Religious Gerrymandering

Georgians are being sold a false bill of goods by organizations mobilizing behind “religious freedom” [RFRA] legislation in the General Assembly. The legislation would allow religious objectors to sidestep the requirements of generally applicable law if their religious exercise was “substantially burdened,” unless the government demonstrates the law serves a compelling governmental interest and there is no less restrictive means to serve that interest.

These proponent groups are exploiting the culture wars to drive a wedge between well-intentioned Georgians. They are perverting the very concept of religious liberty.  To be clear, I do not question the intentions of the bills’ sponsors, Sam Teasley and Josh McKoon, nor do I seek to impugn their motivations. However, the groups that have thrown their support behind the bill hold dangerous ambitions and mischaracterize the meaning of religious liberty.

LGBT organizations have cried foul, fearing that the enactment of a state RFRA will potentially gut direly needed nondiscrimination protections. These modest protections have been secured in discrete municipalities in Georgia against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Routinely, LGBT Georgians fear they will suffer at the hands of invidious discrimination. I have personally borne witness to people being tossed from public accommodations with anti-gay slurs hurled at them. LGBT persons are often victims of insults in the streets and targeted for acts of violence. The LGBT community’s concerns are legitimate.

Supporters of the legislation tell us that these bills will not undercut nondiscrimination norms. More than verbal reassurances, why not expressly exempt civil rights laws from religious claims? Texas took this route when it enacted a state RFRA. Georgia’s legislation does nothing to squarely address this primary concern of LGBT Georgians. A simple line could do away with any notion that a state-RFRA is intended to serve as a license to discriminate or embolden anti-gay animus.

Perhaps this exposes a more fundamental problem in that some behind this legislation don’t see the denial of services to gay and lesbian Georgians as discrimination. Certainly the organizations supporting this legislation want the right to discriminate against LGBT people. The Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition in November attacked candidates supporting nondiscrimination protections for LGBT persons as endorsing “special rights.” Some groups have been reported by Pew to hold the goal of letting religious objectors to gays and lesbians opt out of providing them goods and services.

Let us squarely address the issue of civil rights exemptions and for-profit businesses. Allowing accommodations for private, for-profit businesses flies in the face of our American civil rights tradition and would gut nondiscrimination policies by allowing individuals to, as Justice Scalia once wrote, “become a law unto himself.”

This nation settled the question of whether private businesses should be subjected to nondiscrimination laws. We did not accept Maurice Bessinger’s claim to “religious freedom” to deny serving African-American patrons at Piggie Park BBQ in South Carolina or Moreton Rolleston’s purported “liberty” interest to deny services to patrons at the Heart of Atlanta Hotel. For 50 years now, this country has firmly held onto the belief that for-profit entities cannot discriminate against protected classes in ordinary commercial transactions. We must never turn our back on that tradition. Let us not return to a mindset where customers are greeted with signs saying “We Don’t Serve Homosexuals” and LGBT persons will need to confirm a business’ accommodation policies as African-Americans did with The Negro Motorist Green Book.

Turning away from LGBT rights, there are few “controversies” that proponents of this legislation point to for which there is no pre-existing remedy. Zoning laws and regulations that burden religious actors can be challenged under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The Equal Access Act covers accommodation requirements for after school programs. Many of their other complaints, including “speech zones” on college campuses, are not religious-specific claims, but more broadly about Free Speech. State and local government employees are already guaranteed “reasonable accommodations” under Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act.

Assessing the examples of religious “bias” offered by the Georgia Baptist Convention, the few without a pre-existing legal remedy are about civil rights and principles of nondiscrimination. Proponents object to the premise that officially recognized student organizations at colleges and universities— eligible to use taxpayer-supported resources and apply for student fees— must be open to all students. Simply put, student groups are required to abide by neutrally applied nondiscrimination policies. No group is forced to adopt a particular philosophy, but those that do not want LGBT members, for example, are not entitled to public funding.

Some groups also appear to reject the idea that student fees cannot be used for purposes of proselytization. That is not the say that, generally, religious groups are not eligible for student fees funding, but they cannot use them to support sectarian activities just as much as political organizations cannot use student fees to support partisan electioneering activities. Student fees are not best spent to subsidize religion, just as they are not well spent on partisan politics.

