Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has vetoed religious freedom legislation similar to that adopted by the federal government and nearly half of the states, he announced. He says he would have accepted the legislation if it only protected pastors, but can’t countenance the protection of other religious adherents who are not clergy.
As with other religious freedom bills, Georgia’s had faced strong opposition from the media and corporations. The media, which tend to be ignorant, at best, of religious freedom, mischaracterized the bill as “anti-gay.” Corporations that manufacture or market their products in China, Saudi Arabia, and other locations with deadly human rights violations, claimed that they would boycott Georgia for protecting religious freedom.
News organizations used scare quotes to describe religious freedom, the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Here are a few examples.
From an ABC station:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The New York Post:
A Denver FOX affiliate:
As one journalist had to point out:
It's religious freedom, not "religious freedom" you guys.
SalenaZito (@SalenaZitoTrib) March 28, 2016
Deal told reporters that he was fine with protecting religious liberty for people who are official clergy, but his problem was with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) portions of the bill.
The original federal RFRA was introduced by Democrat Chuck Schumer after a Supreme Court ruling that limited religious freedom for Native Americans who smoke peyote as part of their religious. From Wikipedia:
The Smith decision outraged the public. Many groups came together. Both liberal (like the American Civil Liberties Union) and conservative groups (like the Traditional Values Coalition) as well as other groups such as the Christian Legal Society, the American Jewish Congress, and the National Association of Evangelicals joined forces to support RFRA, which would reinstate the Sherbert Test, overturning laws if they burden a religion. The act, which was Congress’s reaction to the Lyng and Smith cases, passed the House unanimously and the Senate 97 to 3 and was signed into law by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
If you worry about government encroachment on religious liberty, the bill, which has also been adopted by 20 states, has been a godsend. If you’re wondering who the legislation protects, here are 10 examples of religious Americans who have used the legislation. And contrary to the breathless, scare-quoted claims of a media in the throes of groupthink, RFRA legislation has never once been used to harm gay people.
As the federal government redefines marriage at the same time federal, state and local governments continue to expand their reach into the lives of Americans, the contours of religious liberty protection will continue to be fought over.
Gov. Nathan Deal, media corporations, and other large corporations are continuing their campaign against religious freedom.
For those who have been left confused by media coverage of religious freedom bills, the following infographic from the 1st Amendment Partnership very clearly spells out what RFRA does, how it’s used by courts, and what happens at the end of a case where RFRA is invoked: