March 17, 2016

Religious liberty bill passes Georgia legislature

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Georgia's Republican Governor Nathan Deal must decide whether to sign a controversial religious freedom bill into law. In this photo, he is spoke during an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service in Atlanta, Georgia, January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell.

Georgia's Republican Governor Nathan Deal must decide whether to sign a controversial religious freedom bill into law. In this photo, he is spoke during an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service in Atlanta, Georgia, January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell.

ATLANTA — A religious freedom bill described by opponents as being discriminatory against same-sex couples passed the Georgia Legislature on Wednesday night in an 11th-hour vote ahead of the session’s close.

The legislation, dubbed the Religious Liberty Bill, still has to be signed by Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal to become law. Deal has made clear that he will not sign a bill that allows discrimination, but his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.

Similar bills in states like Indiana and Arkansas sparked storms of criticism last year, forcing many lawmakers to retreat from the provisions.


RELATED STORY: President Obama: Religious freedom keeps us strong (RNS EXCLUSIVE – COMMENTARY)


The Georgia bill, reworked several times by lawmakers amid criticism that earlier versions went too far, declares that no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding.

The bill also grants faith-based organizations — churches, religious schools or associations — the right to reject holding events for people or groups of whom they object. Faith-based groups also could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose beliefs run counter to the organization’s.

Opponents say the bill could be used to deny services and discriminate against same-sex couples.

“The decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse,” the Human Rights Campaign, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, said in a statement.

“It’s appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia,” it said.

Mike Griffin, a lobbyist and spokesman for the Georgia Baptist Convention, applauded the bill’s passage. He said that while the bill did not give everything the GBC wanted, “we feel we’ve advanced our protection of our First Amendment Right to religious freedom.”

“Our rights of religious liberty don’t end inside the four walls of a church,” he said.

In a late added amendment, the proposed law says that it cannot allow discrimination already prohibited by federal law, which opponents said could nullify some of its provisions.

More than 300 large corporations and small businesses, including Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, have signed a pledge decrying the Georgia legislation and urging the state lawmakers to drop it.

The Legislature is set to wrap up its current legislative session on Friday.

(Reporting by Rich McKay)


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  • John Stefanyszyn

    The ‘Religious Liberty’ that is desired by these people for their churches, i.e. Christian churches, is the SAME FREEDOM that dictates it right, a right/power, for each to worship any god. What did the One Creator say about worshipping other gods? Whom did His Son, the Lord Jesus, say to only worship and serve?
    Man sees this FREEDOM, which also worshipped by those advocating gay marriage, as a light of righteousness but, as you can see, it speaks the spirit of the dragon…to serve & magnify oneself.

  • Jerry N. Wesner

    Your religion tells you how you should behave. It does not, however, tell you how you should force others to behave. The only “soul” you’re responsible for is your own. So making others follow your rules, which they may or may not believe, is bullying.

  • yoh

    The intent of the law was entirely loathsome. Either to blatantly discriminate using religion as an excuse or to give the impression of appeasing those who would seek that with a pointless piece of legislation without real power.

    Religious freedom had nothing to do with this law. BTW John, religious freedom applies to all faiths, not just yours. This law was meant to make Christians above notions of rule of law.

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  • Ben in oakland

    Personally, I would rather worship freedom than a genocidal God who condemns 2/3 of the world to eternal torture because in his omnipotence and omniscience, he failed to get his personal salvation memo to them.

    Your religion is just that: your religion. That’s what FREEDOM OF RELIGION means. Worship whatever and however you please. I don’t care. Just because you believe Jesus is the son of God, doesn’t mean I have to. And thank the God I Don’t believe in for that.

    Your belief is your spirit of the dragon. I’m sick to death of religionists insisting that their personal bogeymen must be mine as well.

  • G Key

    Georgia’s new law is self-exalted prejudice at its most harmful, to societal principles of privacy & respect and Christian ideals of humility & decency.

    Consider the words & actions of Kim Davis, Antonin Scalia, & Ted Cruz, and the stated goals of today’s Republican Party. Consider how these public officials and their party proclaim & enforce their strictly(!) personal religious belief that U.S. citizens’ legal rights should be determined by their private bedroom activities.

    As for Mike Griffin’s “we feel we’ve advanced our protection of our First Amendment Right to religious freedom”, I refer him to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-boeskool/when-youre-accustomed-to-privilege_b_9460662

    As for his “Our rights of religious liberty don’t end inside the four walls of a church”, I remind him that the streets are neither his nor one-way.

    Dwelling on the sex lives of strangers is perverted, and subordinating their “protection” & “liberty” is perverse.

