New Religious Liberty Fighter Emerges in Georgia

Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta (photo credit: Connor.carey via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

On Monday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the Free Exercise Protection Act, House Bill 757, following intense pressure and dishonest rhetoric from corporate bullies and the political left. Disney, Salesforce, and Apple all publicly criticized the bill, and corporate mainstays like Delta and Coca-Cola, through the business coalition Georgia Prospers, condemned the legislation and threatened punitive measures.

Ironically, these same corporations have, to date, expressed no reservations about making money in countries that put LGBT individuals to death.

But ultimately, Governor Deal caved. And Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at American Principles Project, told The Pulse 2016 that she is incredibly disappointed by Governor Deal’s veto:

HB 757 is a reasonable bill that was crafted to address the concerns the Governor had previously expressed, while protecting Georgians of faith from government discrimination. Polling data shows overwhelming support for the bill from across the state. Two-thirds of Georgians support it, and even a majority of Democrats responded that they wanted the Governor to sign it. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers of the Legislature.

But Governor Deal has chosen to disregard the desires of the vast majority of Georgians and their elected representatives. Instead, he is siding with the Hollywood lobby and corporate bullies who want to coerce Georgians into uniformity of belief on issues related to religious exercise. This position violates not only conservative principles, but American principles.

Robbins has been on the attack elsewhere, too. Continue Reading

Will Georgia’s Religious Freedom Fight Affect 2016? (VIDEO)

Frank Cannon is president of the American Principles Project and a respected conservative political strategist with over 30 years of experience.

The repercussions go well beyond the 2016 race. As my colleague Maggie Gallagher has argued in a piece she wrote about a month ago, the crack up in the Republican Party has already happened. What’s been little noticed in this campaign is that Donald Trump is a guy who is the complete opposite of the policy platform of the Chamber of Commerce and of many of the economic conservatives in the Republican Party. He disagrees with them on Common Core; he disagrees with them on religious liberty; and he disagrees with their economic prescriptions and, in fact, presents an issue that they seem totally oblivious of . . .

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Nathan Deal Shows True Colors in Vetoing Religious Liberty Bill

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced this morning that he will veto HB 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act, which was passed by strong majorities of both legislative chambers. Deal has thus shown where he stands when the heat is turned up — and it’s not with Georgians of faith.

The battle to protect religious liberty in Georgia has been waged over three legislative sessions. Throughout that time, Deal refused to lift a finger to help get a bill passed. If a mega-corporation or an LGBT pressure group threatened to punish the state for daring to enact free-exercise protections, Deal scurried into hiding.

Despite his tacit opposition, HB 757 passed this year. The bill — which a new poll shows is supported by two-thirds of Georgians — combines pastor-protection provisions with elements of a First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). (Twenty-one states have RFRAs, and 10 more have RFRA-type protections through judicial decision.) The FADA provisions are less extensive than those in the pending federal FADA and merely protect individuals and faith-based organizations from being coerced into violating their deeply held religious beliefs. For example, they prohibit the government from forcing someone to attend a religious service to which he or she objects.

Although this bill represented a compromise from the stronger bill that passed the Senate, the political and corporate Left went predictably berserk. Companies that rake in profits from countries that execute homosexuals announced that the line must be drawn at U.S. Continue Reading

Why Are International Corporations Threatening Georgia’s Freedom of Religion?

Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Last week, Georgia’s legislature passed House Bill 757, a bill that would protect the right of faith-based groups, including churches and religious schools, to freely exercise their religion without fear of government persecution. The bill now awaits the signature of Governor Nathan Deal.

Soundly rooted in the forgotten First Amendment, House Bill 757 provides critical religious freedom protections for pastors, faith-based organizations, and individuals, preventing them from being forced to perform or participate in wedding ceremonies, or otherwise provide services, that violate their sincerely held religious convictions. The bill also replicates — with respect to state and local governments — the protections that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides against the federal government.

Of course, the idea of religious freedom has drawn the ire of both the political left and corporate America. Disney, Salesforce, and Apple have all publicly criticized the bill, and corporate mainstays like Delta and Coca-Cola, through the business coalition Georgia Prospers, have condemned the legislation and threatened punitive measures. Ironically, these same corporations have expressed no reservations about making money in countries that put homosexuals to death.

America rests on the bedrock understanding that individuals can flourish each day according to the dictates of their conscience. Because of this, the concepts of ‘religious freedom’ and ‘America’ have always been virtually synonymous.

That is no longer the case. Anti-religious bigots, emboldened by corporate America and the political left, are now waging all-out war on religious freedom. Continue Reading

Georgia Chamber of Commerce Aims to Shoot Down Religious Liberty Protections (Again!)

Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia “business leaders” are consulting with their Indiana counterparts to plot strategy for defeating religious liberty protections. This story illustrates both the essential dishonesty of the religious liberty debate and the cravenness of Big Business in America.

During the 2014 legislative session in Georgia, State Sen. Josh McKoon introduced a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) substantively identical to the federal RFRA that has been on the books for 20 years. The Georgia RFRA passed the Senate but hit turbulence in the House, where the legislation was considered during the national uproar over similar, but in some important points different, legislation in Indiana. To no one’s surprise, the Georgia Republican leadership turned tail and fled the controversy, and the bill had to be tabled to await the 2016 session.

As reported by the AJC, the Georgia and Metro Atlanta Chambers of Commerce are gearing up to defeat this protection of religious liberty. Last session, the Chamber (speaking collectively) was distracted by its successful efforts to ram through a massive tax increase, but this session the Chamber will probably re-focus on defeating RFRA. Thus the consultations with the Indiana Chamber to see how they did it.

Which brings us to the dishonesty of the debate. The Left and the media (but we repeat ourselves) have established a narrative that is, as Sen. McKoon puts it, “uninterrupted by the facts.” This narrative insists that the purpose of RFRA is to mistreat gay people, ignoring that the federal RFRA, and the dozens of other state RFRAs, have never been so used in two decades. Continue Reading

Lessons from the Georgia Religious Liberty Fight

Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta (photo credit: Connor.carey via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Last session, the Georgia House refused to pass a state RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act), despite intense pressure from the base, after Coca-Cola and other iconic corporations weighed in against the bill—pitting, in an intense new way, the corporate wing of the GOP against the voter base.  Corporations wanted “anti-discrimination” language attached that would gut the possibility the RFRA would protect the little florists, bakers, print makers, and wedding photographers now being run over and put out of business if they won’t participate in serving gay wedding.

The fight, a window into the soul of the GOP,  spilled over into the Georgia GOP convention, when all 11 Congressional delegations among others voted to support the original language.

However, the bill is still not law, and Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston both side with the let the little guys be punished out of business in the name of avoiding gay equality wrath.

What are the lessons to be learned from the Georgia fight?

  1. This is an issue that can tear apart the Republican Party.  Corporations had best think a bit about how much they like working in Democrat-controlled territory before jumping on board this train.
  2. State RFRAs are bad vehicles for this fight, because they are broad and vague and their outcome is uncertain. It is very unlikely that a state RFRA will protect anyone from any gay equality wrath, precisely because courts uniformly view equality as a compelling interest, and because there is no way to make sure everyone gets treated equally while permitting some people to refuse to serve gay weddings.
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