Column: For freedom, big business must punish the South

In this Feb. 2016 photo, Gov. Pat McCrory greeted presidents from private and public universities throughout the state at the President's Forum held at Cottrell Hall on the campus of High Point University, in N.C. North Carolina Gov. McCrory signed a new law limiting LGBT protections in his state by overriding local anti-discrimination laws. (Laura Greene/The Enterprise via AP, File)

The defense of a skewed vision of religious freedom has become a cornerstone of evangelical conservatives in recent years, threatened by the inclusion of more Americans in our more-perfect Union.

For these conservatives of the religious right, the notion of extending the full protections of the Constitution to the LGBTQ community is reprehensible, and in a bigoted logical exercise, infringes upon their own freedom.

On April 2, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and his mobilized army of conservatives passed a law in direct response to a Charlotte City Council law. The Charlotte law would have “allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity,” according to the Associated Press, something the religious right found disconcerting. 

Gov. McCrory defended the law by citing the support of North Carolinians. Conveniently, the governor’s concern with the power of popular support only exists for the State, not the City of Charlotte, which approved changes in February.

The governor, as with other lawmakers across the burned-over American South, has linked arms with backward masses to halt the march of progress. As with those who actively resisted desegregation during the civil rights movement, Gov. McCrory is adding an asterisk to the phrase “all Men are created equal.” 

The Constitution, as a living document, was meant to be interpreted through a lens of the times. If Gov. McCrory were truly committed to viewing the documents as the Founding Fathers did, then he would accompany anti-LGBTQ legislation with similar bills revoking the rights of women, minorities and the poor.

The mastery of this legislation is the ability with which legislators have forced people to accept a form of doublethink. This hallucinogenic tonic stirs people into believing that the extension of rights to one group somehow infringes upon their own freedoms. Religious conservatives are convinced freedom is a zero-sum game, just as they were when the United States extended rights to women, minorities, and immigrants. 

The Tenth Amendment allows states to determine their own obscure, esoteric laws, so long as they do not pertain to other rights or laws prescribed by the Constitution. These religious freedom laws violate a handful of amendments to the Constitution; therefore, a progressive court, or one aligned with the movement of the nation and her youth (the future) will strike these laws down as what they are – the musings of brainwashed masses. 

Other states have passed similar legislation in recent months, worsening a dangerous trend. Mississippi recently joined the prejudicial circus, with the state legislature seeking to pass a religious freedom bill which “allows state employees to refuse to issue same-sex-marriage licenses and protects private companies and religious groups from being punished for denying a range of services to LGBT people,” as NPR reports.

States have only begun to feign revelatory doubt as Fortune 500 companies began to issue warnings. Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia vetoed religious freedom legislation in his own state last week, fearing the harsh response of Georgia-based corporations.

While corporations have their own ulterior motives in vocally resisting this bigotry, one cannot deny the impact of their threats. Turning the Republican governor of a devoutly evangelical state like Georgia against religious freedom legislation is no easy feat. As with cigarettes, the only way to turn people away from a vile act of masochism is to drain their coffers. 

Using corporations and their billions as motivation for states to reject religious freedom legislation is not ideal. In most cases, circumventing the will of the people is an affront to democracy. However, the fundamental rights of a significant portion of the population are under siege. Failing to reject these laws would mean the failure to fight for the oppressed. Failing to fight these laws would mean capitulating to an un-American gang masquerading as the American ideal.

While the AP reported “hundreds of businesses support the [North Carolina] law and have signed on to their own letter praising McCrory and the legislature” these small businesses don’t maintain a nth of the political and economic clout of major Fortune 500 corporations.

For the sake of progress, these corporations must make good on their promise and show Gov. McCrory, as well as the government of other states with similar legislation, that openly permitting the bigotry of millions will result in the economic devastation of their states.


Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.sacco@uconn.edu.