Earlier in March, when Gov. Nathan Deal was asked about Georgia’s Free Exercise Protection Act, vetoed by his office this past Monday, he commented that he would not approve any legislation which “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.” Citing Jesus and the Gospels, the Baptist governor urged fellow Republicans to take a deep breath and “recognize that the world is changing around us.”
The debate has earned national attention as multi-billion dollar companies rallied against the bill. Walt Disney Co. and Marvel Studios warned they would take their business elsewhere if Deal signed HB 757 into law. NFL’s spokesman Brian McCarthy said that Atlanta, scheduled to open the new Falcons stadium in 2017, would not be allowed to host the Super Bowl should the bill be signed into law. LGBT group Human Rights Campaign called on all studios and production companies to boycott Georgia if the bill passed. A number of Hollywood industry leaders signed their names in a letter sent to the governor.
The list of companies promising to harm Georgia’s economy if the bill passed is long: AMC Networks, Intel, Dow Chemical, Salesforce, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Sony, to name a few. Twitter buzzed with criticism of the bill. And as Georgia coffers trembled with the prospective financial impact in a state which has been attracting huge interest from studios, car manufacturers and other industries, our governor stood by his earlier comments and told us to “recognize that the world is changing around us.”
I smile at the comment, because it doesn’t take much intelligence for one to recognize the changes in our society. His comment reminds me of the “coexist” stickers that I see in cars everywhere. They always make me chuckle. To me, it’s belaboring the obvious. Can we help but coexist? Likewise, can we help but recognize that the world is changing? Indeed, we must acknowledge the changes in society and we must coexist. In a democratic, free society, there must be a place for every faith and every lifestyle. But I don’t believe that the changes in a free society should ever force people of any faith to go against their core beliefs in their religious practices. Isn’t that inflicting discrimination against the free exercise of our faith? Does that sound like America at all?
Our religious liberties have been protected by the First Amendment for centuries, and I believe that bills such as these have been written with the mere objective to protect people of faith, not because of discrimination against individual’s choices, but because, although the world is indeed changing, some of us still believe that God does not, and that his statutes remain the same.
As a person involved in ministry, I try to stay away from political debates as much as I can. In this case, however, I must use my voice to stand up, not only for Christians, but other people of faith. As a Christian, I believe I am to love everyone. I do. I believe Jesus indeed called all people to himself, regardless of their lifestyle. However, it’s also true that he preached righteousness as much as he preached grace.
I have read the bill, and vetoing it will definitely help Georgia’s economy, but I am afraid it has also opened Pandora’s box, giving everyone but people of faith the opportunity to stand by what they believe. People should have the right to live as they wish in America, just as religious institutions should have the right to object to doing anything that stands against their core beliefs. My prayer is that this liberty is never taken away from our pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders, and that we are not the only ones left without liberties in America’s future.
Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author, blogger and national speaker. Her Book Twelve Inches is on sale at Barnes & Nobles, Amazon and retailers worldwide. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com. Email