An overflow crowd lines the railings above the state Capitol rotunda during a 2015 rally in support of fired Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com
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January 13, 2015 Atlanta: An overflow crowd lines the railings above the Capitol Rotunda during a rally in support of fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran on Tuesday afternoon January 13, 2015. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM

From the right: Critics of ‘religious liberty’ bill say it doesn’t go far enough

An overflow crowd lines the railings above the state Capitol rotunda during a 2015 rally in support of fired Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com
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January 13, 2015 Atlanta: An overflow crowd lines the railings above the Capitol Rotunda during a rally in support of fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran on Tuesday afternoon January 13, 2015. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM
An overflow crowd lines the railings above the state Capitol rotunda during a 2015 rally in support of fired Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com

An overflow crowd lines the railings above the state Capitol rotunda during a 2015 rally in support of fired Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com

While opponents of Georgia’s “religious liberty” bill are threatening boycotts if Gov. Nathan Deal signs it, advocates of protections for religious conservatives against the impact of same-sex marriage say it doesn’t go far enough.

Specifically, these groups cite the lack of protection for individual conscientious objectors and businesses owned by those would prefer not to provide services for same-sex couples.

From a column that appears over the name of Tony Perkins, head of the powerful Family Research Council:

If you’re looking for a clue behind the inexplicable rise of Donald Trump and his support among “evangelicals,” look no further than Georgia. It’s called Republicans. In a state where protecting religious liberty is as popular as peach pie, Republican Governor Nathan Deal (R) and House Speaker David Ralston (R) are presiding over the demise of Georgian’s First Freedom.

After weeks of working on HB 757, a modest bill that would have provided protections against the growing threat to religious freedom in the wake of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, timid lawmakers caved to misinformation campaigns from the Left and threats from big business. The bill, which was never as strong as it should have been, is now a tattered fig leaf now that House Speaker David Ralston has gutted the real protections for Georgia’s men and women of faith. In this latest “compromise,” only a fraction of faith-based groups and churches would be protected from the government’s merciless attacks on Christians. If this measure is enacted, shop owners like Melissa Klein and public officials like Kelvin Cochran would still be left twisting in the wind while the state fires, fines, and punishes Georgians to forced acceptance of same-sex marriage.

And even now, after the bill has been watered down so much that it’s unrecognizable, big business is still complaining. Companies like Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Arby’s, and Sales Force are either intent on strong-arming Christians or too lazy to get the facts, because all are threatening to pull out of Georgia if it won’t allow the bullying of believers to continue.

Kelvin Cochran, you’ll remember is the Atlanta fire chief fired by Mayor Kasim Reed after publishing and bringing into the workplace a book of Sunday school teachings condemned, among other things, same-sex marriage. Melissa Klein is the Oregon baker who refused service to a lesbian couple.

Criticism is also coming from the National Organization for Marriage:

The Georgia legislature succumbed to pressure from the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT extremists and significantly watered down religious liberty protections before sending the legislation (HB 757) to Governor Nathan Deal for his signature. Incredibly, it’s possible that Governor Deal will not sign even the modest protections in the bill, which are designed to protect pastors and religious groups from having to perform same-sex ‘weddings’ or forcing them to be hosted at their facilities.

The group still recommends that Deal sign the measure.

Backers point to the above criticism as proof that HB 757 is the result of significant compromise on their part. But it also may be a sign that, regardless of whether Governor Deal puts his signature to the measure, the issue will be back before the Legislature next year.


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