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IBM, which employs thousands in the Triangle area, doesn’t want North Carolina to adopt a controversial religious freedom bill that opponents say would allow discrimination against the LGBT community.

The company’s senior executive in North Carolina, Robert Greenberg, wrote a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory noting the company’s opposition, as reported by WRAL earlier this morning.

From Greenberg’s letter:

IBM has a large number of employees and retirees in North Carolina and is gravely concerned that this legislation, if enacted, would enable discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or identity. We call on members of the Legislature to defeat this bill.

Our perspective is grounded in IBM’s 104-year history and our deep legacy of diversity and inclusion — a legacy to which we remain strongly committed today. IBM is opposed to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. We urge you to work with the Legislature to ensure that any legislation in this area is not discriminatory.

Several other tech companies have spoken against the bill, which would allow businesses to choose who they do work for based on religious beliefs. Opponents have said that essentially is a license to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. Similar legislation that became law in Indiana ignited a national firestorm of opposition.

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst wrote earlier this month that his Raleigh-based company embraces diversity and called the oroposed North Carolina legislation “divisive” and harmful to the state’s economy.

Ltr_NCMcCrory_RFRA_040715.pdf by NC Policy Watch

Commentary

Rev. William Barber and North Carolina Christian writer Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove recently authored the following essay on the close connection between modern “religious freedom” proposals and the dark history of racial discrimination in the U.S.  We’re delighted to publish it here.

Extremists also remember Selma:
The ugly history behind “religious freedom” laws

By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

From Ava Duvernay’s award-winning film to President Obama’s speech at the Edmond Pettus Bridge, to the thousands we crossed the Bridge with and the millions that joined by TV, America has remembered Selma this year. We have honored grassroots leaders who organized for years, acknowledged the sacrifices of civil rights workers, and celebrated the great achievement of the Voting Rights Act. At the same time, we have recalled the hatred and fear of white supremacy in 1960’s Alabama. But we may not have looked closely enough at this ugly history. Even as we celebrate one of America’s great strides toward freedom, the ugliest ghosts of our past haunt us in today’s “religious freedom” laws.

Many able commentators have pointed out the problem with laws which purport to protect a First Amendment right to religious freedom by creating an opportunity to violate another’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. But little attention has been paid to the struggle out of which the 14th Amendment was born—a struggle which continued to play out in Selma 50 years ago and is very much alive in America’s state houses today. We cannot understand the new “religious freedom” law in Indiana and others like it apart from the highly sexualized backlash against America’s first two Reconstructions.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was part and parcel of America’s first Reconstruction, guaranteeing for the first time that people who had been legally codified as three-fifths persons would enjoy equal protection under the law in this country. The very notion of equal protection for black Americans was so offensive that it inspired an immediate backlash. Two features of resistance to America’s first Reconstruction are essential to note.

First, it was deeply religious. White preachers led the charge, calling themselves “Redeemers” and framing equal justice for black Americans as a moral danger. At the same time, the threat was explicitly sexualized. Black men were portrayed in respectable newspapers as “ravishing beasts,” eager to rape white women.

Here in our native North Carolina, white vigilantes were armed and encouraged to defend their women, leading to the “Wilmington Race Riot” of 1898. Violent demonstrations of white men’s sexual fear led to lynchings throughout the South and Midwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ida B. Wells, the courageous African-American journalist from Memphis, did the dangerous investigative work to show that the great majority of these lynchings were not about sex but political power.

When the Civil Rights Movement—a Second Reconstruction—was finally able to draw national attention to the vicious patterns of Jim Crow in the 1960’s, the challenge to white power was again conflated with sexual fear. As Danielle McGuire has chronicled in her book “The Dark End of the Street,” civil rights workers were consistently accused of wanting interracial sex and/or having homosexual tendencies.  Read More

Commentary

Mooresville writer John Deem is not impressed with state House Speaker Tim Moore’s recent statements about the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and its potential impact on North Carolina’s “brand”:

Speaker Moore: “I’m all about the brand, ’bout that brand, no trouble …”

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore’s promise of a pragmatic approach in deliberations over the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act is all the confirmation we need that the issue has little to do with the protection of faith-guided principles, and everything to do with pure, partisan politics.

