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Religious "freedom to discriminate" bills in Georgia:

Part 5 of ten parts

Webmaster's comments (Continued).
The Legislature passes bill HB 757.

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In this web site, the acronym "LGBT" refers to the
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual community.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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U.S. map with Georgia highlighted 2016-MAR: Webmaster's comments (Continued):

One method of resolving the conflict is to study what various religions and secular world views have to say on this topic. The core problem is how one person should treat another. It turns out that all major religious groups in the world and many secular worldviews promote handling this type of inter-personal conflict through various versions of the Golden Rule: teaching a person to treat others as the person would wish to be treated in return by others.

Since most or all of the conflict observed throughout the U.S. appear to have involved conservative Protestant store owners, Golden Rule statements attributed to Jesus might be helpful:

  • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.

  • "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

  • "...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that were widely circulated among the early Christian movement, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).

On the other hand, NOTAs -- persons NOT Affiliated with a religious group -- might be more convinced by a secular argument. Society is destablilized when a store denies service and goods to potential customers -- whether it be a baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple's marriage, or a restaurant owner assigning a black person a table in a back room.

Finally, one might argue from history, that religious freedom has traditionally referred to freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, freedom to change one's religion, freedom to proselytize, etc. It has not necessarily involved freedom of action that is inspired by religious belief.

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2016-MAR-16: The House rewrote and passed HB 757:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper published a full version of the House's rewrite of HB 757. The article stated that:

"Gov. Nathan Deal, who said he would not sign legislation that legalizes discrimination, was tightlipped about this update. His office said:

'... he has been clear on the issue and will review the legislation in April during bill review'.' 1

Bill HB 757 would amend:

  • "Chapter 3, Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to marriage generally ..." so that:
    • "... religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies, perform rites, or administer sacraments in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion."

    • no individual shall be required to attend any religious ritual, the solemnization of a marriage, etc.

If the government intrudes on these freedoms, the individual whose religious freedom is restricted would be able to take the government to court.

Webmaster's comment: These are a totally meaningless amendments because such freedoms are already guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That has far more weight than a chapter in Georgia's Official Code. Clergy have been guaranteed the right to discriminate against couples for any reason: the may be judged too immature, of the wrong race, of mixed races, of the wrong denomination, of different religions, of the wrong sexual orientation, of the wrong gender identity, of the same sex, and any number of other criteria. To our knowledge no religious official has ever been charged for refusing to marry a couple for any reason. Individuals have been sueing their state and federal governments for centuries whenever their religious freedom have been infringed upon. This amendment is redundent.

  • Chapter 1 of Title 10 of the Official Code to allow businesses and industries to close on Saturdays and/or Sundays as a day of rest. The Jewish faith, the Seventh Day Adventists, and some other Christian denominations follow the Biblical requirement to observe Saturday as the day of rest. Other Christian denominations observe Sunday as a day of rest. Muslims observe Fridays, but would be discriminated against by this amendment. Wiccans and many other Neopagans celebrate eight Sabbats yearly, which can occur on any day of the week. They would also be discriminated against.

This amendment would also require businesses and industries to make "all reasonable accommodation" for those employees whose religious day of rest falls on a date when the company is open.

It defines: "faith-based organizations" to include non-profits that are: "a church, a religious school, an association of convention of churches, a convention mission agency or an integrated auxiliary of a church of conventin or association of churches. It is unclear how non-Christian houses of worship fit into this classification.

Faith based organizations are free to discriminate, on sincere religious grounds, against anyone who wishes to rent, lease, or use the organization's property for an event, like a wedding, or any other gathering. Such organizations are also free to discriminate on sincere religious grounds in the provision of any "social, educational or charitable services."

Presumably, this amendment would apply to the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. "Whether it would apply to a Muslim mosque, a Wiccan or other Neopagan circle, a Jewish synagogue, a Hindu temple, a Sikh gurdwara, etc. is unclear.

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  • Chapter 1 of Title 34 to allow faith based organizations to discriminate in hiring or not retaining employees on religious grounds whose "religious beliefs, or practices, or lack of either are not in accord with the faith based organizaton's sincerely held religions beliefs."

    Further amendments protect faith based organization from any government penalites because of the group's discriminatory practices.

  • Title 50 of the Official Code is also amended to prohibit the government from burdening (i.e. restricting) a person's actions which are based on their sincere religous beliefs. This is probably the key phrase in all the amendments because it would presumably allow any person, store owner, etc. to discriminate, on the basis of their sincere religious beliefs, against potential customers of the "wrong" color, the "wrong race," the "wrong" sexual orientation. the "wrong religion," the "wrong" gender identity, the "wrong" sex, the "wrong" eye color, etc., no matter how the discriminating person defines "wrong."

    It seems obvious that this amendment would nullify any existing city non-discrimination/human rights ordinance written to protect groups against discrimination. But, ultimately, this would have to be determined through the courts.

    The government can restrict these forms of discrimination only to further "a compelling governmental interest" and then only if it is the "least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest."1

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Greg Bluestein & Jim Galloway, "Your copy of tonight’s rewrite of HB 757, the ‘religious liberty’ bill," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2016-MAR-16, at:
  2. "Georgia legislature passes controversial religious freedom bill," Jurist/University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 2016-MAR-18, at:

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Copyright 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2016-MAR-14
Latest update: 2016-MAR-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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