RALEIGH – A new bill supported by influential N.C. senators would protect the confidentiality of donors to nonprofit organizations and charities.

Senate Bill 636 would prevent the disclosure of the names of people giving money or property to nonprofit corporations, making their identities confidential. The bill would also prohibit legislators and government workers from disclosing confidential information they come across in the course of their work.

Primary sponsors of the bill are Sens. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, Norm Sanderson, R-Craven, and Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan. Democratic Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, is a co-sponsor.

No federal laws require public disclosure of donors to charitable organizations. However, state laws can require nonprofits to disclose donor names.

States such as California and New York and some advocacy groups have pushed policies that would require nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors. U.S. Rep. David Price, D-4th District, introduced a bill to require all U.S. nonprofits to disclose donor names in 2018, though it did not become law.

This information can be used to threaten, harass, boycott or otherwise “cancel” people who have contributed to organizations that support views outside of what the establishment approves. The U.S. Supreme Court has warned that such laws chill free speech.

“Laws and administrative orders that impose donor disclosure requirements on nonprofit organizations make people afraid to exercise their expressive rights, which is why the fight for donor privacy is so important,” wrote Jon Guze, senior fellow for legal studies at the John Locke Foundation, in a research paper arguing for the adoption of donor protection law in North Carolina.

“Donor privacy protects our expressive rights, especially with regard to matters of public policy.”

West Virginia and Mississippi have passed laws to protect donor privacy. Arkansas, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming are considering similar laws this session.

North Carolina’s bill now sits in a Senate committee.

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