Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Outlines Progressive Approach to Religious Liberty in North Carolina
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Outlines Progressive Approach to Religious Liberty in North Carolina

Washington, D.C. — As in the rest of the United States, a commitment to religious liberty in North Carolina must respect the rights of all Americans to freely express their religious and spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof. Today, the Center for American Progress released an issue brief that details the challenges to real religious freedom posed by overly broad and discriminatory versions of religious liberty in North Carolina, as well as by rising anti-Muslim bigotry. The issue brief also offers recommendations for North Carolina lawmakers, candidates, advocates, and stakeholders to advance progressive religious liberty in 2016 and beyond.

Despite North Carolina’s rich diversity—including religious diversity—the North Carolina legislature has seen a flood of bills designed to limit the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, Americans by legalizing discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and more, all in the name of religion. One such measure is H.B. 2, a law that preempted the right of local municipalities to institute LGBT nondiscrimination protections and that prohibits transgender North Carolinians from using the public bathroom that most closely aligns with their gender identity.

CAP’s issue brief also highlights how religiously motivated conservatism has led to a shrinking number of reproductive health care and education options for women and young people and how North Carolina’s Arab and Muslim populations have felt the intense sting of violence and harassment resulting from a national upswing in anti-Muslim bigotry.

“Religious liberty is a foundational American value,” said Claire Markham, Associate Director for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “Its central importance to our nation’s history and to the future of our democracy must not be undermined by efforts to manipulate religious liberty to legislate one narrow set of conservative religious beliefs into North Carolina’s laws, especially when it is to the detriment of North Carolinian women, LGBT individuals, and religious minorities.”

In order to create an economically prosperous, healthy, and equitable North Carolina, the state must achieve a proper balance between religious beliefs and the rights of its diverse population. Successfully advancing progressive health care laws, nondiscrimination policies, and religious tolerance depends on restoring a progressive interpretation of religious liberty that maintains the balance between that core American value and the government’s compelling interest in protecting people from harm or from the burden of another’s religious belief.

To that end, CAP recommends that progressive leaders, lawmakers, and advocates in North Carolina—and across the country—include progressive religious liberty in issue advocacy; demonstrate that religious liberty has an intersectional effect on vulnerable communities; frame anti-Muslim bigotry as a religious liberty issue; and fight overly broad religious exemptions to better serve North Carolinian constituents.

In March, CAP issued a national report outlining a progressive understanding of religious liberty that restores balance and inclusion for religious and nonreligious Americans alike.

Read the issue brief: Addressing Challenges to Progressive Religious Liberty in North Carolina by Carolyn Davis, Lauren Kokum, and Claire Markham

Related resources:

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at [email protected] or 202.478.5328.