All of this is not to suggest that accommodations for the religious faithful are inherently corrosive.  For example, take a 1996 case from Wisconsin. Members of the Old Amish faith were fined for failing to display bright orange triangles on their horse-drawn buggies.  They objected on religious grounds. The Amish asserted, among other things, the colors were too “loud and bright” and that they could achieve the state’s traffic safety concerns with lanterns and duller reflecting tape.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court, using the same test codified by the federal RFRA, ruled in the Amish’s favor.  At the end of the day, safety needs were satisfied and individual religious liberty preserved without any detriment to non-adherent third parties.  This example illustrates a fundamental point about the nature and boundaries of religious liberty: religious liberty is a shield from government, not a sword to injure others.

The second point the Amish story illustrates is that the compelling interest test codified by RFRAs was intended to aid minority religious groups from the indifference of the majority. Indeed, more than indifference, some religious minorities face bias and prejudice, including Georgians of the Islamic faith. Look no farther than the disgusting episode of Islamophobia displayed in Kennesaw’s denial of zoning accommodations for a local mosque to illustrate this point. Notably, only deafening silence came from the groups supporting this legislation when it was time to defend the rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters. But, at press conference after press conference at the Gold Dome, these struggles are ignored and erased by unsupportable claims of sweeping anti-Christian hostility.

Regretfully, the mobilizing rhetoric behind the religious liberty debate has never been about legislative actors overlooking disfavored or powerless religious groups. The record is clear— the major forces supporting a state RFRA improperly see it as a tool of religious gerrymandering by which majoritarian forces can entrench their political power and thereby continue to impose their discriminatory interests.

We should have a process of negotiation and debate about ways to simultaneously advance the civil rights of all Georgians. Blunt measures designed to protect one side and browbeat another should not succeed.

 

Correction, February 12, 2015:

Tim Schultz, director of the 1st Amendment Partnership, has kindly written and expressed concern that the Pew piece linked to mischaracterized the efforts of his group and that of his former employer, the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  The language linking to the article has been amended accordingly. I thank him for reaching out to clarify his position. 

81 comments

  1. jiminga says:

    As Erik Erickson has said, “we will be made to care”. We are no longer free to think or act outside of political correctness even when our faith principles tell us not to cater to and encourage those who violate those principles. America used to be free but now freedom is defined by the government that seeks ever more control over us…..when it was designed to be the opposite.

  2. androidguybill says:

    “The second point the Amish story illustrates is that the compelling interest test codified by RFRAs was intended to aid minority religious groups from the indifference of the majority.”

    Evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants (as well as conservative Catholics and Orthodox Jews) are most certainly a minority in this society, both numerically as well as in terms of political/economic/social power and influence. Referring to them as “majoritarian” in any sense is thoroughly unserious.

    • Posner says:

      Usually facts are good to back up statements. In this case, facts aren’t really on your side.

      Evangelical Protestants comprise 38% of Georgians. It is by far the largest religious group in Georgia. Next highest is “mainline” protestant at 16%.

      http://religions.pewforum.org/maps

      • androidguybill says:

        “Evangelical Protestants comprise 38% of Georgians.”

        Exactly. A minority.

        “It is by far the largest religious group in Georgia.”

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/minority

        noun, plural minorities.
        1.the smaller part or number; a number, part, or amount forming less than half of the whole.

        2. a smaller party or group opposed to a majority, as in voting or other action.

        3. a group in society distinguished from, and less dominant than, the more numerous majority:

        4. a racial, ethnic, religious, or social subdivision of a society that is subordinate to the dominant group in political, financial, or social power without regard to the size of these groups

        5.a member of such a group.

        Do you wish to redirect? And if you are going to resort to “I am better and more educated and enlightened than you” snark with such rejoinders as “Usually facts are good to back up statements. In this case, facts aren’t really on your side.” please be more prudent.

        • Posner says:

          Yea, you’re reading comprehension is just quite poor.

          First, I don’t think you understood the author’s original point in what you quoted–very small groups such as Amish disproportionately need religious accommodation.

          Second, I don’t think you understood my point–evangelical protestants are not the minority in Georgia. Your quoting the definition doesn’t help your point, at all. In fact, it proves mine–Evangelical protestants are NOT “the smaller part or number” nor are they “a smaller party or group” compared to other religions.

          Finally, you utterly failed to comprehend the use of the term “majoritarian” by the author.

          • Andrew C. Pope says:

            Burn.

            Just to drive a point further home, if you combine all the “Christians” into one group made up of Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Historically Black Protestants, & Catholics, you get a whopping 82% of the population.

