Georgia Religious-Freedom Bill Vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal, a Weak Weathervane
When Disney says “Jump,” Georgia governor Nathan Deal doesn’t just ask “How high?” He insults anyone who asks him to stand his ground. Today, Deal joined the GOP governors’ hall of shame — currently populated by Indiana governor Mike Pence and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson — by bowing to corporate pressure and pledging to veto an extraordinarily narrow religious-liberty bill. Deal, in fact, makes both Pence and Hutchinson look like profiles in courage. They, after all, at least had enough conviction to sign modified, watered-down religious-freedom legislation. Deal couldn’t muster the backbone to sign even a bill that the legislature had already gutted in response to threatened corporate boycotts.
The Georgia bill that Deal refused to defend was modest in scope, protecting the right of clergy to solemnize marriages consistent with their religious beliefs, protecting the right of faith-based institutions to use their property and resources to advance their religious mission, protecting their rights to hire and fire employees on grounds consistent with religious belief and practice, and protecting a person’s free exercise of religion from a “substantial burden” unless the protected person was engaged in “invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.” In other words, the bill as drafted could not be used to “bring back Jim Crow,” nor could it offer any person, outside clergy and faith-based employers, any effective defense against the enforcement of state anti-discrimination laws. It wouldn’t block a single gay marriage. It wouldn’t deny a single gay person access to the marketplace. Instead, it would merely offer a bare minimum of legal protections to Georgia citizens who are already confronting anti-Christian bigotry and discrimination.
That small amount of protection was too much not only for Apple, Disney, Salesforce.com, and a host of multinational corporations who are quite comfortable doing business in places like the People’s Republic of China and Saudi Arabia. It was also too much for Deal. “Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to,” he declared, echoing the far Left’s malicious talking points. “We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way,” he said. “For that reason, I will veto HB 757.”