North Carolina religious freedom bill questioned after controversy in Indiana

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HIGH POINT, N.C. — Could a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in North Carolina give a business owner the right to refuse service to someone who is Muslim, Buddhist or gay and justify it using the law?

That’s the concern with the new law in Indiana that allows people to invoke the law against other people. Nineteen other states have laws that clearly define religious freedom applying to people versus the state not each other.

“The idea that you should be able to use your religious beliefs to discriminate against someone is not something most people in this country agree with,” said Ryan Butler, with Equality NC. “Most people understand that you’re not being persecuted when you’re prevented from persecuting another person.”

In North Carolina, the bill in its current form makes the distinction that the state cannot stand in the way of someone’s exercise of religion. That’s similar to the law that’s been in place since 1999 in South Carolina.

Butler hopes that the passage of the individual rights law in Indiana is not something that becomes the norm as these laws continue to spread across the nation.

“It would allow people to pick and choose which laws they want to follow based on their religious beliefs,” said Butler.

Butler said in Texas, the law has also been used as a criminal defense in deadly animal abuse cases with the defendant claiming religious freedom to sacrifice animals.

Other state leaders would also appear to want to use caution with how much leeway the law gives individuals.

Gov. Pat McCrory told a radio station in Charlotte that passing a law like Indiana’s might be misguided.

“What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” McCrory asked rhetorically. “I haven’t seen it up to this point in time.”

Sen. Richard Burr took it a step further and said an Indiana-like law would send the wrong message to some businesses owners.

“Everybody in America has a right to do and to act in business how they feel or are led to do but that can’t include discrimination of any American,” said Burr.

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