Can Georgia Bill 757 Beat Out The Super Bowl ?
The NFL has said Atlanta’s religious exemptions bill puts the city at risk of losing the Super Bowl Bid. Georgia House Bill 757 allows faith-based groups to deny service to people. The NFL said it will see which states have policies of tolerance and inclusiveness consistent with NFL policies when picking a host.
Georgia House Bill 757
Georgia’s Senate passed House Bill 757, a so-called “Religious Liberty” bill. The bill allows faith-based organizations or individuals to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds, and allows for such organizations to refuse to hire or retain employees whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” The bill’s supporters are hoping Georgia joins the dozens of states who are sanctioning LGBT discrimination by dressing it up in religious garb.
The bill’s been winding its way through halls at Georgia’s state Capitol for years, and along the way has picked up some powerful enemies. The Metro Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau has said the negative economic impact on the state as a result of the bill could be $1 billion to $2 billion. Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Google and Microsoft have all opposed the law, as have the Braves, Falcons and Hawks.
Basically, this bill allows people like wedding photographers and pastry chefs, along with faith-based organizations, to decline to provide services for gay weddings on religious grounds, or to rent out space for such events. This does not make the bill more palatable, but the legislature seems to be trying to use the Free Exercise clause in a fairly narrow way except for denying employment which NO ONE seems to be noticing.
The relevant portions include: ministers being able to decline to officiate at weddings; faith-based organizations not being forced to rent out space for an event they find objectionable or provide social, educational or charitable services that violate their faith; faith-based organizations not having to employ a person who’s beliefs or practices violate the organization’s beliefs; a person not being forced to attend weddings or rites that violate their religious beliefs; and finally the bill says the government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a law, rule, regulation, ordinance, or resolution of general applicability” unless it demonstrates that this furthers a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. However, a public officer or employee specifically could not refuse to perform her or his official duties, such as providing marriage licenses.
Currently, Georgia House Bill 757 awaits to be signed by Governor Nathan Deal. He seems to be reticent to do so, most likely because of these business interests that are threatening to exit the state:
What the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world. We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us.”
Football is king in the south and it gets no bigger than the Super Bowl. Georgia has a choice between discriminating against gays by passing Georgia House Bill 757, or hosting the most important football game in the world. Georgia’s is a choice confronting many religious conservatives, as we have noted:
America’s major corporations have become socially liberal though they are still staunchly capitalist. This is most likely due to shareholders, customers, employees and competition that are all now global. Offending groups of people means giving up market share to competitors. It’s better to collude with your competitors in deciding what will be available to the consumer on the market. Profiting off of outrage has short-term benefits, but branding issues over the long term. Not fulfilling the needs of the outraged market (those who want Confederate flags for example) is a risk, but in the opinion of major corporations, is worth taking as to not alienate what they deem to be a larger market against such things.