            Jews are 1% of the population, Muslims are less than .5%… I’d say they fit the definition of “minority”

  3. benevolus says:

    I’m not a lawyer, but I assume the idea of a “protected class” came about because of our unfortunate history of discrimination. We shouldn’t have to have a protected class- everyone should just have the same rights.
    I suspect the best way to have gays become a protected class is to discriminate against them. So the outcome of this is inevitable, it’s just a question of do we have to continue to go through an ugly state-sanctioned discrimination phase for a while or not.

  4. John Konop says:

    Sam Teasley and Josh McKoon should be ashamed….

    We have seen their supporters of this bill promote…..they need the bill for denial of service for gay people….ie no gays allowed….This is very slippery slope….What next no Jews, Irish……? When the above has been brought up in front of them on PP threads that McKoon commented on….he never corrected it….. Mr. McKoon is a lawyer and knows better…..this is the worse type of politics….I have news for you guys, God would not have a sign no gays allowed food, water……And to do this in the name of religion is just flat out wrong.

    • TheEiger says:

      I’m not debating McKoon’s bill. I’m not 100% sold on the fact that it’s needed or is even Constitutional. I do think this is a slippery slope, but in the opposite direction of what you think. There are many in the gay marriage movement that don’t want to just get legally married. They want to force others to accept their marriage. The slippery slope has already started. I promise you the next step will be a gay couple suing a baptist church because the church refuses to marry them. That is wrong.

      With all that said. I think the solution is to take government out of marriage. No tax credits for getting married. No special treatment in anyway. No government definitions of marriage. If two men want to live together and share health insurance and love one another that is their right and the government has no right to stand between the. But don’t call that marriage. It’s not. Marriage is a religious ceremony that government has no business defining.

      • Chet Martin says:

        Fair enough. So oppose them when they sue; I would.

        By advocating to get government out of marriage, you acknowledge there’s something improper about denying civil marriage rights to gay couples. But we all know that won’t happen anytime soon. Marriage is too central to government regulations and broader culture for legislators to ever give it up completely. It just won’t happen.

        So if the options are an admittedly imperfect (even discriminatory) system or a better formulation with troublesome terminology, the choice is clear. Rather than make the perfect the enemy of the good, it makes sense to grant LGBT couples the rights they deserve and oppose future excesses. Being against affirmative action, for example, shouldn’t prevent anyone from supporting the Civil Rights Act

      • blakeage80 says:

        I believe that we are headed in that direction quicker than many might think. I am a deacon at a Southern Baptist church and we had a discussion months ago that lead to the drawing up of a written policy about what kind of marriage ceremonies can and can’t take place in our facilities. We used The Bible as our guide. Will this be enough to prevent us from losing a lawsuit in which we are sued for discrimination based on sexual preference? Will our tax exempt status be threatened? We don’t know, but we are trying to find any way we can to defend ourselves from this possibility. The marriage of a same sex couple in our facilities would be an extremely unacceptable circumstance based on our stated religious beliefs. It seems that this RFRA would be a tool we could use in this circumstance.

        On a different, but related note: Would Georgia’s RFRA protect a small business in Georgia that found themselves in a similar circumstance to the Oregon couple just found guilty of violating that state’s anti-discrimination law?

        • Posner says:

          Speaking as a lawyer, if your congregation actually thinks this is a threat, I suggest you consult a lawyer.

          Also speaking as a lawyer, I can say with very strong confidence that a lawsuit by any couple against a church to “force” them to marry said couple would get thrown out of Court almost immediately. That’s just not the way the law works. (Although RFRA wouldn’t be applicable at all in this situation).

          But, if you don’t trust the random lawyer dude in the comments, go consult a lawyer.

          • blakeage80 says:

            Thanks random lawyer dude. We consulted a lawyer and he said write a policy that includes ‘yada yada yada’. I am thinking a bit more about the use of our facilities which are able to be rented for marriages. Our policy discusses that. A member of our staff does not currently have to be involved in a marriage that takes place there. So, can our facilities (which we own) be seen as separate from ‘the church’ as an organization?

            • Andrew C. Pope says:

              It would depend on the facility and how it’s typically used. If, for example, y’all owned a camp/retreat up in the mountains and you rented the facility out to the general public for business retreats, sleep away camp, weddings, school trips, etc. then your argument of “using this space would violate our religious beliefs” holds less water, since the camp/retreat is not strictly a religious structure and is a place of public accommodation.

              But no one is going to force you to rent your sanctuary or worship space to a gay couple, a Jewish couple, an atheist couple, etc.

