Is Charlotte Burning?
It is late in the afternoon, and Bill James, an incumbent county commissioner for Mecklenburg County, N.C. is talking my ear off. I'm not opposed to arts, James says over the phone with evident conviction. My kid takes ballet lessons.
In 1997, this fervently Christian local politician from a Charlotte suburb joined four of his fellow conservative commissioners to introduce and approve a piece of sweeping anti-gay legislation. Spurred on by Charlotte Repertory Theatre's productions of Angels in America and Six Degrees of Separation, the group cut to zero the county's annual $2.5 million contribution to the local Arts and Science Council. They also voted in favor of new requirements on county-funded counselors - including those at the local high schools - forcing them to get a parent's written approval before speaking to minors in their charge about issues of sexual orientation. In point of fact, James and his confreres have been involved in what they see as a Holy War. And they have a militia- as he puts it, 50 evangelical preachers and their congregations - to back them up.