  • Creg

    So you’re saying it’s wrong that people have the freedom not to obey you and your religion?

  • Pablito

    Christians work awfully hard to behave in un-Christ-like ways. Jesus taught love, tolerance, humility, respect and dignity … and time and time again, we see Christians fighting for their right to exclude, to judge, to hold themselves above others around them — all in the name of their religion.

    What’s up with that, Christians? Shouldn’t you be more concerned about being vessel’s of Christ’s all-abiding love? Why is it so important for you to legalize discrimination of others who are different?

  • Jeff

    Well said Pablito.

  • Greg Kent

    …and Santa Claus said to the tooth fairy…Try living in reality pal.

  • Stephen Zurawsky

    I’m going to start a religion, the central tenant of which will command all followers to kick your deluded ass. Sounds fair by your logic. When will people stop using their imaginary friends as grounds for discrimination, and just torture themselves with their foolish, nonsensical beliefs?

  • Brien Doyle

    First, this is a law concerning religion. Read the 1st Amendment – ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,…”
    Second, it allows discrimination based on arbitrary bigotry of religious beliefs.

  • Re: “What did the One Creator say about worshipping other gods? Whom did His Son, the Lord Jesus, say to only worship and serve?”

    As soon as one of them deigns to come down and tell me, I’ll let you know. So far, neither has found the courage to do so. Until that happens, I won’t be afraid of you or your deity and will never kowtow to you or him/her/it. Ever.

  • Tommy

    When the economic impact is realized, this proposed legislation will be like ashes in the wind. That’s what it takes to make religious people buckle…take away their means of making a buck and you’ve got their full attention.

  • I’m part of a small team of concerned Atlanta citizens. In response to the HB 757 passing, we’ve started a fake printing company here in Georgia, and we’re “selling” fake discrimination signs to businesses. Visit the site and help put pressure on the governor to veto! http://4AgraphicsofGeorgia.com

  • Thomas Frank

    Women should not be denied the right to drive a car or to wear the clothing they want to wear if a person in a position to grant or deny these rights is a Muslim or a Shia or a Sunni Islam. This will create many problems;

    not to mention a so called Christian deninying a women the right to make choices about her body.

  • Max Fenster

    Perhaps they could strike down Obamacare two or three dozen times as well. Theater for the idiot voters.

  • Mark Malone

    “Faith-based groups also could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose beliefs run counter to the organization’s.”

    That violated FEDERAL law that says a person’s religious views can not be a determining factor of employment.

    So guess what. This bill is null and void.

  • Mark Malone

    “Our rights of religious liberty don’t end inside the four walls of a church,” he said.

    You are correct, your religious liberty also extends to your own home. Other then that, keep your religious garbage to yourself.

  • DougH

    I somewhat agree (I have no problem with religious mandates against theft and murder), which is why I support respecting business owners’ right to exercise their religion in how they run their businesses.

  • DougH

    Constitutional rights, by definition, protect the right of people to act in ways you don’t approve of.

  • yoh

    That is a rather dishonest analogy. Murder and theft are not illegal because your religion says so, but because doing so is necessary for social order.

    Same can’t be said about discrimination and using religion to justify it. Business owners religious or not are not entitled to discriminate against the public when they engage in open commerce. They certainly do not require protection under color of law to harm the public in such a malicious manner.

  • yoh

    But not in a way to deliberately and maliciously harm them. This is why there is no excuse for discriminatory conduct in open commerce. Just like free speech does not cover libel, slander or fraud.

  • David malone

    So you saying a church that believes Christ is lied and saviour has a right to discriminate on it gets..Christ preached forgiveness and no to judge others that’s not the church’s or faith bade organizations job it is to preach abd teach God not to bully or disenfranchise anyone they hate Jesus talk to prostitutes and lepers and others who sin..he never turned his back or ran them off.. so think if that when u hear of these false excuse laws to allow discrimination and hate…

  • CarrotCakeMan

    This isn’t the first time DougH has sought to demean, demonize and dehumanize LGBT Americans by comparing them to “theft and murder.” The fact those crimes are against the law is because there is a clear victim, not because of some religion. Hammurabi wrote laws that forbade those misdeeds before the Bible was written. The laws that forbid businesses to deny services based on sexual orientation have been upheld by the US Supreme Court many times.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    That’s correct, yoh, and it is not the first time anti-gays have demanded a special right to ignore the US Constitution or other laws.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    NO, DougH, “freedom of religion” does not mean anti-gays are above the law.

  • Chris

    Yep! Because if everyone agreed on these issues, there would be no need for constitutional protection.

