In the first of three televised debates of the primary campaign for North Carolina's Senate seat, all four candidates could agree on one thing: Climate change is a myth. Or, more colorfully put by candidate Mark Harris, "God controls the climate."
Harris was in fact the only candidate to elaborate; Tea Party member Greg Brannon, state house Speaker Thom Tillis, and nurse practitioner Heather Grant simply chuckled when the moderator of the April 22 debate asked if climate change was a fact before replying "no."
News gatherers said Tillis won the "surprisingly staid" debate by default after Brannon and Harris chose not to actively engage their opponents.
For Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, climate-change denial is one facet of a far-right platform that began drawing local ire in 2006. Harris chaired the committee that crafted the convention's policy to sever ties with Baptist churches that "knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior," a decision that jettisoned Charlotte's Myers Park Baptist Church from the organization.
Stephen Shoemaker, senior minister at Myers Park Baptist at the time of its excommunication, wrote in response to the policy, "Our nation needs impassioned moral discourse that serves to knit together the social fabric, rather than tearing it."
At least for Tuesday's debate, stifled giggles, it seems, will have to pass for discourse.