The so called "religious freedom" bill recently passed in Indiana has spurred much heated public debate. It has resulted in some businesses canceling expansion plans and prompted the Governor to quickly call for changes in order to "clarify" the law and make sure it does not promote discrimination.
Could a similar bill become law in North Carolina? Local lawmaker Carl Ford, a Republican representing Rowan County, is the cosponsor of one such measure.
In his weekly newsletter, Ford told constituents what he thought about the bill's chances:
"Many of you might have heard about this bill, as similar legislation in Indiana has been covered by national media," Ford wrote in the newsletter. "To explain the bill as simply as possible: this law would require that in any case where State actions burdens a citizen's free exercise of their religion, the State would be required to apply "strict scrutiny" to demonstrate that their action forwards a "compelling governmental interest."
"The State must show that their interest is of the highest magnitude and cannot otherwise be achieved without burdening the exercise of religion. The purpose of the bill is protect individuals' religious conscience from State imposition and is in-line with a long history of Americans ensuring the free exercise of religion. Therefore, I was proud to cosponsor this legislation."
"The debate on this bill is far from over. After being filed, the bill has been sent to the House Committee on Judiciary and has yet to be scheduled for debate. The bill would have to receive a favorable report in that committee before receiving a vote by the entire House. The process would then repeat in the Senate, should that body be willing to take it up," Ford wrote.
The bill could face an uphill battle in Raleigh with lawmakers promising scrutiny of the measure, and Governor McCrory questioning the need for it.
McCrory told a Charlotte radio host Monday that he opposes a bill that would allow magistrates to opt out of performing weddings and didn't see the need for a broader religious freedom bill.