We’re all more suspicious of public health guidance than we used to be, but pandemic policy forced me and my goombahs into meeting weekly over a Zoom video feed rather than across coffee shop tables. While there’s no substitute for ordering a macchiato under cafe speakers where Mick Jagger and his bandmates are oozing their way through “Wild Horses,” meeting in real life also got harder to do when men who used to live within a few miles of each other scattered across Wake, Johnston, and Cumberland Counties. 

Now we make do with Zoom video to support communal prayer and bible study. But our meetings are freewheeling, and when those of us who graduated from religious education programs start talking politics, amusing things can happen. For example, Gov. Roy Cooper had caused us to gather up shards of the moral theology we ignored when it was first imparted to us in high school. We’re trying to make sense of the North Carolina governor’s “sins of commission” and “sins of omission.” 

That sounds judgmental, I know. Policy differences between people don’t always warrant moral indignation. But hear me out, unless you’ve got a better way of describing Cooper’s wrongdoings and the good things he’s avoided since being elected to the governorship. As to whether men drop theological terms into casual conversation, that depends on whom you’re talking about. The group I’m part of spent the better part of the pandemic reading the collected wisdom of Saint Francis de Sales, a 16th-century Catholic bishop who made a name for himself in Geneva when that town was as dangerous as Chicago is today. We’re a scruffy but well-catechized bunch with roots in two different countries. 

Unless I’m persuaded differently by the Nigerian-American priest who asks now and then about the “Rosary Boys,” Cooper’s public support for race-based admissions to the University of North Carolina counts as a sin of commission because it offends justice while pretending to advance justice. Cooper talked a handful of current and former Democratic governors into filing an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently pondering lawsuits brought by Asian students who claim that UNC and Harvard discriminate against them. While defending the admissions process at UNC, Cooper’s office noted that “race-conscious admissions help create the next generation of diverse public servants and leaders in state and local governments.” Cooper and his allies also claim that “Race-conscious admissions are an important tool in making public universities more representative.” Interestingly, you can’t diffuse blame for this cynical view by chalking it up to the Cooper administration as a whole, because Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson disagrees with that assertion. So does Winsome Sears, his counterpart in Virginia.

With the honorable exception of a story by A.P. Dillon in The North State Journal, what you didn’t hear from local media is that two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had already debunked most of the arguments made by Cooper and his fellow Democrats. In a legal brief filed two months before Cooper’s, Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow cited evidence showing that race-preferential admissions policies don’t actually promote racial integration on university campuses, and aren’t the result of expert consensus about “pedagogical benefits of a racially diverse class.”

Another thing you didn’t hear was any speculation about how UNC feels about condescending politicians in its corner. If you’ve ponied up tuition or worked all your professional life to be a proud part of the oldest state university in America, what are you supposed to make of your governor telling the Supreme Court that UNC is primarily a pipeline into state jobs? When did UNC’s motto morph from Lux Libertas (“light and liberty”) into Plena Laboris (“full employment”)?

“Careful consideration of race in college admissions is not discrimination and should be allowed to continue,” Cooper argues, sounding like Humpty Dumpty on the meanings of words in “Through the Looking Glass,” but what’s at issue is whether race can legally play a decisive role in college admissions. That’s not “careful consideration” so much as extortion along the lines of “Nice school you have here; Be a shame if something should happen to it.” Asian student groups have rightly observed that appeals to diversity don’t make much sense if you exclude them, as both Harvard University and UNC are alleged to have done.

Blatant support for racial discrimination qualifies as a sin of commission. Perhaps the native hue of Cooper’s resolution is “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,” as Hamlet once put it. History shows that the legal briefs Cooper likes are slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, untethered from “enterprises of great pith and moment.” 

Like partisan Democrats in the Department of Justice, Cooper also has sins of omission staining his ledger. Here’s one: Twenty-two states took legal action to support U.S. Navy SEALs seeking religious exemptions from President Biden’s COVID jab mandate for military personnel. North Carolina is not among those states.

State Attorney General Josh Stein and his boss could have joined the amicus curiae brief filed at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the SEALs. They could have declared North Carolina an ally in the fight for informed consent and religious freedom, helping more people realize the lunacy of requiring COVID jabs for special operators. Twenty-two other governors asked the court to stop deferring to tomfoolery from the Biden Administration, but not Cooper.

Ironically, North Carolina has one of the biggest military footprints in the country. Fort Bragg is the largest post by population in the U.S. Armed Forces and also (as military jargon puts it) “the only Joint Strategic Deployment Platform that provides the National Command Authority the ability to respond to [crisis anywhere in the world] in hours versus days, weeks, or months.”

Navy SEALS and other service members fighting the federal Covid vaccine mandate have support in Congress from Representatives Richard Hudson and Greg Murphy. But Hudson and Murphy are both Republicans, so neither has the ear of our Democrat governor, whose decisions about what to brief and what not to brief usually abet what Shakespeare called “the law’s delay” and “the insolence of office.” When you look at what Cooper has done and what he has failed to do, you too often see not just politics as usual but a sorry record of ideological inflexibility that hurts disfavored people.

Patrick O’Hannigan is a Carolina Journal contributor, a father of two, and a technical writer and editor. He resides in Morrisville, North Carolina.