Faith leaders: Comparing HB2 with Civil Rights Movement 'offensive'

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Black pastors angrily say comparing HB2 issue to civil rights struggle is offensive.

A group of African American pastors and faith leaders is taking aim at the Attorney General over comments she made about transgender rights.

The criticism centers on the directive issued by the Obama administration to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.

Community leaders representing the North Carolina Values Coalition held a news conference at the state capital Tuesday to discuss Attorney General Loretta Lynch's comparison of transgender bathroom rights to the Civil Rights Movement - a comparison they called "offensive and false".

"The language of 'civil rights' shouldn't be hijacked to give privileges to the politically vocal while taking away freedoms from people disfavored by government. The Administration is threatening people of diverse backgrounds-if they do not promote ideas and participate in events that align with their extremist agenda, they will pull opportunity, funding, and the right to privacy," said Bishop Dr. Patrick Wooden, Senior Pastor and Bishop, Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh.

"HB2 is right, is right all day. It's the President that is wrong," said Jimmy H. Bention Sr., pastor of Metrolina Christian Center Church Of God In Christ in Monroe. "The liberties that we pursued, are liberties that we all should enjoy. And 98 percent of the people should not have to bow down or curt down to something that less than one percent of the nation declares is a right of theirs."

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Pastors say comparing the law to the Civil Rights Movement is offensive.

The Justice Department is on a mission to get rid of the controversial law.

Lynch has compared HB2 to Jim Crow Laws, which mandated racial segregation.

"For the Attorney General to equate the struggle ... is embarrassing, it's wrong, and I'm quite disappointed," Wooden said.


"This comparison is highly offensive and utterly disrespectful to those families and individuals who have shed blood and lost lives to advance the cause of civil rights," said Clarence Henderson, a civil rights leader who participated in the Woolworth Sit-In in Greensboro in 1960.

Henderson's opinion isn't unanimous among civil rights activists. The North Carolina NAACP has been vocal in its opposition to House Bill 2.

"It's a hate bill full of racist and class-based and homophobic legislation," said NC NAACP President the Rev. William Barber at a news conference in April.

Under House Bill 2, transgender people must use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth certificates, not their gender identity. The law was designed to block a Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance, part of which allowed transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with. The law also excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from anti-discrimination protections and blocks municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination and living wage rules.

Watch: Loretta Lynch claims civil rights laws do apply
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Lynch said Tuesday civil rights laws do apply

North Carolina and the Justice Department are battling the issue in opposing lawsuits. The federal government is seeking a court order to ban the enforcement.

When announcing the federal government's lawsuit, Attorney General Lynch, a Durham native, said HB2 is in opposition to federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity.

Read all ABC11 stories about HB2 here

"This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation," she said in part. "We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education."

Taking questions during an unrelated event in Fayetteville Tuesday, Attorney General Lynch said she respects the pastor's opinions, but disagrees.

"While the Civil Rights Movement, certainly in this state focused on racial discrimination, civil rights and human rights are not limited to any one particular issue or even one particular group of people. Where there are people who feel victimized and are indeed victimized and made to feel vulnerable simply because of a physical characteristic over which they have no control - that is exactly what the civil rights laws are meant to cover," said Lynch.

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