              • TheEiger says:

                “But no one is going to force you to rent your sanctuary or worship space to a gay couple, a Jewish couple, an atheist couple, etc.” They are just going to sue churches to use the church owned fellowship hall, mountain camp, gym and so on. How much will that cost to dismiss? Hopefully every church as an attorney in their membership that is behind on their pro bono hours.

        • benevolus says:

          Not sure if this is the right place for this discussion, but I am curious about what exactly in the Bible provides guidance on this issue.

          • blakeage80 says:

            The Bible has plenty to say about marriage. When I say it was our guide, I mean it was used as our very religious basis for our policy. We had to establish our beliefs as part of the justification for the policy.

          • therightdirection says:

            Jesus in Matthew 19: 4-5

            4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

            Not only was Jesus echoing the creation story in Genesis (‘made them male and female’), he was recognizing the biological reality that the union of man and woman is unique.

            • benevolus says:

              Interesting. Maybe someday there will be a thread to discuss this, but I doubt it. Probably not a good idea.

              • blakeage80 says:

                Haha. If there ever was a post like that, they should just go ahead and disable the comments thread. The reactions would probably include 5 stabbings and one murder…All by GIF of course.

      • Andrew C. Pope says:

        You don’t need to worry yourself Eiger, the hypothetical suit you mention of “gay couple v. Baptist church” would get tossed pretty quickly. Churches clearly have a First Amendment protection that allows them to decide who is eligible to participate in their religious sacraments/ceremonies. It’s the reason Methodists don’t have standing to sue the Archdiocese of Atlanta for denying them Holy Communion.

        Having friends in the “gay marriage movement,” I can say that their goal is to force the government to accept their marriage. Would they like it if they weren’t discriminated against or judged by society? Sure, but they aren’t trying to force people to accept their marriage. These are folks that just want to get married to the person they love and, like all of us, be left the heck alone.

      • John Konop says:

        The Eiger,

        A Church cannot be forced to do a marriage…..come on….Let’s be honest…Bottom line McKoon saw his supporters advocating for denial of basic service to gay people water, food…..Do you really think restaurant should have a sign no gays allowed, under the guidance of religious tolerance? What people do in the privacy of their home, as long as it does not harm other people is their business…I happen to think I have way to many issues I need to work on before judging others….BTW it is clear this is nothing but BS politics on McKoon side….He will fund raise, fire up his base, the real suckers are the social conservative that do not see he is using them….they will get killed in the Supreme Court…At the end, McKoon as a lawyer knows this….This is the worse type of politics….

        Justice Thomas objects: Supreme Court shows support for gay marriage

        http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765668039/Justice-Thomas-objects-Court-shows-support-for-gay-marriage.html

        Btw I would go one step further on the tax issue, and end interest write off on housing as well….that is a different topic….

        • TheEiger says:

          I agree, but a few churches are going to have to spend a lot of money to prove they have a right to refuse marrying gay couples. After the SCOTUS rules in favor of allowing gay marriage, the next logical step is to go after churches. You can say that they won’t win, but that won’t stop them from suing.

          • John Konop says:

            I really do not know anyone in the gay movement….that would be a real stupid PR move….as I have said for years I am all for equal opportunity…not equal outcome….when the 2 get confused we have issues….

            • therightdirection says:

              For most in the movement, I’d agree. But those pushing this issue for decades have one thing in mind: social acceptance and commendation. They will not let it stand that a somewhat large group of people still object to their lifestyle. Forget the First Amendment, they want those people destroyed. Only then will their lifestyle receive the respect it deserves (in their own minds).

              I chuckle at the shock some people will have when the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage, yet the activists continue protesting and demanding more and more. And the folks who give in now continue to give in, because hey, those conservative religious folks are backwards anyway, who needs them?

          • Andrew C. Pope says:

            It’s not that much money. You could probably even get an attorney to file and argue the motion to dismiss on a pro bono basis.

                • Stefan says:

                  Not sure what you mean, I’d imagine all the attorneys who were defending this mythical action would be pro bono, and the attorneys prosecuting it would be as well. So nobody would get paid.

                  So I guess all isn’t well, even in fantasy.

  5. Will Durant says:

    Ralph Reed & co. are in desperation mode because the Supremes are about to legalize homosexual marriage and I don’t think a single statewide RFRA has passed in any state post-legalization.

  6. Should a Jewish person be able to sue a private Muslim owned halal butcher shop for not selling Kosher meats? Should a Muslim be able to sue a Christian book store for not selling Qurans or other Islamic materials? Should a liberal t-shirt shop owner be forced to produce pro-conservative messaged shirts?

    I dare say that most reading this would say they are 100% in favor of personal liberty, yet for some reason many believe that by opening a business the owner must leave his or her personal religious convictions at home.

    I say let the free market work this out… if a business owner chooses not to sell certain goods or provide certain services based upon personal religious or political convictions, then let them. If they stray too far from the mainstream then the free market will punish them. No need for lawsuits… no need for government intrusion. It’s all about freedom people… and that includes the freedom to discriminate.

    • Boredatwork says:

      Nobody is forcing anyone to sell anything. But if a Muslim owns a halal butcher shop, they should be able to refuse service to a Jew. And if a Christian owns a book store, they should not be able to refuse to sell a bible to a Muslim.

      You’re parade of horribles has nothing to do with a right to refuse service.

      • TheEiger says:

        This isn’t about providing something that you don’t currently carry in your store. It’s about selling something that you do have to someone you don’t agree with. Slightly different, but different.

    • Posner says:

      “Should a Jewish person be able to sue a private Muslim owned halal butcher shop for not selling Kosher meats? Should a Muslim be able to sue a Christian book store for not selling Qurans or other Islamic materials?”

      There is a difference between forcing someone to sell what you want and being allowed to buy what someone sells.

      The halal butcher cannot refuse to sell halal meat to a Jewish person just like the Christian bookstore cannot refuse to sell bibles to Muslims.

      • Chuck Shiflett says:

        Sorry guys, but forcing a Christian baker to produce a gay wedding cake IS the same thing… you are forcing him to produce and sell something that is against his religious convictions. The baker is not denying service to the gay person or couple… they are still free to purchase other items this shop sells.

        • Posner says:

          “a gay wedding cake” – what exactly is a gay wedding cake? Do we also have “gay cookies” and “gay new york strip”? Was the bread I bought at Kroger yesterday potentially “gay bread” if the gay couple behind me in line had purchased it instead?

          Your position is extremely tortuous. Assuming the baker’s shop sells wedding cakes (if he doesn’t make wedding cakes, he doesn’t make them and this is a non issue), why is the gay couple allowed to “purchase other items this shop sells” but not wedding cakes?

        • Posner says:

          “you are forcing him to produce and sell something that is against his religious convictions”

          Also, since when is cake against Christian religious conviction?

        • Max Power says:

          Ok Chuck think about this should a Christian baker who believes that black folks bear the curse of Ham be allowed to refuse service to them?

        • Andrew C. Pope says:

          I want to know more about this “gay wedding cake.” Did the cake choose to be gay or was it baked that way? Are all the ingredients gay as well? How can I tell if I’m eating a gay wedding cake? Will eating a gay wedding cake make me gay? I need to know these things before I take a bite of this red velvet cake a co-worker brought in.

          Also, the baker’s decision to not make a wedding cake for a gay couple is not going to stop the wedding from happening. No couple is going to go “man, we really learned the sinfulness of our lifestyle by being denied that cake! Let’s go back to being straight!” They’ll simply get another cake from another baker. They’ll still get married. They’ll still love one another. The only thing the baker has “accomplished” is smug self-satisfaction and a blacklisting by the gay community and their allies.

        • benevolus says:

          Hmm, curious. If they called themselves a Christian Cake Store, could they then refuse service? If we assume the offending issue is the message on the cake (not the cake itself), then a gay person could buy a cake there, just not have it inscribed?

  7. Joseph says:

    Anthony, first I appreciate you distinguishing Senator McKoon and Representative Teasley from the groups that wish to pervert the representatives’ intent of this Legislation.

    In your article, you mention the Amish community and reflectors on buggies – I’m assuming that either the State there had a RFRA or the issue was kicked to the federal level because of a federal highway being involved? Either way, does that particular case not show cause for a State RFRA considering the federal statute no longer applies at the State level?

    To me, this bill is purely about the “burden of proof” and shifting that “burden” to the State when a rule / policy / law limits someone’s Religous freedom. This question of businesses discriminating against an LGBT person is somewhat non sequitur, regardless if we do or do not have RFRA, whether sexual orientation is or is not a protected class, someone that is going to discriminate against a certain group is going to discriminate regardless and it will still wind up in the Courts. If someone is going to abuse their spouse or child in the name of Religion, they are going to do it regardless.

    So – why not afford Georgians the same protection from the State that’s granted in 30+ other States and on the Federal level?

    • Max Power says:

      The problem is why should the religious have a higher standard for generally applicable laws than the irreligious? That’s why I think all RFRAs are unconstitutional they respect the establishment of a religion(s).

