Like it or not, veto won’t end religious-liberty debate in Georgia

Gov. Nathan Deal announces his decision to veto HB 757, March 28. (AJC Photo / Bob Andres)

Gov. Nathan Deal announces his decision to veto HB 757, March 28. (AJC Photo / Bob Andres)

Whatever decision he reached on House Bill 757, Gov. Nathan Deal was going to call someone’s bluff. His veto of the religious-liberty bill, which he announced Monday morning amid a wave of (often hypocritical) corporate denunciations and threats, makes clear who is now on the spot.

That would be everyone who said religious liberty needs no further clarification or protection.

So we can expect those who say churches shouldn’t remain tax-exempt, particularly if they continue certain teachings, to lose in the public square. We can expect those who say Georgia didn’t need legal clarifications that churches can do as they wish with their property to win the day, and not those who might sue churches over such matters. We can expect all those things critics of the bill said “would never happen” to, well, not happen now that it’s been vetoed. (We can also look forward to a “strange new respect” among the bill’s critics for corporate political speech, which clearly was vital to Deal’s decision to veto.)

Right?

A number of people have asked for examples in which religious liberty was infringed in Georgia. But this was always about the future, not the past. Investment prospectuses include a line to effect of “past performance does not guarantee future results.” This maxim was implicit in efforts to secure religious-liberty legislation. We are a nation of pendulum swings, and falling pendulums don’t stop dead in the center; they continue in the other direction. To stop suddenly in the middle would defy the laws of physics.

And to do so in the arena of public policy would defy the laws of our politics. The courts will be called on to keep things more or less in balance, but in this case they will do so with less of a legal frame of reference for measuring the pendulum’s arc.

***

Practically speaking, Georgia isn’t finished hearing about this issue. That, too, would have been true no matter what Deal did regarding HB 757. Unfortunately, the new starting point will be one of heightened antagonism on both sides of the issue.

The antagonism would only be worse if legislators were to hold a “veto session” to override Deal on the bill, as at least one state senator has already called for. (Keep in mind, he’s running in a Republican primary for Congress right now, in a district that’s loaded with social conservatives.) Even if overriding the veto were a good idea, it’s not going to happen: There weren’t 120 votes for the final text of HB 757 when the House passed it earlier this month, and there wouldn’t be 120 votes for it if legislators were to return to the Gold Dome. It would be an exercise in grandstanding, nothing more, and it almost certainly won’t happen.

I honestly don’t know at this point if the various parties involved in this debate could be brought back to the table for negotiations that would lead to something all could live with. I would like to see it tried, at least on a quiet and informal basis, because otherwise we will have another session in which this issue looms over all else. While I believe Georgia would be better off with the strict scrutiny test for free-exercise cases, the debate is only welcome come next January if it can lead to a resolution.

Reader Comments 0

180 comments
TheCentrist
TheCentrist

The only reason that this debate is not over is because a vocal minority who got elected by a voting minority are trying to say they represent the real majority.

JamVet
JamVet

Nothing says Georgia quite like h0m0 hating!

ChristopherATL
ChristopherATL

@JamVet Sad...but true.  Will we ever shake the reputation of oppression and ignorance?

lvg
lvg

Supreme Court split 4-4 on a Union busting case today giving a victory to the unions and liberals. Everyone please thank those two GOP dinosaurs we have in the Senate for aiding the Unions by refusing to apppoint a moderate and highly qualified Judge.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@lvg

And as is usually the case, it is liberals using force to make citizens do things they don't want to do.

Conservatives defend liberty.  Leftists degrade it.

Tommy Jones
Tommy Jones

The bigots won't stop until their thirst for hate is quenched, which means never.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Likely true.  First up will be their attempt to breach the wall between state and church, and start taxing religion.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Do you mean "start taxing religion" by social conservatives passing a bill that says contributions to Muslim, Jewish, Morman, Catholic, or any other non-Baptist faith or related organization will no longer be tax deductible? .

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @Starik Separation of state and church should say that the state should not issue "marriage" licenses, only churches, and all laws that reference "marriage" should be abolished.

ChristopherATL
ChristopherATL

@Starik @Lil_Barry_Bailout Or there should be tighter oversight.  Why is it ok for poor people to be milked of their hard earned money when it goes to keep clergy in Bentley's and gated mansions.  This is what church has become.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Democrats think deconstructing the family was a good idea too.

