I am a native North Carolinian. I might have waited on you at Darryls on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. We might have taken classes together at N.C. State. Or I might have processed your payroll, opened your bank account or sent you a fundraising letter through my various employments.
We might have bagged food at the shelter, picked up litter on the riverbanks or volunteered at the polls together. I might have taught your children in the public schools or you might know a recipient to the scholarship fund set up for North Carolina teachers in honor of my native Carolinian mother.
We might have been assigned the same project together at UNC-Greensboro while working on advanced degrees or I might have seen you on our familys regular outings to the Bug Fest, Earth Day Celebration, Eno River Festival, First Night, Asheboro Zoo, Manteo Aquarium and the International Festival.
We might even be in the same yoga class or shop in the same local bookstores. Either way, I am your neighbor; we breathe from the same fresh pool of Carolina air.
I give here. I act when needed. I stay informed, and I do not miss elections. When I needed affordable health care, I found it from Planned Parenthood without seeking permission from you. I did not question why I did not have health care or was paid $2.15 hourly, well below a living wage, for nearly five years. I did not think it was unusual that I often had to work two jobs or seek out financial aid for my education or rent houses in less than safe neighborhoods. I was entirely trusting that my government was working on the side of justice and humanity for us all even when I did not agree with the process.
Never once did you require that I worship the same as you to prove my residential value. I was never denied a job, education, volunteer position or a loving relationship based on religion. So why have I spent five out of the past eight days at the legislature peacefully pleading religious amnesty from you? When did you decide that I was not a complete North Carolinian until I worshipped the Lord you spoke of in the chamber?
I agonize over the further economic devastation that will result from our rapid descent to the 10-worst states to live in for families. I shudder at our resemblance to states in our Union with representatives who have vowed to govern from the Old Testament, when the wonder of travel, the expansion of human life and the technological rapture remained the budding dreams of the bold and curious.
I grieve that my state will soon be running over with biblical poverty and sexual, racial and marital discrimination while you introduce legislation that could mandate me to pray alongside you. I mourn for a state where dinosaurs do not roam in school curriculums. I fear for all our children when reproductive health clinics are shut down and sex education is absent. I will be there when you have exhausted your remaining deceptive devices and watch you once again bow your head to your doppelganger and pass the ironically named Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act.
But I will not worship a God who demands I cherry pick Scriptures to teach my children to fear difference, destroy love and dispose of women. I will not pray to wrath and domination.
But you have my attention, as I am sure you have the attention of the loving, generous God so many religious North Carolinians worship. And I am prepared just like Huckleberry Finn was when faced with religious persecution for refusing to return Jim to Christian slave owners because, after all, the Bible made it clear: Slaves obey your earthly masters with respect and fear Ephesians 6:5.
He announced to God and country: All right, then, Ill go to hell.
Leigh Sanders, a former middle school teacher, lives in Raleigh.