Governor Deal Vetoes Religious Liberty Bill

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal killed HB 757, which aimed to provide protections to religious leaders and further aid faith-based organizations.

Ethan Zakrewski, News Editor

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The Peach state became the focus of national attention on Monday when its Governor vetoed House Bill 757.

What was it?

The bill originated in Georgia’s House of Representatives and was named the “Free Exercise Protection Act.” The bill aimed to protect religious leaders, religious employees of a company, and faith-based organizations from violating their religious conscience.  

To religious leaders, the Free Exercise Protection Act promised the right to refuse their service at any marriage ceremony that they felt was in contrast with their religious beliefs, including those of same-sex couples.

To the average working citizen, the Free Exercise Protection Act promised to ensure employers made “all reasonable accommodations to the religious, social, and physical needs” of employees that are scheduled by their employers to work on days of rest (Saturday and Sunday).

To faith-based organizations, the Free Exercise Protection Act promised that there would be no requirement to “rent, lease, or otherwise grant permission for property to be used by another person for an event which is objectionable to such faith-based organization.” The bill also intended to impose the idea that “No faith-based organization shall be required to provide social, educational, or charitable services that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief  as demonstrated by its practice, expression, or clearly articulated tenet of faith.”

In short, HB 757 was created with the intention of protecting religious leaders from being required to perform marriage ceremonies that were in contrast to their religious beliefs and allowing faith-based organizations to not be required to provide services that violate their religious beliefs.

Why was this bill national news?

In short, corporations.

A multitude of corporations, including Atlanta-based companies Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and the Home Depot spoke out against the bill. In addition, the National Football League threatened to remove Atlanta from consideration in the process to determine the host of future Super Bowls.

However, many of the corporations that spoke out against the bill often made the bill to be a much larger issue than originally thought. Chris Gardner, AP Government and Macroeconomics teacher, stated “Many corporations made the bill into a much larger piece of legislation than it really was. At the end of the day, it protected religious, such as preachers and priests, and it protected religious organizations such as churches and church-based charities.”

Gardner also pointed out that some of the corporations that spoke out against the legislation have had questionable records with human rights issues. “Many of those corporations do business in countries that specifically outlaw homosexuality completely,” Gardner stated, “To me, the NFL was interesting because the NFL is talking about shifting games to China which has one of the worst human rights records in the world.”

Where’s the issue?

In short, some view the protections proposed by this bill would have paved the way for discrimination throughout the state.

Brett Blair, founder of the blog JuniorDemocrats.org, stated “As a priest, you have the right to believe that the LGBT community isn’t okay, but restricting their rights [to be married] impedes on their First Amendment rights. You can go about expressing your religious beliefs without impeding the beliefs of others.” However, the argument for the bill suggests that the ability to refuse to perform a wedding ceremony with a same-sex couple is, indeed, an act of using one’s First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion.

 

Both Governor Deal and House Speaker David Ralston’s offices were contacted but were unavailable for comment.

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