Offensive Speech

Bill Defining Antisemitism in North Carolina Signed by Governor

U.S. President Joe Biden campaigns in Raleigh
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper smiles as he attends a U.S. President Joe Biden’s rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, June 28, 2024. (Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz)

By The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday signed legislation that places an official definition of antisemitism into state law, which supporters say could help law enforcement determine whether someone should be charged under current hate crime prohibitions based on race, religion or nationality.

The measure came to Cooper’s desk after the Senate and House approved it in near-unanimous votes last week. The bipartisan backing followed recent heated nationwide campus protests over the Israel-Hamas War and supporters’ concerns that some comments by pro-Palestinian demonstrators had crossed the line into being antisemitic.

The act adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which is outlined as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” It also includes several examples of antisemitism, such as the denial of Jewish people’s right to self-determination and applying double standards to Israel’s actions.

In a statement Monday, Cooper said the now-enacted “SHALOM Act” addresses rising antisemitism.

“While we protect the right to free speech, this legislation helps to make our state a more welcoming, inclusive and safe place for everyone,” the Democratic governor said.

A coalition of civil liberties and multifaith groups opposed the legislation, saying it could stifle protesters’ otherwise free speech, particularly of words critical of Israel. Opponents demonstrated outside the governor’s mansion late last week urging that he veto the bill.

As of Monday afternoon, Cooper still had more than 20 bills on his desk sent to him by the General Assembly before lawmakers wrapped up their primary work session for the year. Cooper has a 10-day window on each bill to sign them into law or veto them. A bill becomes law if he takes no action within 10 days.