A Republican lawmaker in North Carolina defended his so-called “religious freedom” bill after Indiana came under file for a similar bill that critics said would allow Christian businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.
Republican state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam told WNCN that his House Bill 348, The North Carolina Religious Freedom Act, was modeled after a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. A similar bill was also introduced in the state Senate this month.
“It’s the first freedom,” Stam explained. “It’s what a lot of people came to North Carolina for originally, was to have religious freedom, at that time from the Church of England.”
The lawmaker added that the law was not unreasonable because it would not allow activities like “child sacrifice.”
“If you had a person who believes in child sacrifice as part of their religious principles, we’re not going to allow that,” Stam insisted.
But critics have warned that the bill’s overly broad definition of religious practices would give businesses a license to discriminate.
If signed into law, “exercise of religion” would be defined as “the ability to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious beliefs, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”
According to Logo TV’s New Now Next, the language in the bill is so broad that it would allow hospitals to reject gay patients.
“Pharmacists in the Tar Heel State could refuse to dispense contraceptives, infertility drugs, HIV treatments and transplant-rejection drugs—as all are incompatible with various religious denominations,” Alexander Stevenson wrote.
In a statement last week, Chris Sgro of Equality North Carolina called the bill an obvious attack on the LGBT community.
“With the Senate’s version of this discriminatory bill, North Carolina’s conservative leadership in both legislative chambers have now officially launched their efforts to dress up anti-LGBT discrimination by calling it ‘religious freedom,’” Sgro said. “While the bill does not expressly mention the LGBT community, we’ve seen this cynical tactic play out in many parts of the country in many different ways. Now these leaders are bringing this divisive debate to our state where North Carolina’s true values of fairness and equality are under attack.”
After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) found himself in a firestorm of criticism for signing a similar bill, North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory ruled out signing Stam’s bill — at least for now.
“What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” he said during a WFAE radio program on Monday.
Watch the video below from WNCN, broadcast March 31, 2015.