Free to Discriminate

Surprise: Religious Freedom™ comes to Raleigh
N.C. House

You knew this was coming.

A few weeks ago, after the Charlotte City Council voted down LGBT-friendly changes to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, the Observer asked a couple of Republican Mecklenburg County legislators whether there’d be any effort in Raleigh to prevent cities from instituting similar measures. All over the country, conservative legislatures are introducing and adopting laws that prohibit cities from adopting new nondiscrimination rules to cover LGBT people, using the cover of “sincerely held religious belief.”

Nope, answered N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley: “I have too much to do dealing with transportation funding and the job creation bills to deal with everything that the city of Charlotte does that I think does not make good sense.”

Nope, answered N.C. Rep. Charles Jeter: “That is the last thing I think we should get involved with. Write that down. Put it in bold.”

The paper asked the wrong two Mecklenburg County representatives. This week, a host of legislators introduced a bill, the “North Carolina Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” that would guarantee the right to “to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

In practical terms, it means that a business owner can choose not to hire, sell to, or buy from gay or transgender people—or worse—if they believe their religion sincerely justifies their bigotry. It’s similar to what Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law this week, prompting at least one major company to announce it would no longer do business in the state.

And who were the primary sponsors of the House bill, a twin of which was filed Thursday in the Senate? Two people who proudly represent the megachurch zone of southern Meck: Jacqueline Schaffer, a two-term rep, and Dan Bishop, a former county commissioner serving his first term in the House.

If there’s a primary battleground over this stuff in North Carolina, it’s right here in Charlotte. It’ll be both fun and aggravating to watch this play out over the next few weeks.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest