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Winston-Salem chronicle. (Winston-Salem, N.C.) 1974-current, April 07, 2016, Page A7, Image 7

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FORUM Why did religious right back HB 2? _ Rob | Schofield I Guest Columnist There are a lot of mys teries surrounding' the recent legislative session in ' which the North Carolina General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory rammed through a radical overhaul of several important state laws and local government ordinances in less than 12 hours. ' As was noted in a post on The Progressive Pulse on [March 31] yesterday afternoon, one of the most obvious ones involves the North Carolina Chamber and its deafening public silence: "Is the Chamber ? a group whose fingerprints are on virtually every major piece of legislation that impacts the state's business community ? really completely disinter ested? "Common sense and the rumor mill on Jones Street tell us that this is simply impossible. According to numerous observers of the kangaroo special session, there's a reason that the Chamber stayed quiet ? namely, that it was.-bought off with the broad language added to the bill at the last minute to deep-six local living wage ordinances and to bar all state court lawsuits against employers who fire workers for discriminatory reasons. "It is a plausible the ory. Noxious and revolting, but utterly plausible." The Chamber's silence was rendered all the more striking and perplexing by the release late yesterday of a massive new list of oppo nents of the new law that features a veritable "who's who" of the state's and nation's business establish ment. This is from that let ter: "Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and wel coming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina's legisla ture to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative ses sion." The religious right's contradictory stance Still, for alj the confu sion surrounding the Chamber's silence, the most bizarre and seemingly inexplicable aspect of the "Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act" involves conservative Christian groups and their silence over one of the law's most outrageous and least-well reported sections. While much has been made of the law's treatment of restrooms and other pub lic accommodations and its' affirmative ban on local ordinances that afford pro tections in those areas to LGBT people, consider the following language from the new law as it amends the state Equal Employment Practices Act: "This Article does not create, and shall not be construed to create or sup port, a statutory or com mon law private right of action, and no person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein." What that means, in plain English, is that North Carolina has officially joined Mississippi as one of only two states in the U.S. to bar all lawsuits in its state courts for employ ment discrimination. That is not a misprint. From now on, North Carolinians who are fired from their job because they are an African-American, a woman or, yes, a conserva tive Christian, have no right to sue in state court. Here's how worker advocates at the North Carolina Justice Center describe the backdrop and impact of this remailcable NC Policy Watch shift: "Since 1985, workers in North Carolina who have been fired because of their religion, race, color, jiational origin, age, sex, or handicap have been abler to bring claims in state court under the common law the ory of wrongful discharge in violation of public poli cy, based upon the public policy stated in action based on the North Carolina ? Equal Employment Practices Act (NCEEPA), N.C. Gen. Stat. ? 143-422.1, etseq. "HB 2 eliminates state law remedies for employ ees who are fired based on their race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap. Specifically, sec tion 3.2 of the bill ended an employee's private right to sue an employer who fires him or *her for any one of these discriminatory rea sons. As a result, employ ers can fire their employees simply because they are black, or a female, or Christian, without fear of redress in state courts... "By .eliminating the NCEEPA as the basis for any civil action, the General Assembly has severely .restricted victims of discrimination from meaningful redress. As defenders of HB 2 were quick to ppint out, employ ees can still bring a claim under federal anti-discrimi nation laws, but for many victims of workplace dis crimination that is not a viable option. Federal courts are much less acces sible because of the high cost of filing a claim, time consuming administrative requirements, and the very short deadline to bring a claim (180 days as com pared to three years in state court). Moreover, the Human Relations Commission, which the General Assembly has not funded adequately, does not offer victims any redress unless their employer agrees to concili ate." Now, consider the fact that this action was taken with the expressed endorsement of groups dedicated to the defense of "Christian" values - groups like the N.C. Family Policy Council, the Christian Action League and the N.C. Values Coalition. It is, in other words, a truly stunning and almost unfathomable development - at least at first blush. A modem American state has enacted a sweeping statute that takes its law backward on a fundamental premise of human and civil rights (the right not to be fired because of your race, sex or religion) to the mid-20th century (and maybe even the mid-19th century). What's more, it has done so with the ringing endorse ment of conservative Christian advocacy groups - groups whose members arp now, as a result, expressly unprotected in state law because of their religious beliefs! Making sense of the seemingly nonsensical So what are we to make of this amazing develop ment? Are the advocates . employed by conservative Christian groups utterly incompetent? Have they been (as the Governor complained he was during a truly pathetic moment on Monday [11] when he was asked by reporters about specific controversial pro visions), "blindsided" by the actual contents of the bill they helped piake law just a few days earlier? Maybe. Sadly, however, anoth er more plausible and trou bling explanation seems just as likely: namely, that the conservative Christian groups made a knowing and cynical political calcu lation. Just as the NC Chamber bit its tongue on the question of discrimina tion against