It’s been a great couple of years for the state of Georgia. Major corporations like Porsche and Mercedes have moved their corporate headquarters along with thousands of jobs to the state. CNBC ranked Georgia as the “top state for business” in the country. The film and television industry has boomed with some estimates placing Georgia third in production behind California and New York. Over $1.7 billion was spent on film production in Georgia in 2015 alone.
The rapid economic growth the state of Georgia has seen over the past few years seems unstoppable.
Well, according to some, “was” unstoppable before Georgia House Bill 757 was passed.
Oh the horror.
Georgia House Bill 757, commonly known as the Religious Freedom Bill is a law that limits whether the government can be used to punish people of faith. It mirrors the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton and adopted by dozens of states across the country. The federal RFRA law and Georgia House Bill 757 both require government to prove a “compelling government interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion. The Georgia bill only applies to legal action initiated by the state or local governments and ensures that free exercise protections will be applied at the state level in the same manner in which they have been applied at the federal level since 1993.
Seems reasonable, right?
Well not so fast according to many in the world of corporate elites. Major corporations like Disney, Marvel, Apple, Salesforce, AMC Networks and sports teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Braves, Hawks and even the NFL have publically threatened economic repercussions to the state of Georgia if Governor Deal signs HB 757.
Take the Atlanta Falcons for example: They have a new stadium pegged to open in 2017 which makes them one of four finalists for the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl.
Because of this, Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank weighed in.
“I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer. House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia.” – Arthur Blank, Owner, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Braves echoed a similar sentiment:
“The Atlanta Braves organization believes that House Bill 757 is detrimental to our community and bad for Georgia”
Other corporations chimed in as well. Walt Disney Co. and Marvel Studios expressed that they will take their business elsewhere “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”
AMC Networks, which produces the smash hit “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, also issued a statement opposing the legislation.
“As a company, AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible,” a company spokesman said. “We applaud Governor Deal’s leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well.”
Discrimination: the justification of the backlash seems to be focused on the idea that HB 757 legalizes discrimination and that it promotes hate.
But does the bill do any such thing?
After a full reading of the bill, it is clear that the provisions inside the bill only protect individuals from legal action brought on by state or local governments, not from civil litigation. Going even further, in Section 6 the bill includes a clause specifically banning any form of discrimination as currently defined by state or federal law.
(b) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to:
(1) Permit invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law;
So a bill mirroring the federal RFRA bill passed by President Bill Clinton, which also specifically includes an anti-discrimination clause, is now hateful, divisive, and discriminatory?
Governor Nathan Deal said that he would reject any measure that allows discrimination in the state of Georgia. The fate of HB 757 rests solely in his hands.
“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,” he said. “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.” – Governor Nathan Deal
Well guess what? Governor deal got that compromise with HB 757. It protects people of faith from being punished by state and local governments for their closely held religious beliefs while banning any form of discrimination defined by law.
Unfortunately this is not enough. Major corporations like Disney, Apple, Atlanta Braves, NFL and Salesforce will bully you with economic threats until you conform to their worldview. As members of faith, they view your religious freedom as a pesky annoyance that must be eliminated.
Conform or be destroyed.
There is a new religion sweeping across the United States. This new religion will be imposed on all institutions whether state, corporation or church. It is a religion that will bully its detractors into submission through public opinion and economic threats. It not only destroys, but prevents differing opinions from holding any position of influence.
What is this religion? It is the religion of tolerance.
Its standard of tolerance cannot be violated. Violation of this religion gives ground for being fired from your job. If you do not adhere to this religion, your social club must be shut down and silenced. If you are found in breach of this tolerance you must be forced to comply.
You will be made to care. This is a fight that affects us all. All Americans, including Georgians should be free to practice their faith without the threat of government interference or intimidation. The right to religious freedom and conscience is one of our most important fundamental human rights.
Are we willing to trade those sacred rights for a few Disney movies and a Super Bowl?
Governor Deal stands at the door of this new religion. Will he bow to the god of wealth and prosperity and sacrifice fundamental religious freedom for “tolerance?” Will Governor Deal through his vetoing ability be the honorary founder of this new religion in Georgia?
I pray our Governor will stand firm and not bow to the pressure and calls for the silencing of the faith community in Georgia. I am praying for Daniel-like strength to respectfully stand firm regardless of what persecution may come.
There will continue to be very bright days ahead for our state if we continue to protect religious freedom. I hope and pray our elected officials will chose its citizens’ rights over the economic bullying of large corporations.