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NC 'religious freedom' legislation courts Indiana-type controversy

Posted March 30, 2015
Updated March 31, 2015

— Indiana's new religious expression law has stirred protests across the country and led to economic boycotts in recent days, and similar outrage could soon be on North Carolina's doorstep.

Companion bills in the North Carolina House and Senate, dubbed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, have many of the same provisions as the law enacted last week in Indiana.

Both states' measures prohibit state laws that "burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Indiana legislative leaders say their law is based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which has been upheld by courts, and insist it has been mischaracterized as something that will lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians. Lawmakers are now trying to pass a technical fix to the act to clarify its language.

Rep. Gary Pendleton, R-Wake, said North Carolina's legislation is designed to prevent government bodies from discriminating against people based on religion.

"I'm a very strong Christian, but I respect all religions," said Pendleton, a sponsor of the House bill, which is expected to get its first committee hearing on Wednesday.

House Speaker Tim Moore said the Republican caucus isn't in agreement on Pendleton's bill, so it's unclear when, or if, it will pass.

"It's going to sit there (in committee) a while," said Moore, R-Cleveland.

Pendleton dismissed concerns that, if enacted, the law would encourage prejudice. "I can't see how it could be used (that way)," he said.

Sarah Preston, policy director for the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it's very plain to see such applications.

"It could result essentially in people saying, 'Because of my religion, I don't have to rent to or sell to particular groups of people,'" Preston said. "I think basically what these bills are is for people to ignore the law under the guise of religious freedom."

Gov. Pat McCrory said in a radio interview Monday that he doesn't see the need for such laws and is opposed to another proposal working its way through the General Assembly that would allow county magistrates and register of deeds employees to opt out of their official duties to avoid having to provide marriage licenses or perform weddings for same-sex couples.

"It's huge that Gov. McCrory came out and said that he thinks this is unnecessary and uncalled for," said Chris Sgro, executive director of gay rights advocacy group Equality NC.

North Carolina also has an economic interest not to follow Indiana's lead, some critics say.

"It doesn’t mean anything good when it comes to jobs and the economy in North Carolina,” said Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake.

Martin cited business-review website Angie's List calling off an expansion in Indianapolis and comments by Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook calling religious freedom laws dangerous. The NCAA, which is set to hold its men's basketball championship in Indianapolis next weekend, also has raised the idea of not holding future tournaments in the state.

"Companies don't want to relocate to a state that embraces discrimination," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. "North Carolina just doesn't need to go there."

142 Comments

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  • Floyd Bridges Apr 1, 2015
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    1. NC Republicans aren't extreme.

    2. After 100 years of Democratic rule there is no place for our economy to go but up.

    3. Only an infinitesimally small number of people actually care about this law. It's just the news media and left wing extremists trying to make gullible people such as yourself think that this a big deal.

  • Jack Jones Apr 1, 2015
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    Why do NC Republican extremists want to harm our economy? Why are NC Republican extremists trying to pit neighbor against neighbor?

  • Matt Wood Apr 1, 2015
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    So I guess if you sell someone a gun and they murder someone with it, then you must be supporting murder?

  • Collin McLoud Apr 1, 2015
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    Your argument has no merit. How affordable do you want them to be?? FREE??
    Walmart and Target offer oral contraceptives for $9 for a $28 day supply. I'm not sure about your insurance but my generic co-pay is $10. That actually would save me $1.

  • Phil Larson Mar 31, 2015
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    Too funny, you list a bunch of right wing conservative extremist.

  • Phil Larson Mar 31, 2015
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    Translation, you ramble on so much it becomes like Charlie Brown's teacher, waa waa waa wa, wa, wa, wa. Not worth responding to except with sarcasm.

  • Alexandra Kinks Mar 31, 2015
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    Wrong. *This* left expects women to have access to affordable birth control, with reasonable co-pays if under an insurance plan. Womens' health, "fun pills" (as you so derisively refer to them)... doesn't matter the reason.

    And why shouldn't bi-annual dental checkups be covered?

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475

    Seriously, how do you people get this way?

  • Buford Justice Mar 31, 2015
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    '
    Leftists aren't against war. They start them all the time. What they are really against is Capitalism.

    Leftists have started and waged plenty of wars. Communists start or foment wars all the time. Leftists have no problem with war. In the 20th century Leftists went on a murder spree that makes the Nazi's look like saints. They murdered at least 80 million people, most of them their own citizens.

    Those 'protestors' couldn't care less about war and saving lives. What they detest is private corporate involvement with war... unless the State owns the corporation... then it's perfectly fine.

  • Alexandra Kinks Mar 31, 2015
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    Did you miss all the "leftists" around the world protesting the Iraq War, Floyd? How much death and destruction and suffering have we caused as a result of that disastrous foreign policy? Well, disastrous for some, a gold mine for war profiteers.

  • Alexandra Kinks Mar 31, 2015
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    People are traveling all over the world for healthcare; that they travel to the United States is not news. What's interesting is that medical tourists who travel FROM the United States vastly outnumber medical tourists who travel TO the United States. Soaring costs are the primary driver. Americans seek cheaper pharmaceuticals and dental care from Canada and Mexico, which is really rather ridiculous.

    Americans travel to above and below our borders for cheaper healthcare and Rx

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