Yesterday Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he is going to veto the [needlessly] controversial legislation, HB757. The bill was crafted in order to buttress constitutional protections of religious liberty for the citizens of Georgia, especially in the wake of legalized same-sex “marriage.” In point of fact, this particular bill was a watered down version of an original piece of legislation which provided broader protections for religious liberty in society at large. Indeed, the original proposal stated that religious liberty applies to businesses (and other private entities) as well as any institution that is explicitly religious in nature.
That would have been preferable. And the original draft actually defended religious liberty according to the very definition of that phrase. Not so with the new bill.
Fearing Gov. Deal’s veto, the language of the bill was watered down to the point that it was no longer legislation protecting religious liberty. Instead, the bill’s focus of protection was strictly narrowed only to clergy, churches, and other religious institutions. In other words, the Georgia legislature moved away from religious liberty into the realm of mere religious toleration. The difference is huge. Whereas religious liberty means that our free exercise of religion extends to every aspect of life in the broader society, religious toleration means that the state gets to set explicit limits on where you may exercise your faith. Historically, toleration meant that the exercise of religion extended no further than your home or place of worship.
With this situation in Georgia, I see two very troubling trends where Christians should be paying attention:
First, we have a Republican governor in the Deep South vetoing a common sense religious liberty bill–a very weak one at that. What does this tell us about the so-called “Bible Belt”? What does this say about the broader American culture? In almost every case where erotic liberty has collided with religious liberty, the former has won out. When these collisions come about, there are very few leaders willing to stand up against the tide of this moral revolution. It didn’t take very much pressure for Gov. Deal to fold into his present position. Being on the “right side of history” is politically popular these days. And if basic protections of religious liberty can’t fly in the State of Georgia, then I don’t know where they possibly could.
Second, it’s very evident that the cultural and political Left demand absolute obedience to this moral revolution. There is no moderation or compromise whatsoever. By opposing this bill, the Left made it abundantly clear that their desire is to impose the will of the state upon the church. Corporate America jumped onto the bandwagon, threatening boycotts if Gov. Deal actually signed the bill into law. Businesses both inside and outside of Georgia were tripping over themselves to vocally oppose legislation specifically designed to protect pastors as well as their churches from being coerced by the state into violating their consciences. Let that sink in.
What we are witnessing here is the removal of God’s common grace from our land. The protections our churches currently enjoy from civil government are eroding quickly. With the last vestiges of our constitutional order on the verge of collapse, Christians in America must come to grips with a new reality in which a militant Secularism will be calling the shots. We can no longer appeal to Caesar for protection for religious liberty. Let us take note of what our brothers and sisters in Europe and Canada have experienced. May the Lord prepare us for what lies ahead, reminding us that He is building His kingdom in the midst of this present chaos.