      • Joseph says:

        My off-the-cuff argument would be because the Constitution provides religious protection both ways, in my opinion, it provides protection from the establishment of a State Religion and from the State infringing on my free exercise -specifically- of religion. As is often a favorite phrase here… I am not a lawyer.

        • Max Power says:

          You see and that’s the problem the court has yo-yoed on generally applicable laws and free exercise that their recent decisions seem to say hey just claim it’s part of your religion and you shift the burden from you to the state.

          The strict scrutiny bar is a tough one to meet, laws have to serve a a compelling governmental interest, they must be narrowly tailored, and be the least restrictive means necessary for serving that interest. That’s a very difficult thing to prove. Consider the difference between Hobby Lobby where there was a general law that just happened to impact Hobby Lobby and Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah where the law was tailored to impact their free exercise of religion. In one case strict scrutiny makes sense in the other it doesn’t

    • Andrew C. Pope says:

      Last I checked, Wisconsin does not have a state RFRA, nor does Minnesota, another state that has reached the same decision Wisconsin did re: the triangle reflectors.

      The cases are probably brought, under state constitutional protections for freedom of religion. Theoretically you could make a 14th Amendment due process claim if you wanted to get the case into federal court. In either regard, the state has to meet strict scrutiny. In other words the law must serve a compelling governmental interest AND be the least restrictive means of accomplishing that objective. No one denies public safety on roadways is a compelling government interest, but the use of reflective tape was a means of accomplishing the objective without violating the Amish group’s religious beliefs.

      These cases show the exact opposite of what you’re proposing. There is no need for a state RFRA to protect religious freedom when we’re already protected by Ga. Const. Art. I, Section I, Paragraph III, and the Fourteenth Amendment. The burden of proof is already on the state to justify laws which infringe on religious freedoms by meeting the strict scrutiny standard.

      • Joseph says:

        I read it again after my edit time elapsed – SCOW took the Federal RFRA standard and applied it to that specific State Case, thereby creating a judicial precedence in that State for similar tests in later State cases. (Watch out – those crazy activist judges! Funny how that argument swings both ways…)

        I should clarify that the protection in the other 30+ States is provided two ways – some via statute similar to what Josh and Sam are proposing and the other via judicial precedent. Should we pass Georgia RFRA, someone would not have to work all the way to SCOG in order to get resolution, it could potentially stop in Superior Court.

        • Andrew C. Pope says:

          I think the point remains… a state RFRA would be superfluous when it comes to preventing state/local government encroachment on religious liberty. The only thing the state RFRA seems to “add” is thar is opens the doorl for discrimination based on sexual orientation. Even without an RFRA, I could get a still get a decision at the Superior Court (or US District Court if I’m bringing a 14th Amendment substantive due process claim) level that _____ law is violative of my religious freedoms under the Georgia and US Constitutions. Its up to the state if they want to keep up the fight.

  8. Robbie says:

    It’s really important to note that Rep Teasley had the chance to include language in the bill that would specifically prohibit discrimination. He also could have added language that would have specifically ensured that private businesses would not be included in this measure (persons vs “natural” persons).

    He was asked multiple times in many settings if he would consider adding those provisions to make sure it was clear that this bill was never intended to be used as a tool for discrimination.

    Unfortunately, Rep Teasley decided to ignore all of those requests and left them out of the newest version, HB 218.

  9. Chuck Shiflett says:

    Well in one of the multiple cases I’ve seen, the gay couple wanted the baker to provide a same sex cake topper. In another they wanted the baker to provide the cake and some finger food items, which would have required her to be at and involved in the wedding.

    There is also another recent case where a bakery owned by a lesbian couple refused to produce a cookie cake with a pro-traditional marriage message. It cuts both ways.

    Again, the bottom line is… if a business person wants to discriminate that is up to them. And yes Max, if a business wants to discriminate based upon sex, race, religion, hair color, or just because they don’t like you for whatever reason… that is their innate human right. Would I eat at a restaurant that had a “whites only” sign? Absolutely not… and I bet the overwhelming majority of people wouldn’t either. No need for the government to slice & dice and try to determine what is discriminatory and what is not. The free market will reward or punish that business.

    Now let me ask you guys a question… if that Christian bakery was not a privately owned business, but was instead owned by a church, would you still be in favor of forcing them to bake a wedding cake or other items for a gay wedding? Slippery slope folks…

    • benevolus says:

      This is NOT an issue to be left to the free market. Then you will have real estate agents not selling houses to certain people or in certain places, or grocers, or doctors…

    • Robbie says:

      It’s not a slippery slope. Churches and private business are not the same thing and they’re not governed by the same laws. If you’re a public business, you serve the public.

    • John Konop says:

      Chuck,

      …….. if a business person wants to discriminate that is up to them……….

      If a gay, black, Jewish, Irish…….person walks into a gas station for water, food, gas…..you would support a sign saying No gays, Jews…..allowed, under the guidelines of religious tolerance?

    • Andrew C. Pope says:

      Chuck, pretty sure the Jim Crow era definitively established that the free market does not operate the way you think it does and definitely will not punish discriminatory businesses.

      Also, it isn’t a business’s “innate human right” to discriminate against someone based on race, gender, age, orientation, disability, etc. For one, I don’t think a business can possess “human” rights. For another, no one has an “innate human right” to abridge the rights and liberties of another.

  10. TheEiger says:

    What happens when a religious organization like charities and religious schools start getting sued because they don’t hire gays? Is that easily dismissed? No, it’s not. Do they need certain protections? Yes.

    • John Konop says:

      You do bring up an interesting issue….for me it has never been a second thought. I have never cared about race, religion, gender, gay……best person gets the job and or promotion. No expert, I would think that is what most religions would support as well…As I said, fairly positive when Jesus was a carpenter he would not discriminate…In fact that was the point in one of the most famous stories in the bible….ie helping the guy on the side of the road…and paying his enemies to care for him….you are a smart guy, and sure you get the point….

      • TheEiger says:

        Yes, I know what you are saying and I agree with you. But do you think a catholic school, evangelical college or christian charity should have the right to not hire a gay person only because they are gay? Do you think that a gay person should be able to sue them if they are not hired or happen to be fired? Honest question.

        I think the idea of turing a gay couple away from a bakery or not hiring a gay person only because they are gay is quite dumb and petty. But I do believe that there should be some protections for churches, religious schools, charities and other religious organizations.

        • John Konop says:

          I agree….it is a balance…as with both agree….under the McKoon law employeers were forced to provide pray rooms and grant special holidays in other states…As you know I have no issue hiring Muslim people…why should I have to create special schedules and reconstruct my office via religious….? As I said this Mckoon law seems to create more issues than it solves….

          Btw people can sue people for anything….not saying they have case….I do support equal opportunity…..equal opportunity is not equal results…that is a problem at times…Affirmative Action type thinking based on just results, and not performance I do not support. If gay, black, Irish….was fired, not promoted…. strictly for that reason that is not right….If the evidence is strictly trend numbers…..and we throw out performance that is wrong…

          • TheEiger says:

            “Btw people can sue people for anything….not saying they have case.” The SCOTUS ruling this Summer will open more people up to lawsuits. That’s what I’m talking about.

        • Andrew C. Pope says:

          Well Eiger, I have to ask, how does their sexual orientation prevent them from being an effective teacher? A Catholic school can’t just say “well our faith believes that homosexuality is a sin, so we can’t hire Adam and Steve to work in the history department.” By that logic, you’d have to fire the divorcees, the adulterers, the people who had premarital sex, the liars, the peiple who skip church on Sunday, etc.

          • TheEiger says:

            I’m not saying being gay has any effect on someone’s ability to teach or perform in any job. But a religious school that believes in the teachings of the Bible should not be forced to hire someone that does not believe or follow that organization’s teachings.

            I don’t believe that religious organizations should be told to do things by the government that they believe goes against their faith. That’s any faith.

          • Robbie says:

            Andrew –

            A Catholic school CAN just say that, and they can choose not to hire or to fire someone because of it. And they have, many, many times. But, those are the protections folks fight for when we ensure that religious organizations are free to discriminate however they think the Bible tells them to.

          • Ellynn says:

            Well Andrew…

            The church does not fire you for being gay. My second cousin is a gay Priest, and his bishop knows it. He would be releaved of his post in a second though if he broke his vow of celibitcy. The Catholic church fires a gay teacher because they got married and now the school has legal proof that they are having sex outside the Sacament of Matromony. The Catholic church has fired single teachers for having children out of wedlock, and married couples for having a child by IVF. They can do this because they have a very well established set of clauses in their standard contracts. So long as you are not being terminated based on the legal standards of discrimination, they can fire you if you break any one of the basic tennets of Dogma, which you clearly were informed about in writing before you signed your name to be a school teacher.

