Georgia Under Attack for Religious Liberty
Atlanta could lose its bid to host the Super Bowl.
Add Georgia to the list of states embroiled in the religious liberty debate that sent intolerant leftists in Indiana and Arkansas into a frenzy last year. Last week state lawmakers passed legislation that would allow religious institutions to refuse participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies. Naturally, the Left is furious and is already planning retaliation in case Gov. Nathan Deal signs the bill. Yet the final iteration of the bill, which was weakened considerably, is not what supporters would call hardline. As Heritage Foundation fellows Ryan T. Anderson and Roger Severino write, “Haste makes waste. This new language significantly waters down a religious freedom bill that had real force even though it was … already lacking in certain respects.” Here’s how:
The new version of the bill provides Religious Freedom Restoration Act levels of protection for certain protected persons, but it explicitly says these protections cannot apply in cases of “invidious discrimination.” Of course, no one is in favor of invidious discrimination, but the problem is that in the hands of a liberal judge, everything looks like invidious discrimination even when it is not, such as religious universities or adoption agencies that want their policies to reflect their teachings on marriage. This apes the bad “fix” that gutted the Indiana religious freedom bill. …
The new version of the bill adopts a very narrow definition of faith-based organizations, covering only churches, religious schools, and “integrated auxiliaries.” Indeed, Georgia’s constrained definition of religious organization mimics the one used by the Obama administration to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to help provide abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans because they don’t qualify for an exemption as a religious organization. Faith-based organizations come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no reason for Georgia to adopt such a cramped vision of religious organization.
Finally, the new Georgia bill provides no protection for bakers or florists or other similar wedding professionals who cannot help celebrate a same-sex wedding. While it does provide protections for priests and pastors not to have to perform same-sex weddings and for everyone not to attend them, the U.S. Constitution already provides such protections. So the bill doesn’t protect those who most need it, but it protects those who already have it.
In other words, the bill does little to deter judicial activists from discriminating against most “ordinary” citizens. Nevertheless, National Football League spokesman Brian McCarthy warned: “NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.” As CBS News notes, Atlanta “has been considered a clear favorite because of its new retractable-roof stadium, set to open next year.” It is well within the NFL’s rights to take the Super Bowl elsewhere. But the entire ordeal demonstrates the intolerant Left’s unequivocal agenda — complete capitulation, not tolerance.