Georgia: Religious Liberty Bellwether

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.

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One Response to Georgia: Religious Liberty Bellwether

  1. Jeff says:

    We I read, see, or hear that the government is going to… I remember these words from about 30 years ago. “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – President Reagan Aug. 12, 1986.
    With that in mind, Georgia already has in section 1 of the CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA Paragraph III. Freedom of conscience. Each person has the natural and inalienable right to worship God, each according to the dictates of that person’s own conscience; and no human authority should, in any case, control or interfere with such right of conscience.
    Paragraph IV. Religious opinions; freedom of religion. No inhabitant of this state shall be molested in person or property or be prohibited from holding any public office or trust on account of religious opinions; but the right of freedom of religion shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.
    These two Rights are clearly for individuals; however, are they for business? The U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case said that closely held company can exercise their religious views. (Closely held means not on the public stock exchange) While I think a company can exercise their religious views whether closely or publicly held, is something for another time. We see that a Religious group cannot be forced to do something not in line with their beliefs as long as it is not publicly held.
    When it comes to Tolerance and Intolerance, I pray for those who I disagree with and I agree with Bishop Fulton Sheen “Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons.” 1931.

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