LGBT persons to gain a new power over employees, the religious right held its fire on giving away the right of its mem bers to sue for discrimina tion so that it could pursue its longstanding holy grail of keeping LGBT persons marginalized and unequal. Rob Schofield, director of research at N.C. Policy Watch, has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer, commenta tor and trainer. At N.C. Policy Watch, Rob writes and edits frequent opinion pieces and blog posts, speaks to various civic groups, appears regularly on TV and radio and helps build and develop move ments for change. Contact him at rob@ncpolicy or 919-861 2065. Follow him @Rob_Schofield Politicians sometimes say the strangest James B. Primaries and caucuses Ewers Jr. are events that are happening Guest almost evefy _ : . _ week now. Column,st m,hasbeen _ C ???????? me case ior many months now. Barbershops, malls, hair salons and places of worship all have people in them asking the question: "What do you think about this year's election?" The responses will vary but you will always get an answer. Some pundits who follow these mat ters say this year's election is like no other. Well, probably the same can be said for the election held eight years ago. Barack Obama, a candidate with limited political experience burst onto the scene to win the presidency of the United States of America. Barack Obama's spirit and his belief in the American people captured our hearts and minds. I believe his campaign slogan "Yes We Can" is one of the best ever. It gave us a newfound hope in ourselves. President Obama has made America more inclusive and welcoming than at any other time in our history. Yes, we can bring your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Yes, we can provide health care to all of America's citizens. And yes, we can worship and pray together. What has attracted the world to President Obama is his ability to be a bridge-builder and his understanding of what affects the least of us affects all of us. Even during his campaign for president, you didn't hear mean-spirited attacks between him and his opponents. In fact, he made one of his opponents, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. He could do that because they both engaged in a humane campaign., Of course there have been critics of President Obama, yet he has engaged them all with dignity and respect. Traps and snares have been laid out for him, but he has walked over and through them unscathed. To paraphrase a scripture. Psalm 105:15 says, 'Touch not my anoint ed ones; do my prophets no harm." Some people have been whining about President Obama for eight years, but I will guarantee you those same people who are whining now will be crying later when he leaves office. Many of us have learned that sometimes when you are in the middle of good, you don't resize it until you don't have it anymore. Some didn't have health care pre-Obama but now have it with President Obama. Some didn't have a job pre-Obama but now have a job with President Obama. Lastly, some of us had children in wars in foreign countries pre Obama and now they are out of harm's way with President Obama. I have witnessed and voted in a lot of elections over my lifetime. I have faithful ly exercised my voting privilege. However what we see being played out at least on one side defies description. I will go deep into my urban lexicon of terms and use the phrase young people use and say it's a hot mess. Prior to now, I have never heard a can didate say he is going to build a wall and keep everybody out of a country. I have never heard a candidate for the highest office in the land suggest that if you wor ship differently, speak differently and have a different lifestyle, you are not embraced in America. He wants to make America great again. When was America not great? I have never watched fights occur at political rallies and the candidate himself not vehemently condemn them. Instead, his response is simply, "Go home to mama" or "Get them out of here." Recently, I watched an NBC reporter ask this samecandidate about the Ku Klux , mm ^ Klan. His response was he needed a little more informa tion about the group and its leadership. This was unbe lievable that anyone could give that response. Yet this candidate leads the race for the Republican Party nomi nation. I will simply join the chorus when 1 say that the Grand Old Party is in sham bles and disarray. Many years ago, my Spanish teacher at Atkins High School, Dr. Madeline Scales, would use the term "shell shocked" when our answers were not correct. Well the Republican Party is officially "shell shocked." It started when Barack 1 Obama was elected to his first term as President of the United States of America. It continued when Republican Congressman Joe Wilson said, "You lie" on September 9,2009 during the State of The Union address. This Republican shell-shocked mindset contin ued when The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law on March 23,2010. All of this is simply emboldened by the coolness, aplomb and human touch that President Obama displays when he interacts with people and deals with the issues of the day. The Republicans are disorganized, dis jointed and disgraced by what is happen ing today. It is my opinion that the GOP paid way too much attention to President Barack Obama and trying to stop him. Their unified and collective mantra was "No- we can't" instead of "Yes we can" for the good of this country. Their constant no refrain meant they weren't paying attention to what was happening to their party. Donald Trump was happening to their party. As a result, they got a can didate straight from a variety show as their choice for the most important office in the world. C'mon man, just c'mon. He slipped through the cracks and now is on public display every day. Some traditional Republicans like for mer Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have tried to stop him. So far it hasn't worked. I am reminded of the song by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams entitled, 'Too much, too little, too late." I may be wrong. We'll just have to wait and see as the Republican National Convention is just around the comer. James B. Ewers Jr. EdD. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is the President Emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee of Ohio and a retired college administrator. He can be reached at V

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