Another day, another average North Carolinian removed from an event featuring the state’s governor in a public venue for no good reason. The Kinston Free Press has the latest story:

“Tharol Branch, a candidate for Kinston City Council, was arrested Wednesday after being removed from an invitation-only speaking event for Gov. Pat McCrory at Lenoir Community College.

Branch said he came to the college to see McCrory speak after his own event was cancelled to accommodate the governor.

Richy Huneycutt, director of marketing, recruiting and communication for LCC, said no one at the college has any record of an event scheduled to take place Wednesday, save for McCrory’s appearance.

No classes were cancelled for the event either, she said.

After arriving at LCC, Branch said he was welcomed by staff to the event and allowed to enter after signing in.

After speaking with a number of city and state officials, Branch said he was surrounded by police and told he needed to leave.

Branch said he thought the event was open to the public, and he felt slighted that people who weren’t state officials were allowed to be at the event while he was forced to leave.

Huneycutt said everyone attending the event was there either by invitation or by RSVP.

‘I’m a candidate for city council. If there is something the governor is saying to my community a week before I could possibly be elected, I think that should be valid for me to hear,’ Branch said.

‘This is one more sign of being excluded from things we should be included in.’”

You can read the rest of the story by clicking here.

As N.C. Policy Watch readers will recall, this is hardly the first time in which McCrory has pursued a confusing and unnecessarily restrictive policy for an event at a public venue.

The bottom line: While the Guv and his security people are certainly entitled to some leeway in crowd control at events, the very least they could do is publicize some clear, reasonable (and constitutional) rules ahead of time so that these unnecessary and absurdly heavy-handed ejections of good people come to an end right away.


As reported in this space yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory will speak in Charlotte later this month at an event organized by a far right activist group that wants the United States to be a “Christian nation.” And though he is now distancing himself from it, a full-page ad in Monday’s Charlotte Observer indicated that the Governor was actually inviting people to attend the event to join him for “a time of worship, prayer, fasting and repentance.”

Now, the First Amendment experts at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina want  to know more about what the heck all of this all about. This is from a press statement the group released this morning:

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation is asking whether Governor Pat McCrory’s office is using any taxpayer dollars or other public resources to promote religion at an upcoming prayer rally in Charlotte. In a public records request filed yesterday, the civil liberties group asked for information regarding the governor’s participation in The Response: North Carolina on September 26 at the Charlotte Convention Center. The event’s website says the focus of the rally is ‘unashamedly Christian’ and ‘the only name that will be lifted up will be the name of Jesus Christ.’ Gov. McCrory is being advertised as the event’s main speaker.

‘North Carolinians deserve to know whether Governor McCrory is spending their tax dollars to promote religion,’ said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation. ‘Elected officials have every right to practice and discuss their faith, but they shouldn’t use taxpayer resources to promote their own religious views over others.’

The ACLU-NC Legal Foundation’s public records request to Gov. McCrory’s office is available at

We’ll keep readers apprised as the story develops.


McCrory budgetThe General Assembly presented the controversial “ag gag” bill to Governor McCrory last Wednesday May 20. The Guv has 10 days to sign or veto the bill (which, by my calculations, means he needs to act by this Saturday). He could also just ignore it — in which case it would become law also.

The bill, as you will recall, would create liability for any person (including employees) who gain access to “nonpublic areas” of employer premises and who then, without authorization, record images or sounds and then use those recordings to breach their “duty of loyalty to the employer.”

Today, the folks over at Public News Service published another worrisome story about the possible impacts of the bill in which a credible argument was advanced that the measure would silence potential whistle blowers in numerous fields beyond agriculture:

“While the bill has made headlines for its potential impact on whistle-blower investigations on factory farms, critics maintain the broad language of the bill could also impact investigations at nursing home and day care facilities.

‘This ag gag bill has sweeping and broad impacts on the safety of really every resident in North Carolina,’ says Matt Dominguez, public policy director for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States. ‘If you have a parent in a nursing home or a child in day care, they are going to be put in harm’s way by this bill.'”

Let’s hope that, at a minimum, the Governor fully explains his actions rather than taking the easy way out (as he has done with multiple controversial bills in the past) by simply letting the measure become law without his signature. On such a matter, the public deserves to know where McCrory stands.

State lawmakers sent the so-called “Ag gag” bill on to Governor McCrory today. As was explained at some length in this space a few weeks ago, this troubling proposal is targeted at activists who have exposed horrific abuses of animals in agricultural facilities but it raises other concerns that go beyond those circumstances:

“Crafting a statute that protects legitimate property rights when they are competing against the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees and the flow of information in a free society is an enormously complex and difficult proposition. Perhaps there is some reasonable point at which the two competing interests are properly balanced, but then again, perhaps such a balancing point really doesn’t exist. Let’s hope, at a minimum, that sponsors of the bill continue to fine tune the language with an eye toward finding that point and that, if they can’t do so, they opt for language that errs on the side of free speech. The current version isn’t there yet.”

Worker advocates at the North Carolina AFL-CIO issued the following statement today in response to the bill’s passage:

“North Carolina shouldn’t treat workers trying to expose criminal activity by their employers like criminals themselves, but House Bill 405 comes close to doing just that. If Governor McCrory signs this misguided bill into law, employers in our state will be able to sue their workers for having exposed criminal activity on the job. Senators even rejected an amendment that would have allowed those workers to use proof their employer broke the law as a defense in court. It seems lawmakers are more interested in protecting unscrupulous employers than the health and safety of our workforce or of the public at-large. HB 405 is as extreme as it is overbroad, and we call on Gov. McCrory to veto this dangerous legislation.”

Let’s hope that, if nothing else, the Governor’s well-known affection for animals leads him to do more than simply rubber stamp this troubling proposal.


Religious libertyIf you had any doubts about how ridiculous it is for government officials to be commencing public events with religious prayers, check out the squabble between two members of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners as explained in this morning’s Charlotte Observer.

As reporters Tim Funk and David Perlmutt explain, the dispute apparently developed as the result of the Board of Commissioners’ policy of rotating the responsibility for opening meetings with prayer between members. One member, though herself a church goer, did not want to to lead prayers.  This, in turn, led another member to take offense and conclude that the other member was not pulling her weight. The dispute spiraled from there into an embarrassing spat that featured name-calling and all sorts of troubling statements about religion.

The Mecklenburg mess, of course, comes right on the heels of the recent debacle in Lincoln County in which a commissioner said the following about the possibility of his board opening its meetings with anything other than a Christian prayer:

“Other religions, or whatever, are in the minority. The U.S. was founded on Christianity. I don’t believe we need to be bowing to the minorities. The U.S. and the Constitution were founded on Christianity. This is what the majority of people believe in, and it’s what I’m standing up for.”

This kind of nonsense shows precisely why it is impossible for government to get involved in promoting prayer and religion in a useful way. For prayer to have any real meaning, it can’t just be comprised of sanitized and generic platitudes. But once one goes down the road of making it meaningful and specific, it inevitably excludes large swaths of the population with whose views and beliefs it does not comport.

That’s why the best solution (as the American Founding Fathers figured out almost 230 years ago) is to leave prayer to individuals and private institutions and keep public events and institutions religion-free. It’s better for government and better for religion.