Gene Nichol: The absurd practical effect of Johnston County’s school curriculum censorship policy

Gene Nichol

Be sure to check out this morning’s on-the-mark op-ed from UNC law professor Gene Nichol that’s featured in Raleigh’s News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer. In it, Nichol details an important recent federal court ruling on the issue of race-conscious admissions at the University of North Carolina and how it illustrates the utter absurdity of a curriculum policy recently adopted by the school board in Johnston County.

As Nichol points out, in the court’s “findings of facts and conclusions of law,” it took note of the testimony of an historian that:

“UNC ‘has been a strong and active promoter of white supremacy and racist exclusion for most of its history. Over the centuries, the University’s leaders have included the State’s largest slaveholders, the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, the central figures of the white supremacy campaigns of 1898 and 1900, and many of the State’s most ardent defenders of Jim Crow in the twentieth century.’”

How does relate to Johnston County? Well, as you may recall and Nichol reminds us, the new board policy (adopted as part of the ridiculous national right-wing campaign to instill fear in white voters over the concept of “critical race theory”) includes the nonsensical directive that “all people who contributed to American Society be recognized as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture.”

But of course, such a policy makes absolutely no sense given that American history is chockful of complicated and decidedly unheroic figures who still, by any fair estimation, “contributed to American society.”

Like, for instance, many of the leaders who built and led UNC down through the decades.

Here’s the outstanding conclusion to Nichol’s essay:

Failure to comply with the absurd, dishonest, and incomprehensible policy “will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.”

…That means, I’d guess, that any teacher or librarian in Johnston County who asked, or allowed, Judge Biggs’ thoughtful and dead-on accurate opinion to be read by students could be fired. If past is prologue, lots of Johnston County students will decide this year whether they’ll attend Chapel Hill. If a counselor helps them understand what that entails – what Carolina is and has been – she’d better not direct them to Biggs’ challenging phrases. Too risky. Johnston County’s out to deceive its kids, not teach them. North Carolina can’t be far behind.

Click here to read Nichol’s essay and here to learn more about the federal court ruling.

Demonstrators, lawmakers to protest Lt. Gov. Robinson’s anti-LGBTQ remarks at Monday afternoon rally

The following news release was distributed over the weekend by the group Indivisible Triangle Daily Call to Action:

Local Citizens Rally to Demand the Resignation of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson
The Lieutenant Governor Has Stood By Comments Calling LGBTQ People “Filth”

Raleigh, NC—A group of local citizens is joining with local political leaders to demand the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, who was recorded calling LGBTQ people “filth” during a church service over the summer. The rally will be held Monday, October 25, at 4:30 pm in front of the NCGA Building.

Robinson, speaking at the Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove during a visit in June, told the congregation “I’m saying this now, and I’ve been saying it, and I don’t care who likes it: Those issues have no place in a school. There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality — any of that filth.” He went on to add that “Yes, I called it filth. And if you don’t like it that I called it filth, come see me and I’ll explain it to you. It’s time for us to stop letting these children be abused in schools, and it’s not going to happen till the people of God stand up and demand different.”

Despite this offer to discuss his position, Robinson has avoided directly speaking to constituents who are members of the LGBTQ community and continues to repeat his stance. He has also stated that what he calls “transgenderism” (a term frequently used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize) is being taught in public schools, which is inaccurate and has a chilling effect on teachers and librarians who wish to promote inclusive content.

Rally organizers are calling for Lt. Gov. Robinson to apologize for his comments about LGBTQ people and to make himself available for meetings with impacted persons, community, and faith leaders as he offered to do during his remarks at Asbury Baptist Church. If he is unwilling to do so, North Carolina faith and community leaders will renew their call for him to resign.

Confirmed speakers for the rally include Representative Allison Dahle, Hillsborough Town Commissioner Matt Hughes, Rev. Vance Haywood, and Wake Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Jenna Wadsworth. U.S. Senate candidate Erica Smith is also scheduled to speak. The legendary Raging Grannies will write and sing a song for the rally, as well.

Number of religious leaders, people of faith condemning Lt. Governor’s “filth” remark against LGBTQ community grows

Rev. Nancy Petty of Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

Though Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s hateful attack on LGBTQ people was uttered in a Christian church, it continues to draw a growing chorus of condemnations and calls for his resignation from people of faith and religious leaders. Last week, a group of North Carolina-based church leaders issued a rebuke to Robinson in an event outside of his official office. The group demanded:

— that Robinson plainly and publicly apologize for his remarks and the damage they inflicted on LGBTQ people everywhere,

— that he sit down and engage in dialogue with the protesting group,

— failing items #1 and 2, that he resign or be removed from office.


