Georgia legislature passes religious freedom bill

By John Mack Freeman

This week, the Georgia legislature sent House Bill 757 to Governor Nathan Deal for his signature. The bill would allow any faith-based organization to deny services to any individual based on that organizations sincerely held religious beliefs. The law is modeled on the federal “First Amendment Defense Act,” and it is widely seen as targeting GLBT people who recently gained the right to marry in the state because of last year’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell. Via GLAAD:

In its previous version, HB757 allowed “faith-based organizations” to discriminate against LGBT people. In its current form, HB757 allows taxpayer-funded faith based organizations to deny services or employment to anyone who conflicts with a sincerely held religious belief broadly – as opposed to the previous version of the bill, which was specific to religious beliefs around marriage.

Among other things, the version of HB757 that passed last night holds that no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex ceremony and no religious institution or faith-based organization can be forced to rent, lease or otherwise make space available if there are objections and would not be required to provide charitable services to anyone with whom they disagreed. Furthermore, FADA sanctions discrimination with taxpayer dollars. This means that an organization can take taxpayer money to perform public services and then deny those services as well as employment to a taxpayer if it is against the organization’s religious beliefs.   

The passage of the bill by the legislature has led to an uproar with over 450 businesses with presences or headquarters in Georgia pushing back against the bill. The tech giant Salesforce has threatened to cancel a conference scheduled for May in Atlanta if the bill is signed, and many others have said that they will shrink the size of their offices or move to more accepting states if this bill were to pass. Representatives for Governor Deal say that the governor will not consider signing or vetoing the bill before April.


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