            • Ellynn says:

              Correction the gay priest is the third cousin, the second cousin is the Jesuit Dogma scholar priest… I swore I have to many of them in my family

            • Andrew C. Pope says:

              Sorry, should have clarified. The Catholic school cannot fire the teacher solely because of their sexual orientation. These firings you mention all arise under contractual clauses prohibiting certain behavior, which the school has a right to do. If they are not uniform in their enforcement of these clauses (i.e, Adam is fired for having sex outside of wedlock with Steve but David is not fired for fornicating with Bethsheba), then they, if they were in a state with discrimination protections for homosexuals, would have an equal employment claim on their hands.

  11. northside101 says:

    Golly, after reading the comments above, Georgia must be a terrible place to live. I mean, you’ve got those many evangelicals who haven’t been swept into the tide of moral relativism, and now lots of traditional-minded Catholics in the northern part of the state. Golly, lots of people here just may not share the secular views popular with readers of the New York Times and Boston Globe and obviously with a lot of the writers to Peach Pundit.

    Yep, I know the old song and dance—you hold traditional views on some moral issues (even many held by Protestants for well after the Reformation), you’re a bigot, want discrimination and the like. I’m sure devout Christians in the secular Northeast hear that all the time from the papers above. Oh, and you oppose Obamacare because you don’t believe your church should have to provide certain types of insurance inconsistent with their beliefs? Yep, bigot, et al.

    I think the stance of most Georgians on the “culture wars” have been made pretty clear by its statewide voting habits the last 10+ years—backing Bush twice in 2000 and 2004, a gay marriage ban in 2004 that swept every county in the state (even liberal Athens/Clarke County), and backing McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012. Attitudes may be changing, though, and perhaps the best way to do that is through the democratic process, as many states have done on gay marriage, and not the “battering rams” of the courts.

    • Andrew C. Pope says:

      Courts aren’t “battering rams,” they’re safeguards against Constitutional violations by the majority. The “the gay marriage ban won by a huge margin” is a flawed argument. Just because something has majority approval does not make it Constitutional (see: Jim Crow, slavery, etc.). The Founding Fathers recognized that, sometimes, the majority is going to act in ways that diminish the rights of the minority. That’s why we have the judicial branch in the first place.

    • benevolus says:

      Evangelicals can practice their faith pretty much without restriction, but when you open a business you are entering a different arena with different rules. If you don’t want to abide by the rules of commerce, then don’t go there. The church has it’s rules, the state has it’s rules. If you try to force church rules onto the state, there is going to be a problem.

  12. northside101 says:

    Andrew, Roe v Wade was a battering ram, cooked up out of thin air by Harry Blackmun. And 50 million abortions later and state to state battles, it has hardly settled anything. No, not everything that wins majority approval is constitutional, but the burden of proof is on the courts to prove it isn’t. With Obamacare that should have been obvious—there is no mention of national health care in the Constitution, no mention of being forced to buy anything. But when you have a lot of 5-4 rulings in the Supreme Court, the legitimacy of the court comes into question. That is why judicial philosophy is so important in judicial confirmation hearings—does one view the Constitution as having fixed meanings, or one whose meaning “evolves with the times?”

    Also, a lot of civil rights legislation went through the democratic process. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for instance, and (highlighted in the moving picture SELMA), the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

    • benevolus says:

      The Constitution also doesn’t mention airplanes, football, cruise missiles, telephones, cable TV, the internet, and ATM machines. Society evolves. You can believe that The Founders didn’t anticipate this if you choose, but I will give them credit for having some foresight.

  13. northside101 says:

    Benevolus, you are correct on that things the Constitution doesn’t mention and that society evolves. And the Founding Fathers knew that with changing times, we might need to change the Constitution. So they gave us the amendment process, whereby with a 2/3 vote of Congress and 3/4 vote of the states, the Constitution could be amended—as it was in the 1950s to limit presidents to two terms. But in a country deeply divided between red and blue states, and some purple ones like Florida, Colorado and Virginia, it is next to impossible to get those numbers. Thus easier to have some judge declare something a “right” (even if based on dubious reasoning), or Congress to pass something and claim “interstate commerce” as a justification. Of course it is pretty rare for Congress, no matter what the party, to ever admit it is gone too far. In 2001 for instance, Republicans were eager to get behind Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education legislation—even though, to the chagrin of conservatives—it expanded federal authority into an area traditionally reserved for the state and local government. And then of course there was Obamacare nearly a decade later, which survived a legal challenge thanks to some creative reasoning from John Roberts, who did not want it to appear that the Court was a political foe of Obama.

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