  • yoh

    Georgia’s “religious liberty law” stirs backlash from business
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/georgias-religious-liberty-law-stirs-backlash-from-business/
    “Large corporations ranging from Microsoft to Atlanta-based Coca-Cola are urging the state to abandon the bill, while Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is speaking out against the proposed law and how it might impact his company’s investment in the state. Benioff, by the way, has experience in fighting against “religious freedom” bills, given that he was an outspoken critic of Indiana’s similar legislation, which was passed last year.”

    The NFL May Withhold Super Bowl from Atlanta Unless Governor Vetoes “Religious Liberty” Bill
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/03/18/the-nfl-may-withhold-super-bowl-from-atlanta-unless-governor-vetoes-religious-liberty-bill/

  • neusys

    Yes! Jindal wanted to abolish SCOTUS, while Huckabee said impeach the justices. That’s tantamount to treason and so un-American. Cruz, Huckabee, and Rubio advocate a theocracy. Google it, and you’l find many an article. Those same people attended a convention, hosted by a radical extremist, Kevin Johnson, who advocates executing all gays. This, then, begs the question why would presidential candidate associate themselves with that kind of ideology and mentality. That, too, is on Google and Youtube. Worse, the mainstream news media failed to disclose this — only Rachel Maddow. This so-called ‘gay agenda’ — A shared form of delusional psychosis, in which predominantly Right Wing Christians believe that The Gays have formed a secret, evil cabal to take over the world and make everybody gay. But pushing commercials, all social media, tv, movies, books is okay for all the adultery and immodesty to the max as their children are giving hand jobs, blow jobs, and anal sex.

  • Ben Baldassano

    DISCRIMINATION….is STILL DISCRIMINATION disguised as ‘Religious Liberty’….Oh yeah Jesus would certainly approve! By the way…..when is Kim Davis’ next Wedding?

  • Billysees

    Pablito,
    ” …and time and time again, we see Christians fighting for their right to exclude, to judge, to hold themselves above others around them — all in the name of their religion. ”

    Probably better to say — …we see conservative fundamentalist Christians fighting… Those types of Christians hang on to certain scripture verses that encourage their attitudes.

    But I and many others hang on dearly to these certain scripture verses that encourage possessing far far better attitudes —

    1. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God……Romans 15:7

    2. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love……Ephesians 4:2

    3. Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble……1 Peter 3:8

  • Jon Snow

    So it’s OK to force a pastor to perform a ceremony that he believes to be against God’s will, but not OK to expect a gay couple to find pastor that will. This is not a race issue fools, you don’t get special treatment because of your sexual proclivities. Sign it Nathan!

  • Jon Snow

    You speak of Christ as if you know of him, but don’t believe in him. Be careful when you use his name, he is not mocked. “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

  • roseanne radgowski

    There is an exception in federal law that protects the rights of churches to hire only employees that agree with their beliefs. Section 703(e)(2) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(e)(2) provides:

    it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for a school, college, university, or educational institution or institution of learning to hire and employ employees of a particular religion if such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is, in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society, or if the curriculum of such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.

  • James

    It is amazing reading these comments. Why would those who hate the church and Christians want someone from that faith to marry them? If a Pastor or Priest does not agree with the beliefs of a same sex marriage then your saying that person is a bigot and terrible. Question is why would you want a terrible bigot marrying you? This is not discrimination and it if so it is discrimination to force someone to do what they oppose. It goes both ways. This is our Constitutional Right to freedom of Religion. If a new fad comes along to eat dogs then would it be discriminatory for a restaurant to not serve dog? Yes in the eyes of those opposing this bill anything that they don’t like is either racist or discriminatory. I believe that all Christians should ban all companies and business that oppose this bill!

  • WyoGirl44

    I can’t find a source that fully explains this bill, anyone know of one? As a Christian I’m not happy to see anything passed that would be harmful to others, or would encourage hatred or discrimination. We are told to love one another – it’s one of our fundimental commandments. However I do agree with one thing- that pastors shouldn’t be forced to preform religious ceremonies that do not align with their faith. I don’t say that in a hateful way, I would not stand against someone’s right to get married if they want to, but making a pastor perfrom a ceremony that is in conflict with their faith would kind of be like forcing your vegan friend to cook your steak for you. I know that sounds silly but think about it: it’s your right to eat and enjoy meat. It’s their right to abstain from meat. Why should they be forced to host a BBQ? Shouldn’t you just find someone else to do it? Same goes with religious ceremonies. It’s not descrimination, it’s freedom to practice and adhere to…