Christian Leaders Respond as Georgia Governor Vetoes Religious Freedom Bill

Days after companies like Disney and Apple threatened to take their business to other states, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would have allowed religious liberty exemptions for clergy and religious nonprofits.

The vetoed bill HB757 offered minimal protections to clergy and faith-based nonprofits and certain exemptions based on their particular religious beliefs. Pastors would be able to perform marriages that align with their particular faith system. Faith-based organizations would be offered minimal protection against infringement on their religious liberties.

Outrage, however, reached a fever pitch when several large companies protested the bill and threatened to take their money elsewhere. Organizations like the NFL and the Disney as mentioned above released statements about their disappointment in the passing of the bill in the state’s House, saying that the law, although narrow in scope, violated their company policies of inclusion.

“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.” – NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy

For a while, it was unclear what Deal would do with the bill. However, with pressure mounting, Governor Deal tweeted the following on March 28 regarding his intentions on vetoing the bill:

 

Evangelical leaders both in Georgia and around the country were quick to express outrage at the Governor’s veto, stating the bill was so limited in its protections of religious liberties, that it wouldn’t have significantly impacted LGBT rights.

Russell Moore tweeted:

Timothy Head, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, told FoxNews that Deal’s veto subverts the will of the people of Georgia and that the governor ignored his constituents when he decided to side with homosexuals.

Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist mission board expressed his disappointment, telling Christian Today that, “The governor and others have knuckled under to the threats of big business and the LGBT lobby group.”

The Los Angeles Times reported on the sense of betrayal felt by Republicans and conservatives in Georgia, quoting several pastors, including Mike Stone, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in the south Georgia town of Blackshear.

“There’s a growing sense that we’re a majority whose rights and freedoms are being trampled upon. I’m tired of politicians treating the church as a mistress,” Stone said. “They come round every two years when they need an itch scratched, but they’re not willing to make a long-term commitment.”

As the landscape of religion in America continues to change towards unaffiliated and nones, many churches and faith-based organizations are increasingly wary of how the laws of the land are following suit. Many Christians will be keeping an eye on what happens to clergy and faith-based businesses in the future as religious liberty and LGBT rights continue to clash.

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Carrie Kintz
Carrie Kintz is a freelance writer and communication strategist. She works with ministries and individuals across the country, helping them figure out what to say and how to say it in the digital space. Carrie has also spoken at conferences such as the Best of Social Media Summit and That Church Conference. When she's not writing (or tweeting), she enjoys hiking, time with friends and a good cup of coffee