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Statewide Membership Meeting
Because Freedom Can't Protect Itself: A Look Back at 50 Years of the ACLU of North Carolina
Date: Sunday, June 7
Location: Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte

 

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A federal court today ruled that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners violated the Constitution when they coerced public participation in prayers that overwhelmingly advanced beliefs specific to one religion. Between 2007 and 2013, more than 97 percent of the prayers delivered by commissioners before public meetings were specific to one religion, Christianity.

“When Plaintiffs wish to advocate for local issues in front of the Board, they should not be faced with the choice between staying seated and unobservant, or acquiescing to the prayer practice of the Board,” wrote U.S. District Judge James Beaty of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. “[…]The Board’s practice fails to be nondiscriminatory, entangles government with religion, and over time, establishes a pattern of prayers that tends to advance the Christian faith of the elected Commissioners at the expense of any religious affiliation unrepresented by the majority.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation and national ACLU Program on the Freedom of Religion and Belief filed a lawsuit challenging the Commissioners’ coercive prayer practice in March 2013 on behalf of Rowan County residents Nan Lund, Robert Voelker, and Liesa Montag-Siegel. In June 2013, the court preliminarily enjoined the County Commissioners from opening their meetings with coercive, sectarian prayer. In his ruling today, Beaty made that injunction permanent, prohibiting the Commissioners from returning to their former practice of opening their meetings with a request that the public join them in prayers that advanced one faith.

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RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today voted to triple the state’s mandatory waiting period for women seeking abortion care to 72 hours. House Bill 465 now goes to the Senate. If the bill becomes law, North Carolina would become the fourth state in the nation – along with Missouri, South Dakota, and Utah – to require a waiting period of 72 hours.

“Instead of respecting a woman’s private medical decisions, this shameful bill is based on the condescending notion that a woman can’t or won’t take the time she needs to consult with her doctor and make the best decision for her own circumstances,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “In medical situations, there is never a one-size-fits-all solution. The government has no business interfering in health care decisions made by a woman and her doctor and making what can be a difficult situation even more challenging.”

Studies have shown that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available. According to a 2014 report from the Guttmacher Institute, less than 0.05% of abortions result in complications requiring hospital care.

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RALEIGH and CHARLOTTE - The ACLU of North Carolina joined Equality NC, the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, business owners, and faith leaders in Raleigh and Charlotte today to deliver more than 10,000 signatures urging Gov. Pat McCrory to veto proposed "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" bills in North Carolina.

The Indiana-style proposals, Senate Bill 550 and House Bill 348, would allow people and businesses to bypass any laws they choose and to discriminate in the name of religious freedom, opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people and others. In recent weeks, major companies such as IBM, American Airlines, and Red Hat have voiced strong opposition to the bills as bad for business. Gov. McCrory has previously said the proposal "makes no sense" and is unnecessary, but has not promised the veto the bills if they are approved by the legislature.

North Carolina's bills go much further than allowing businesses to turn away gay people. They could open the floodgates for a landlord to evict a hardworking single mother, a doctor to deny care to the child of a same-sex couple, or a judge to pardon an abuser instead of protecting a domestic violence survivor – all under the guise of religious freedom.

Don’t let North Carolina make Indiana’s mistake. Legislators know that bills like this are bad for business. And ACLU supporters helped stop similar bills in Nevada, Montana, and Georgia by taking action.

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CHARLOTTE – Levine Museum of the New South is hosting a 10-panel history exhibit, “ACLU of North Carolina: Fifty Years of Protecting Liberty,” that chronicles the American Civil Liberties Union’s work defending civil liberties in North Carolina since the founding of its North Carolina affiliate in 1965.

The exhibit, which recounts the ACLU of North Carolina’s work on eight key civil liberties issues – free speech, voting rights, privacy rights, criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, women’s rights, racial justice, and religious liberty – is on display at Levine Museum of the New South 200 E. 7th Street in Charlotte through July 12

“This exhibit provides the public with an opportunity to learn about the history of civil liberties in our state and the unique role the ACLU of North Carolina has played in many important struggles for individual rights over the last half century,” said Jennifer Rudinger, who has served as executive director of the ACLU-NC since May 2004. “Much has changed in North Carolina over the last fifty years, but the core principle guiding the ACLU-NC has remained the same: If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everyone’s rights are imperiled. Those who see this exhibit will hopefully walk away remembering that freedom can’t protect itself, and that the ACLU of North Carolina, while controversial to some, has spent five decades working on the front lines to protect and advance civil liberties for all North Carolinians.”   

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