By James Harper
Christian Action League
January 14, 2021
A trio of Orange County municipalities — Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill — enacted sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinances this week that endanger religious freedom and echo a five-year-old heated battle involving the General Assembly, local officials, and Governor Roy Cooper.
Hillsborough was first to extend housing, employment and other special protections to citizens based on their sexual practices and gender choices via an ordinance that prohibits proprietors or employers “in a place of public accommodation to deny any person…the full enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges thereof.”
According to the North Carolina Family Policy Council, the ordinance approved Monday night defines “place of public accommodation” so broadly that it includes “practically any business or service operating in the town, including daycare centers, schools, homeless shelters, faith-based ministries, and possibly even churches.”
Citing well-known cases involving Christian bakers and wedding photographers, the Family Policy Council warned that these types of ordinances have been used across the nation to attack people of faith. The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, agreed.
“Progressive politicians and the media speak of this issue with broad sweeping statements about diversity and tolerance, which fail to sufficiently recognize the crises that these ordinances create between LGBTQ advocates and people in the religious community,” Creech said.
“Proponents will argue that religious freedom shouldn’t allow anyone to discriminate. But religion is very much about discrimination — the discrimination between what is moral and what is immoral. Moreover, what we have traditionally held in this country is the belief that no one should be discriminated against because of immutable, unchangeable characteristics. But sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are ambiguous and subjective, and because they are inextricably linked to actions, they are subject to moral evaluation.”
Creech said SOGI policies create severe problems for people who base their business or religious services on moral and religious views.
“To participate in some form of public life, the government coerces them to endorse, cooperate, and even participate in something they find morally objectionable. Thus, the state imposes its morality on religion’s practice and thereby infringes upon many of its citizens’ religious liberties,” he explained.
“It is not unreasonable for people to believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, that people are created as male and female. Citizens should be allowed to run their lives, businesses, charities, or nonprofits according to these religious convictions, whether in the public or private spheres. Moreover, they deserve protection from being forced to bow down to the altar of LGBTQ dogma.”
Read Rev. Creech’s entire press release here:
Rev. Mark Creech: Statement on Passage of Local LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Policies (mailchi.mp)
Violators of the ordinances approved by Hillsborough and Carrboro will be deemed guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor and can be fined $500 per day.
The ordinances are the first SOGI laws to be passed by Tar Heel cities and towns in more than three years, since a legal provision in House Bill 142 prohibited them. That portion of the law expired Dec. 1, 2020.
House Bill 142 was a compromise bill approved in conjunction with the partial repeal of HB 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (also called the Bathroom Bill), which lawmakers passed in response to Charlotte’s passage of a SOGI ordinance that allowed anyone claiming to be transgender to use any restroom he chose.
“House Bill 142 was supposed to be a compromise between the business community, the faith leaders and the equality crowd. And yet, those people in the equality crowd have decided to step over the line and violate the middle ground that was reached,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition.
“Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and our laws should protect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of every citizen no matter who they are,” she told the Hillsborough officials. “But unfortunately, ordinances like the one you’re considering tonight undermine both fairness and freedom.”
According to NC Policy Watch, Democrats expected to gain a majority in the General Assembly in November, which would likely have led to the passage of statewide SOGI laws. When they instead lost seats in the legislature, towns began their move to pass local ordinances.
“We’re doing what we’re doing because we don’t have statewide protections, right?” said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, the state’s first openly lesbian mayor, after her town council’s Tuesday night vote.
Chapel Hill passed an almost identical ordinance on Wednesday night.
Whether the Legislature will take action against municipal SOGI ordinances remains to be seen since Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper was re-elected and would be able to veto any bill prohibiting them.
Rev. Creech said it was imperative for pastors and churches to check the schedules of their city councils and county commissioners to make certain SOGI ordinances are not passed by their local governments. “You need to be watching for this, because these policies are being introduced and passed in a clandestine manner. I think if most people really understood what negative unintended consequences they produce, they wouldn’t approve of what their leaders are doing or planning to do. Watch!” he said.