Lieutenant Governor Forest Issues Statement of Support for Senate Bill 2
RALEIGH—This past Wednesday, Senator Phil Berger filed legislation to protect public officials’ religious freedoms. Senate Bill 2, Magistrates Recusal of Civil Ceremonies, allows magistrates and register of deeds employees to opt out of performing marriage ceremonies or issuing licenses on grounds of religious objection. Under the provisions of SB 2, individuals who recuse themselves may not officiate in any lawful marriages and may not be criminally charged for recusal.
Lieutenant Governor Forest issued the following statement regarding the proposed legislation:
“Senate Bill 2 will ensure that religious freedoms for North Carolinians are preserved through state law. While the federal court decision in October overstepped the Constitutional balance of power and violated principles of federalism, Senate Bill 2 will establish a reasonable accommodation that protects the sincerely held religious beliefs of our magistrates and assistant and deputy registers of deeds.
Article I, Section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution recognizes that ‘All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.’
Many magistrates resigned upon being notified by the Administrative Office of the Courts that they could be subject to criminal prosecution for failing to perform marriages to which they had a sincerely held religious objection. Senate Bill 2 restores the recognition of the religious rights of these employees and was carefully written to establish safeguards for public officials while also guaranteeing that all eligible couples are able to receive licenses and marry if they so choose.
I applaud Senator Berger for introducing this legislation and I hope to see its passage in the new session.”