The two bills, both titled the N.C. Religious Freedom Restoration Act, were filed last week and would allow any person or organization to cite religious beliefs as a legal defense in court. William Marshall, a UNC law professor, said the bill’s language is very broad.
“It could mean that a company owned by a Baptist could refuse on religious grounds to serve a Methodist,” he said.
Frank Pray, chairman of the UNC College Republicans, said he thinks the bill’s language needs refining but believes that the proposals protect important religious liberties.
“It is a step in the correct direction of ensuring your own property rights, your religious freedom, while also not having the government discriminate against any individuals,” Pray said.
Similar religious freedom laws are already in place in 19 states, he added.
“If you really own your own property, you have the right to use it and to let others use it as you wish,” he said.
Even if a business chose to use the religious belief defense to engage in discriminatory practices, Pray said, studies have shown that these businesses tend to suffer.
Marshall said Indiana has already felt the economic impact of its new law, which was signed on Thursday — Angie’s List, a popular online search site, said it was delaying a planned $40 million expansion in the state.