It's cost us several trillion dollars and millions of destroyed lives over the last fifty years.  But it works for them electorally, so who cares, amirite?

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Lil_Barry_Bailout What laws were passed by liberals that "deconstruct(ed) the family?  What laws were passed by social conservatives in Georgia to reconstruct the family?

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @Visual_Cortex @Hedley_Lammar Single-parent families were pretty much the creation of social conservatives dating back to slavery.  Later they instituted laws that poor families could not receive assistance if an able bodied male could not find a job. In fact, every law associated with putting restrictions on marriage has been passed by social conservatives.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Again--this is what Kyle is referring to when he writes, emphasis mine:

We can expect those who say Georgia didn’t need legal clarifications that churches can do as they wish with their property to win the day, and not those who might sue churches over such matters.


Here is a street view of "their property" in question. It sure looks like a public space to me.


http://tinyurl.com/hgvhrgh


It may be owned by a church, but if they're renting out that space to law abiding New Jerseyans who wish to pay for it, and NJ has specific laws on the books (GA, still, does not) saying that such businesses can't discriminate in a manner this church, apparently, wished to?

I really don't see the problem.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Hypocritical? Like the religeous right? Jesus taught "love thy neighbor as thyself" and that we were not the judge, he is. So how about the hypocritical charge on them. Don't get me wrong , I am spiritual and Christian.


“past performance does not guarantee future results.” 

Since there is no situation that has occurred that the right is paranoid about, why do we need a law. Why would anyone want a service or wedding in a church or mosque where they were not wanted at? Only someone with a political outcome would even think of doing it making it a political issue and not one based on religion. The right is so paranoid (pick your issue....ISIS, Terrorist attack, losing something or a right, ...) I wonder how they get out of bed in the morning!

Valerie Hall
Valerie Hall

I have never seen so many racist people put in public office in my life.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Right on, sister.  Why, just the other day, the Hillary campaign claimed Hawaii wasn't a "diverse" state, because it's only 2.5% black.  They looked right past the 40% Asian and 20% mixed-race population.  What a bunch of ignorant bigots!

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

"Like it or not, veto won’t end religious-liberty debate in Georgia"

--------

Most likely because intolerant religiophobic bigots don't want it to end.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Lil_Barry_Bailout

Aww. someone is still saddy-sadz about--what was your delightful phrase? having "gay marriage in your face."

That'll never not be funny.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @Visual_Cortex Pointing out religious bigots does not make the person doing the pointing the bigot.


You don't get to discriminate against others and call it your "religion"


Sorry that may fly in the Middle East. But this is America pal.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Much of the talk is about details and technicalities, rather than substance. To me, the substance here is that the “religious liberty bills” are designed to allow bigoted people to enforce their prejudice against homosexuals by any means they can achieve, whether it is by denying them services or some by other form of discrimination, under the guise of “religious conscience.” It does not make a difference when it is done by a faith-based organization if it is to be allowed to refuse to hire, to fire, or to refuse services under the guise of presumed violation of their faith.

Let’s make this personal, let’s ask Kyle and  anybody else who supports these efforts what tenets of their faith are violated when a person, because of the accident of nature and birth, is attracted to another person of the same gender, and wants to share life with another person of the same gender the same way people in heterosexual pairs do? Why should people like that, or those who have found their orientation later in the life, be treated in any way differently than the so called “straight” people? Why should any organization, whether religious or not, be allowed to treat homosexuals and trans-gender people differently in hiring or in providing services, except in case of a religious activity specifically designed for heterosexual pairs?  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV Yes, let's not pay attention to "details and technicalities," such as the words in the bill.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV Clearly, you do not want to deal with the substance of the legislation, which is widely, including in AJC, the resistance to same-sex marriage. You want the words, so here they are:

“Except as provided by the Constitution of this state or the United States or federal law, no faith based organization shall be required to hire or retain as an employee any person whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith based organization's sincerely held religious belief as demonstrated by practice, expression, or clearly articulated tenet of faith.”

Thus according to the above, which you agree with, a faith based organization can just “express” a religious belief that a same-sex marriage is not in “accord with it,” and they can fire a janitor or secretary whose “religious belief” or “practice” is not accord with it. And you do not call that discrimination?

One more time, how do you defend a “religious belief” that two people, who are by the accident of nature attracted to the same gender and want to share life the way heterosexual couples do, should be discriminated as above because of that.

