Editorial by Greensboro News-Record, April 1, 2015.
Pat McCrory doesn’t want to put on Mike Pence’s shoes. The ones with banana peels for soles.
Indiana’s Republican governor awkwardly tried to defend his state’s newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act over the weekend. Pence’s signature set off waves of negative responses, including statements from major corporations that they might not do business in Indiana if the bill takes effect.
A Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been introduced in both the N.C. House and Senate, and our state’s Republican governor says he won’t support it.
We urge the North Carolina sponsors to look at Indiana, listen to McCrory and withdraw their bills before any harm is done here.
The bills, whether meant to or not, would give religious cover and legal protections to discrimination. It’s hard to believe that’s not the intent, however, given the timing. Such bills are advancing in conservative states in reaction to court decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage. They would allow florists, caterers and other businesses to cite “sincerely held religious beliefs” for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding, for example.
Asked repeatedly on a national news program whether that would be an effect of Indiana’s law, Pence refused to answer.
McCrory might have broken out in a sweat at the thought of occupying that kind of hot seat.
North Carolina’s proposed legislation is essentially the same. While it claims to protect a person’s religious freedom, it defines a “person” as “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.”
Individuals and churches are granted religious freedom. A business that provides services to the public, however, is not allowed to discriminate on account of race, gender or sexual orientation. Arguments to the contrary have been denied by the courts since the 1960s, when the white owner of a South Carolina restaurant claimed that segregation was one of his fundamental religious beliefs.
“What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” McCrory asked during a radio interview with WFAE in Charlotte Monday.
“The problem” is social change, which many people don’t like and can’t easily adjust to. That’s understandable.
But the concept of equal treatment under the law isn’t that new. Not only is it required these days, it’s expected. Even demanded.
Large corporations are making it clear they expect their employees and partners — all of them — to be treated fairly in Indiana. Some already are saying the same about North Carolina. The politicians who claim to be ushering in business-friendly policies should be careful that some of their actions aren’t seen as hostile to 21st century corporations.
Indiana Republicans now say they’ll “clarify” their new law, which they insist has been misinterpreted. Actually, it’s seen very clearly for what it is.
We hope and trust McCrory will veto a similar bill in North Carolina, but it will be shameful enough if such a measure even reaches his desk.