Moore’s explanation that he and his colleagues should be guided by how passage of any such legislation could potentially “harm North Carolina’s brand” also is an egregious display of political cowardliness in the face of right-handed flamethrowers from of his own party.

Either the “religious freedom” of North Carolinians is being threatened, or it isn’t. If Speaker Moore believes that it is, then pragmatism be damned. He should push ahead with the legislation at full speed. Protecting the inalienable rights of North Carolinians should always trump concerns about how the state looks to outsiders, after all.

If Moore disagrees with the proposed legislation’s dire warnings of religious oppression, then he should say so (as Gov. McCrory and other influential Republicans already have) and expose the conservative mavericks in the House as extremists bent on using Christianity – a faith rooted in grace – as a tool to separate themselves from their neighbors who might not look, think or love exactly as they do.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is either a battle cry of freedom or a sacrilegious sham. I look forward to hearing what “brand” of legislation Speaker Moore thinks it is.

– John Deem is an award-winning writer and editor living in Mooresville.

Commentary

No, hell has not frozen over and the following excerpt from a story in Upstart Business Journal does not appear to be an April Fools’ joke. Rather, it is the latest sure sign that troubled souls on the American religious right are, blessedly, losing the fight for the hearts and minds of the nation:

“Facing opposition from the world’s largest retailer and his state’s biggest business, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson today backed away from signing a ‘religious freedom’ bill many said would be an open invitation to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Hutchinson, a Republican who had previously said he would sign the bill passed Tuesday by the Arkansas House, instead asked legislators to revisit the bill and make it more like a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. ‘I’ve asked them to recall it and change the language,’ Hutchinson said at a news conference….

‘Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve,’ McMillan said in a statement posted on Twitter. ‘It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual. Today’s passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold. For these reasons, we’re asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation.’

Other states including North Carolina and Georgia had been considering similar bills. But politicians in those states have slowed down the process since the Indiana firestorm, with N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, of North Carolina saying, “What is the problem they’re trying to solve?”

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Commentary

It’s looking more and more like the the pro-discrimination bills in the North Carolina General Assembly masquerading as “religious freedom” proposals are — thank goodness — going nowhere. This morning, you can add the Greensboro News & Record and the Winston-Salem Journal to the list of major news outlets issuing condemnations.

Here’s the N&R in an editorial entitled: “Don’t follow Indiana”:

A Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been introduced in both the N.C. House and Senate, and our state’s Republican governor says he won’t support it.

We urge the North Carolina sponsors to look at Indiana, listen to McCrory and withdraw their bills before any harm is done here….

Large corporations are making it clear they expect their employees and partners — all of them — to be treated fairly in Indiana. Some already are saying the same about North Carolina. The politicians who claim to be ushering in business-friendly policies should be careful that some of their actions aren’t seen as hostile to 21st century corporations.

Indiana Republicans now say they’ll “clarify” their new law, which they insist has been misinterpreted. Actually, it’s seen very clearly for what it is.

We hope and trust McCrory will veto a similar bill in North Carolina, but it will be shameful enough if such a measure even reaches his desk.

And this is from a Journal editorial entitled “‘Religious freedom’ bills would open door to discrimination”:

“State Sen. Joyce Krawiec of Kernersville, a sponsor of the bill, told the Journal’s Arika Herron in an email that ‘…we have an obligation to make sure that North Carolinians’ religious rights are protected.’

But the Constitution already guarantees that. What it most certainly doesn’t guarantee is the right to discriminate against others.

Given our history in the South, we have a healthy fear of any law that might be used to bar members of certain groups from businesses. Blacks rightly won that fight.

Opening the door now to legalized discrimination against any group would take us back toward an uncomfortable and unjust past. As we’ve written before, a separatist society is a greater threat to North Carolina than same-sex marriage ever could be. Inclusion enriches our state, allowing commerce to flow more freely, allowing contributions to society from more quarters and promoting individual freedom.

If our legislature continues on this destructive path, it had best be ready for the backlash.”