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Bitter Fight over North Carolina's Bathroom Law Not Slowing Down

04-18-2016
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The fireworks over North Carolina's new bathroom law show no signs of slowing as LGBT opponents are vowing to pressure state lawmakers to repeal the measure.

At a recent press conference in Raleigh, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told reporters "this is not going to slow down. This is not going to go away."

The broader faith community in North Carolina has differing views on what should happen, but many are concerned about how polarized the debate has become.

The debate started earlier this year when the Charlotte City Council passed a bathroom ordinance. It allowed people to use the bathroom of their choice and applied to all government, business, church and faith-organization facilities.

The ordinance was a double whammy for churches and Christian schools. Dr. Mike Ross, pastor of Christ Covenant Church, said he was concerned for his church and its affiliated school.

"This ordinance would have made churches and schools comply with these things and therefore would have made churches and schools do things that they thought were not only unsafe but unethical," he said.

The Republican-controlled state legislature saw the move as over-reach. Last month it overturned the ordinance with the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, also known as H.B. 2.

The new state policy applied to government bathrooms only and mandated that people use the facility that corresponds with their biological sex as found on their birth certificate.

John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, supports the new law.

"This bill is simply about protecting the safety, the privacy and the welfare of women and children and citizens in North Carolina," he told CBN News.

Many in Charlotte's faith community support the law. In addition to the moral question, they believe the original ordinance could have opened the door to predators posing as transgender people.

Dr. Mark Harris is senior pastor at Charlotte's First Baptist Church and a congressional candidate in North Carolina's 9th district. He told CBN News that pastors were very concerned about how the ordinance would have affected public safety.

"It was going to allow individuals to choose a bathroom based on how they felt and just expressing that 'I'm feeling like a woman today' would certainly give a free pass to a man with less than positive motives in mind," he said.

"We don't want anyone to lose jobs, to go without service -- but what we felt like was we needed to maintain standards and the morals of our city," Rev. R.J. Davis, senior pastor at Nations Ford Community Church, said.

Not all believers in North Carolina have the same view of the law however. At Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, many people oppose it.

"There's no correlation that shows an ordinance like that increases predation of children, so I think we need to base our laws not on emotional opinions but on facts," Rev. Russ Dean, co-pastor at Park Road, told CBN News.

In recent years some news reports indicate that predators have posed as transgender to gain access to restrooms and locker rooms but those reports are infrequent.

Mykal Shannon is a transgender man who advocates for transgender people. In his former life as a woman he worked in law enforcement and understands many of the safety concerns.

However, he said the new law will raise other safety issues.

"My presentation as a male positions me to go into the male bathroom," he told CBN News. "But if I have to go into the restroom of my biological gender I have a problem because now I'm in the female restroom with this male presentation."

Shannon can't change the gender on his birth certificate because his birth state doesn't allow it. He worried that the hassles around H.B. 2 will lead to further isolation of transgender people, many of whom have struggled socially for years as they wrestle with their gender identity.

"You end up staying at home where you would normally go out," he said. "You end up maybe not socializing as much. Those kinds of things for a transperson lead to depression."

Pastor Dean hopes Christians on both sides of the debate will moderate what can be offensive language. He and other pastors say the church would do well to reach out to transgender people.

"I'd like to see the church be more compassionate in its approach, more accepting of all people," he said.

Pastor Davis said he's been encouraging his congregation to think about the people involved.

"So beyond just the bathroom, beyond just the non-discrimination, how do we love people for who they are and help them see what God wants them to become?" he asked.

In the midst of a bitter debate it's perhaps something that both sides can agree on.

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