Religious "freedom to discriminate" bills in Georgia:
Part 9 of ten parts
2016-MAR-20 to 28: Discussions about
for discrimination in Bill
HB 757: "Free
Exercise Protection Act."
Governor Nathan Deal (R) vetoes
House Speaker Ralston reacts to veto.
In this web site, the acronym "LGBT" refers to the
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual community.
Week of 2016-MAR-20: Webmaster's note [bias alert]:
Sincere Republican and Democratic politicians, business leaders, religious leaders, the LGBT community, and others interpret HB 757 very differently:
- Many conservatives seem to look at the bill and see no possibility that it can be used to discriminate against anybody. It is a bill that deals only with preserving religious freedom.
- Religious liberals, secularists, the LGBT community, many businesses, etc. look at the bill and see the extensive enabling of discrimination directed at the LGBT community, potentially with the power to also facilitate discrimination against other groups.
What we have is:
- Lots of politicians, religious leaders, political leaders, sexual minorities, and others making opposing statements about their interpretation of the bill.
- Some actual debate between or among people about the bill.
- As far as I can see, there has been no genuine dialogue to resolve the differences. Dialogue commences when two or more people meet, suppress their overwhelming desire to change other people's beliefs, and sincerely try to understand reality, the truth, the other side's beliefs, the reasons why the other side thinks as they do, and seeking agreement. Unfortunately, dialogue is the only mechanism by which conflicts like this can be settled. Yet it is rarely used during political or religious conflicts.
2016-MAR-25 & 27: Prayer events in Atlanta, GA at Easter time:
Pastor Chika Onuzo of Resurrection House for All Nations organized prayer events at the Capitol on Easter Friday and at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta on Easter Sunday. The latter involving congregations from seven churches. On Sunday, he prayed that Governor Deal:
"... will sign the bill or leave it alone so it becomes law. As we make all this progress and we're accommodating everybody, we must maintain the foundation. That's all we're saying. ... You can go to courts to get married, but you can't use your own rights to subvert the right of a man of God to practice his faith according to the word of God." 1
Pastor Onuzo is apparently unaware that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already gives absolute protection to any pastor, minister, priest, imam, etc. who wants to refuse to marry any couple for any reason.
2016-MAR-28: Governor Deal vetoes bill HB 757!:
In what must have been a very difficult personal decision, Governor Nathan Deal (R) decided to reject the wishes of the Republican majority in both Houses of the Georgia Legislature by vetoing HB 757. The bill would have allowed Georgia churches, adoption agencies, and similar groups to discriminate against the LGBT community -- and other individuals or groups -- on religious grounds. It probably would have terminated existing human rights ordinances in Georgia cities leaving minorities vulnerable wide open to discrimination by others. The vast majority of Republican state senators and representatives had earlier voted to pass the bill. Democrats opposed the bill, but were badly outvoted.
Gov. Deal revealed his decision on MAR-28. Greg Bluestein, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said:
"In a press conference at the state Capitol, Deal said House Bill 757 doesn’t reflect Georgia’s welcoming image as a state full of 'warm, friendly and loving people' -- and warned critics that he doesn’t respond well to threats of payback for rejecting the measure.
'Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason, I will veto HB 757.' ..."
"The legislation, would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to those who violate their 'sincerely held religious belief' and preserve their right to fire employees who aren’t in accord with those beliefs."
The legislation would also allow faith groups to discriminate in hiring potential employees whose religious beliefs did not match those of the employer. If, as expected, the bill would have terminated all existing human rights ordinances in Georgian cities, then public accommodations -- typically retail outlets who provide goods and services to the general public -- would be able to refuse customers on religious grounds.
His veto disappointed religious conservatives in Georgia who considered the bill this session's highest priority. State Senator Josh McKoon (R) said:
Governor Deal said:
"I’m extremely disappointed. This bill had been significantly watered down. It did not apply to businesses. I’m just very, very disappointed the governor would veto this modest protection for people of faith."
"I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs. But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that. And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for. ... I know that there are a lot of Georgians who feel like this is a necessary step for us to take. I would hope that in the process of these last few days, we can keep in mind the concerns of the faith-based community, which I believe can be protected without setting up the situation where we could be accused of allowing or encouraging discrimination."
Although he is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and took religious courses while at university, he expressed personal beliefs that sounded more like those of liberal Christians and secularists. He said:
"What the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world … We do not have a belief -- in my way of looking at religion -- that says we have to discriminate against anybody. If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit."
He based his comment on a passage in John 4 where Jesus is recorded as talking with the Samaritan woman at the well -- a person who was considered an outcast in her community because of her past and continuing sexual behavior. Governor Deal continued:
"What that says is we have a belief in forgiveness and that we do not have to discriminate unduly against anyone on the basis of our own religious beliefs. We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route." 2,3
In essence, he was referring to the Golden Rule which Jesus commanded his followers to obey. He required each Christian to do onto others as she or he would wish others would do in return.
A transcript of Governor Deal's speech is available online. 4
Shortly after Governor Deal's veto, a spokesperson for House Speaker David Ralston (R) said:
"Speaker Ralston appreciates and shares Governor Deal’s sincere commitment to protecting religious liberties while ensuring that Georgia continues to welcome everyone with genuine southern hospitality. Productive conversations continue with the Governor’s staff as well as other members of House leadership regarding HB 757 and the Speaker is confident that we can find a way to move forward together." 3
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Claire Simms, "Pastor urges signing of religious freedom bill at Easter service," Fox5-TV, 2016-MAR-27, at: http://www.fox5atlanta.com/
- Greg Bluestein, "BREAKING: Nathan Deal vetoes Georgia’s ‘religious liberty’ bill," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2016-MAR-28, at: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/
- Greg Bluestein, "Nathan Deal makes a forceful, biblical case against Georgia’s ‘religious liberty’ bill," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2016-MAR-28, at: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/
- Greg Bluestein, "Nathan Deal: Religious liberty bill threatened Georgia’s '‘warm, friendly and loving' image," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2016-MAR-28, at: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2016-MAR-22
Latest update: 2016-MAR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson