibition’s repeal. They developed a state-regulated system that would facilitate the public’s insistence for liquor, but keep public health and safety as the focus as opposed to the industry’s profit objectives.

“Seventy-five years ago, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. rightly contended, ‘Only as the profit motive is eliminated is there any hope of controlling the liquor traffic in the interest of a decent society. To approach the problem from any other angle is only to tinker with it and ensure failure.’

“This regulation system of liquor sales is our own North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“For nearly a decade, there has been an undercurrent from some lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, who want to see North Carolina do away with its current control system and privatize liquor sales. Their arguments are largely based in their understanding of Free Market enterprise and entrepreneurial ideas for increasing profits from the sale of liquor.

“In early August, the state’s auditor alleged that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC) had wasted $13.5 million in taxpayer money because it had poorly maintained its warehouse contract over a 13 year period. Proponents of privatization quickly seized upon this as an opportunity to argue that the current system for liquor sales is antiquated and needs replacing with a licensure model.

“Hastilly following were editorials from the Charlotte Observer, Fayetteville Observer, the Wilson Times, which called for privatization.

“Powerful, influential Think Tank groups in the state like the John Locke Foundation and Americans for Prosperity have also expressed their support for privatization.

“And, Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), a Chairman of the N.C. House ABC Committee, has recently vowed that if re-elected this year, he will introduce legislation during the next session of the General Assembly (2019) to privatize. Moreover, he has other lawmakers who will likely co-sponsor and champion his bill.

“If legislation for the privatization of liquor sales succeeds, it would create a paradigm shift in the state’s liquor policy.  Let me repeat: A privatized system is focused on profit, while our state-regulated system is zeroed-in on regulation and control. It’s our state’s best hope for preserving a culture that prizes freedom coupled with self-restraint and protects the public’s health and safety in a serious manner.

“Here are a few things we could anticipate with the privatization of liquor sales:

  • Multiple Liquor Stores
  • Increased Hours for Selling Liquor
  • Increased Advertising and Promotion of Liquor
  • Increased Dangerous Consumption of Liquor
  • Loss of Local Liquor Control

“Some Christians might prefer to disassociate themselves from any cause to maintain ABC because they would prefer no alcohol sales. But I suggest that the current reality is that liquor sales are here to stay and we serve society best by doing everything possible to minimize alcohol-related harms. Our current control model aligns itself with the scientific data on the best practices for doing exactly that. A proposal for privatization would put the public’s health and safety at serious risk and would also be the biggest issue concerning alcohol policy that has faced our state’s citizens since Prohibition.

“Let me say, without the slightest equivocation, I do not believe that we can stop this privatization initiative without zealous engagement from our churches. We will need a war chest of a $100,000 or more to combat this effort; especially if Big Box retail stores decide they want a piece of the action. They’ll put tens of thousands of dollars into a campaign to secure the right to sell liquor. We need no less than 100 churches in North Carolina who will send us a $1000 immediately.

“Admittedly, attitudes about drinking have changed through the years. Nevertheless, something that hasn’t changed, except to worsen, are alcohol-related problems.

“This year, The World Health Organization announced the findings of a new study that shows 1 in 20 deaths worldwide are from alcohol. A new Lancet study released this year concluded that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. More kids try alcohol than cigarettes in this country, making it the most-used drug by American young people. It accounts for 40% of our crime. The social costs mount up to a bill of $225 billion annually for our country, and approximately $7 billion for North Carolina and these costs everyone has to pay, whether they drink or not.

“It is critical that we work together, beginning now to defeat the initiative to privatize liquor sales in the Tar Heel state. I firmly believe our churches must prepare for this fight should it commence after lawmakers reconvene for the 2019-2020 Legislative Biennium.”

Conclusion.

Jesus said that his followers are to be the salt and light of the world. Salt has a preserving effect, it keeps food, that which is necessary to live, from spoiling. Light pushes back the darkness so that pitfalls and dangers can be avoided. Christians are commanded to serve in this capacity. Their Christian influence by the Spirit functions to keep life from becoming completely rotten. Their testimony to God’s truth and the light of their lives restrains darkness, providing a clear path in life to follow.

No doubt, this is why churches across North Carolina support the ministry of the Christian Action League.

Once again, the CAL is thankful for this support and urges every citizen Christian to pause periodically to pray for CAL’s executive director, Rev. Mark Creech, and this ministry.

*******

If your church is not supporting CAL, please prayerfully consider making it a part of the church’s annual giving.  Moreover, the CAL is prayerful that your congregation will give immediately a contribution of $1000 or more to fund a needed war chest to turn back any initiative to privatize liquor sales in North Carolina.

You can mail your contribution to:

Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
809 Spring Forest Road
Suite 1000
Raleigh, NC, 27609

For questions regarding this report or any other matter of concern, please contact

the CAL at:

Email: office@christianactionleague.org
Phone: 919.787.0606

To keep up with what the CAL is addressing, visit: www.christianactionleague.org