Today, the national group Faithful America (which is organizing a petition calling for Robinson’s resignation) issued this statement:

Washington, D.C. — For months, far-right Christian nationalists have turned public school board meetings into battlefields, waging their culture wars at the expense of children’s education. These incidents have sprung up around the country, but North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson is taking the practice to a whole new level by telling a church congregation that right-wing Christians should take over public schools to prevent the teaching of LGBTQ equality.

Nearly 10,000 members of Faithful America and counting, the largest online community of Christians acting for love and social justice, are now calling on Robinson to resign. Their voices join a chorus of other organizations who are exerting pressure as well, including People for the American Way, the Human Rights Campaign, and multiple state senators in North Carolina.

Video of Robinson’s remarks surfaced this month in which you can clearly hear him tell a room full of congregants “there’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.” The comments were made this past summer.

After public outcry, Robinson has refused to so much as apologize for his comments, instead insisting that his warped religious beliefs about LGBTQ people are separate from his political responsibilities. But the truth is, he has a long history of making religiously-charged political statements, including incorrectly calling America a “Christian nation.”

Needless to say, Robinson’s expressed views on the LGBTQ community are an affront to the Gospel as much as they are an affront to public office.

“Derision and exclusion are antithetical to the loving and inclusive teachings of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we are called to open our arms and our hearts to all of our neighbors, to respect the God-given dignity of all of God’s creation, and to never turn away a person because of who or how they love,” said Rev. Nathan Empsall, executive director of Faithful America. “Lt. Gov. Robinson’s remarks are a vile betrayal of Christian values, and Faithful America’s members have no patience for anyone who hijacks Jesus’s name to advance a political agenda of hate and division.”

Meanwhile a large group of North Carolina-based Jewish leaders weighed in as well:

We, the undersigned, condemn Lt. Governor Mark Robinson’s continued bigoted rhetoric attacking the North Carolina LGBTQ community. While the Lt. Governor recently attempted to justify his hateful words, we find his clarification to be lacking. Given his history of inflammatory statements, we demand he clearly and unequivocally apologize.

In the Book of Genesis, we read very clearly that God has created humanity in the Divine Image, which compels us to recognize all of humanity to be a part of the Creation and deserving of our support and love, not hatred nor insult. Members of the LGBTQ community, like the rest of us, are created in the image of God and have added tremendously to the lives of people in this state and country. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as individuals, let alone for their contributions to our world.

Lt. Governor Robinson’s oratory and writings have been laced with Holocaust-themed language, which not only belittles the six million Jews and members of the LGBTQ community who were murdered during the Holocaust, but is particularly frightening in light of growing antisemitism and homophobic acts which we witness in North Carolina and the U.S.

The Book of Proverbs teaches, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Pr. 18:21)

Lt. Governor: Your cruel, damaging words have real-world consequences. LGBTQ youth are at great risk for suicide and self-harm. We have lost faith in your leadership and find your rhetoric to be blasphemous.

Acknowledge and apologize, repair and change your ways, Lt. Governor. Those are the steps of the repentant soul. We can no longer tolerate an elected official who holds such a high office in our great state of North Carolina speaking with such vitriolic, antisemitic, and homophobic language that reflects so poorly on our state, incites further hatred and life-threatening behaviors, and only divides our population.

Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon, Beth David Synagogue, Greensboro
Rabbi Philip J. Bentley, Agudas Israel Congregation, Hendersonville
Rabbi Kenneth Brickman, Sandhills Jewish Congregation, Pinehurst
Rabbi Mark Cohn, Temple Emanuel, Winston-Salem
Rabbi Robin Damsky, Limitless Judaism, Durham
Rabbi Lucy Dinner, Temple Beth Or, Raleigh
Rabbi Ariel Edery, Beth Shalom, Raleigh
Rabbi Dr. Andrew Vogel Ettin, Temple Israel, Salisbury
Rabbi Libby Fischer, Temple Emanuel, Greensboro
Rabbi John Friedman, Durham
Rabbi Fred Guttman, Emeritus, Temple Emanuel, Greensboro
Rabbi Rachael Jackson, Agudas Israel Congregation, Hendersonville
Rabbi Raachel Jurovics, Ph.D., Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
Rabbi Asher Knight, Temple Beth El, Charlotte
Rabbi Andy Koren, Temple Emanuel, Greensboro
Cantor Karen N. Kumin, Yavneh: A Jewish Renewal Community, Raleigh
Rabbi Mitchell Levine, Congregation Beth Israel, Asheville
Rabbi Dr. Laura Lieber, Duke University, Durham
Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov, Temple Israel, Wilmington
Cantor Jacqueline Marx, Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary, Carrboro
Rabbi Batsheva Meiri, Congregation Beth HaTephila, Asheville
Rabbi Rachel Smookler, The Ruach Community, Charlotte
Rabbi Matthew Soffer, Judea Reform Congregation, Durham
Rabbi Eric Solomon, Beth Meyer Synagogue, Raleigh
Rabbi Jennifer Solomon, Beth Meyer Synagogue, Raleigh
Rabbi Michael Wolk, Temple Israel, Charlotte

Policy Watch seeks new Courts, Law and Democracy reporter as Yanqi Xu departs for the Midwest

In her short time in Raleigh, NC Policy Watch Courts, Law and Democracy Reporter Yanqi Xu did a great job of quickly mastering a complex and challenging beat and providing in-depth coverage of scores of important stories not reported anywhere else.

Now however, in a sad development for us but an exciting one for her, Yanqi will be heading soon to Omaha, Nebraska to take on a new position with another nonprofit newsroom, The Flatwater Free Press. We will miss Yanqi and wish her the best in the new gig.

If you or someone you know thinks they might up to filling Yanqi’s shoes, we are looking to hire her replacement as quickly as possible. Please help us to spread the word.

Click here to view the announcement posted by our parent organization, the North Carolina Justice Center.

Read Congressman David Price’s retirement statement here

Veteran North Carolina Congressman, David Price announced today that he will not seek reelection in 2022. Price, 81, has served various iterations of a Triangle-based congressional district with distinction for more than three decades. The announcement seems sure to set off a great deal of political maneuvering and is likely to have an impact on the congressional redistricting process currently underway at the North Carolina General Assembly. State Senator Wiley Nickel of Wake County, for instance, had already expressed an interest in filling a congressional seat even before the announcement. Other potential candidates are sure to emerge in the days ahead.

Here is the official statement released today by Price’s office.

Congressman Price Announces He Will Not Seek Re-Election 

Chapel Hill, NC (October 18, 2021) – Today,Congressman David Price (NC-04), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development(THUD)Appropriations Subcommittee announced he will not seek re-election in 2022 and released the following statement.

“I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election as representative for North Carolina’s Fourth Congressional District.  I do so with a profound sense of gratitude to the voters of the Fourth District; to the supporters who have backed me in 18 successive campaigns; and to my staff in Washington and the district, whose competence and dedication are responsible for the quality of representation and service I have been able to provide.  None of this would have been possible without the loyalty and support of my wife, Lisa, my partner in this venture all along the way, and the unfailing encouragement of family, friends, and colleagues.

“In retiring from a job like the one I hold, one should not expect a complete sense of closure.  I take satisfaction in what we have been able to achieve for the Fourth District and North Carolina – from the EPA lab and National Guard headquarters to intercity rail, improved housing, and dozens of community projects.  I am leaving my two positions of leadership, the Chairmanship of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee and of the House Democracy Partnership (HDP), optimistic about the policy course we have set and the foundations we have laid.  But as we tell our HDP partners in discussing the realization of democracy, most of what we do remains a work in progress.  That is certainly evident now, as we strive to secure long overdue investments in our transportation and housing infrastructure, child care and early childhood education, and other pressing needs.  Looming over it all is the frightful legacy of the last four years and urgent questions about the future of our constitutional democracy.

“So while it is time for me to retire, it is no time to flag in our efforts to secure a “more perfect union” and to protect and expand our democracy.  I am deeply grateful to the people of the Fourth District for making my service possible and for what we have been able to achieve together.  And I promise, in the fifteen months remaining and beyond, to continue fighting for the just and inclusive country we believe in.”

Congressman Price began his service in the House from 1987-1994 and won re-election again in 1996 and has served uninterrupted since.

A summary of Congressman Price’s accomplishments can be found here.