And this incidentally, is only one of at least two issues where to proposed legislation could be used for discrimination.    

Henry Ford
Henry Ford

N. Deal reacted to economic pressure.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Bottom line:  Leftists believe the First Amendment is subordinate to all other rights, and also to their own policy preferences.

They are actively working to weaken speech protections, free exercise of religion, and the wall between church and state.

The phrase "liberal fascism" has never been more appropriately applied to them than it is today.

midtown-Mark
midtown-Mark

Kyle, years ago you were hired to be the token conservative at this newspaper.  And I think you've mostly done an excellent job and the AJC is not nearly as biased to the left as it once was and I believe the AJC and its readership are much the better because of the contributions you have made.  That said, I really don't think your heart is in this one, but that you feel you have to try and defend this insanity as presenting the supposed conservative viewpoint is what you were hired to do.  Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how it appears to me.  

The problem with this bill is not whether a lawyer-like argument can be made to say it's really not an anti-gay hate bill.  You've done an admirable job in providing a legalese defense of it.  But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the driving motivation for this bill has been anti-gay animus a heck of a lot more that it has been a sincere concern for religious liberty.  One need look no further than to North Carolina the past week to see what the overriding motivation was, unless you want to make the argument that elected Republican leaders on the state level in Georgia are largely different than their counterparts in North Carolina.  Thank goodness Georgia's Republican governor has a heck of a lot more vision than the one in North Carolina.  

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@midtown-Mark

Leftists are always surprised when anyone defends the inalienable rights that they don't happen to care much about.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@midtown-Mark

Yeah, Kyle's complete absence from this post and lack of comments is telling.  He really mailed this one in.

/sarcasm

midtown-Mark
midtown-Mark

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @midtown-Mark Trust me.  I'm no liberal.  But I'm no dummy either.  As I said, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that anti-gay animus was a heck of a lot more the driving motivation for this bill than a sincere concern for religious liberty.  And yes, I agree that the left is a far greater threat to free speech than is the right.  But that doesn't change the fact that this bill was stupid, intellectually dishonest, completely unnecessary and that it would have done irreparable damage to the future economic prospects for many citizens of Georgia, regardless of whether they are religious, not religious, gay, or heterosexual.  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@midtown-Mark Sorry, I spend more time worrying about what the words on the page say than why someone wrote them. And I feel strongly, your beliefs notwithstanding, that the words on the page of that bill don't allow for discrimination.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@midtown-Mark You are looking at it the wrong way.  It is a pro religious liberty bill and pro constitution bill.  It does not, as Kyle has pointed out, take anything away from gay people.

midtown-Mark
midtown-Mark

@Kyle_Wingfield @midtown-Mark Kyle, I completely disagree with you.  For this particular bill, I think the  motivation of those who voted for this is far more important than what the words on the page say, especially since you would probably have a hard time finding 2 legally trained people who would even agree on what the words actually mean.  Which is why we would never know until it was litigated, and then re-litigated and so on and so on.  

Anyway, it sounds like you don't really disagree that anti-gay animus was far more prominent a motivation for most of those who pushed this bill than was any sincere concern for religious liberty.  

I greatly support religious liberty, but the primary motivation for this bill was animosity towards gay people.  I think that's near clear as day and night, which is why this particular Republican will no longer vote for Republicans on the state level in Georgia. I'm embarrassed to be associated with this mindset which unfortunately proliferates among elected Republicans in Georgia.      

jajlaw
jajlaw

I am a fiscal conservative and social moderate.  Not everybody agrees with me.  I do not seek to have legislation enacted forcing my viewpoint on everybody else.  Let's let the Georgia General Assembly focus on fiscal measures and other issues vital to the operation of state business, such as designation of state animals, and let the U.S. Constitution govern personal freedoms. Neither government should try to adopt legislation restricting rights.  If you don't want to associate with gays, non-Christians or Mississippians, you should not be forced to do so.  But their exercise of American rights should also not be restricted.  As my mother always said: "Your rights end where mine begin." 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@jajlaw  Kindly explain the specific ways in which this bill would force one's viewpoint on everybody else. Your mother was right; but you might want to consider where the other fellow's rights end, not only your own. This bill tried, successfully in my view, to strike that balance.

ChristopherATL
ChristopherATL

Kyle, I'm still waiting on a response to my question. Why are you afraid to address it?