Let’s begin with two news items. First, in June the Walt Disney Co. will open a new, $5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai, China. China is a great place to make money, but it’s also the land of systematic human-rights abuses, forced abortions, state churches, labor camps, and brutal crackdowns. Disney — undeterred, and with its eyes firmly fixed on the financial prize — actually permits the Chinese government to co-own the park.
Meanwhile, back in the United States — the land of political and religious freedom — Disney is threatening to scale back its operations in the state of Georgia, saying it is ready to halt film and television production at its Pinewood Studios outside of Atlanta.
What heinous thing has Georgia done? Have Georgia National Guard armored vehicles threatened to roll over dissidents? Is it dragging women, screaming, into operating rooms to abort their children against their will? Is it confiscating political literature and censoring the Internet? No, it’s legislature passed a bill that protects — in certain, extremely limited contexts — the rights of religious objectors to gay marriage.
Disney made this move even after the Georgia legislature watered down the initial version of its religious-freedom bill, inserting language that denies protection for any act of so-called invidious discrimination. To a liberal judiciary who sees virtually any act of Christian conscience as little more than malicious bigotry, the legislature created a massive loophole in the law.
And it was a loophole the law didn’t need. The original bill, passed by the Georgia senate 38-14, protected pastors from being forced to officiate at marriages that violated their religious beliefs, protected business owners who wished to remain closed on Saturday or Sunday, protected religious organizations from having to rent their facilities for events that violated their beliefs, and — controversially — prohibited the government from taking any “adverse action against a person or faith-based organization” that “believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the Union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage.”
Of course all the usual corporate social-justice suspects promptly vented their spleens — led by the monumental hypocrites at SalesForce.com (People’s Republic of China office located at 1 Guang Hua Road in Beijing), Apple (doing business in Saudi Arabia and China and with dictatorships across the globe), and the NFL, which is threatening to reject Atlanta’s bid for a Super Bowl if Georgia decides to respect the rights of conscience of its Christian citizens.
The NFL, which can’t properly discipline players who beat women unconscious in elevators and has systematically undercounted player concussions — misleading players who are seeking to protect their long-term health even as they play a violent sport — is a particularly interesting choice to play-act as social-justice warrior. But, for a league under fire, moral posturing for the elite media is an easy way to build leftist good will. So what if they throw their faithful Christian fans, athletes, and coaches under the bus?But in modern America, when hypocritical social-justice warriors confront spineless Republicans, the hypocrites tend to win. They’ve already secured a watered-down bill, and now Disney and its friends are moving in for the kill. Georgia governor Nathan Deal has already echoed leftist talking points, condemning any effort to “allow discrimination in our state to protect people of faith,” but he hasn’t indicated yet whether he’ll veto the legislation.
The revised bill is better than nothing, and the “compromise” now has its important use — it demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that powerful corporations not only have no interest in protecting religious conscience, they’re doing an American imitation of their Chinese Communist partners’ suppression of faith and free speech. The only “compromise” they seek in Georgia is surrender. Our new hipster commissars have spoken; will Georgia obey?
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.