Politics & Policy

Nathan Deal’s Craven Capitulation on Georgia’s Religious-Liberty Bill

Georgia governor Nathan Deal (Davis Turner/Getty)

When Disney says “Jump,” Georgia governor Nathan Deal doesn’t just ask “How high?” He insults anyone who asks him to stand his ground. Today, Deal joined the GOP governors’ hall of shame — currently populated by Indiana governor Mike Pence and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson — by bowing to corporate pressure and pledging to veto an extraordinarily narrow religious-liberty bill. Deal, in fact, makes both Pence and Hutchinson look like profiles in courage. They, after all, at least had enough conviction to sign modified, watered-down religious-freedom legislation. Deal couldn’t muster the backbone to sign even a bill that the legislature had already gutted in response to threatened corporate boycotts.

The Georgia bill that Deal refused to defend was modest in scope, protecting the right of clergy to solemnize marriages consistent with their religious beliefs, protecting the right of faith-based institutions to use their property and resources to advance their religious mission, protecting their rights to hire and fire employees on grounds consistent with religious belief and practice, and protecting a person’s free exercise of religion from a “substantial burden” unless the protected person was engaged in “invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.”

In other words, the bill as drafted could not be used to “bring back Jim Crow,” nor could it offer any person, outside clergy and faith-based employers, any effective defense against the enforcement of state anti-discrimination laws. It wouldn’t block a single gay marriage. It wouldn’t deny a single gay person access to the marketplace. Instead, it would merely offer a bare minimum of legal protections to Georgia citizens who are already confronting anti-Christian bigotry and discrimination.

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That small amount of protection was too much not only for Apple, Disney, Salesforce.com, and a host of multinational corporations who are quite comfortable doing business in places like the People’s Republic of China and Saudi Arabia. It was also too much for Deal. “Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to,” he declared, echoing the far Left’s malicious talking points. “We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way,” he said. “For that reason, I will veto HB 757.”

#share#Actually, Governor, this bill was designed to help people work “side by side” without regard to their religion, and by vetoing it, you are enabling discrimination and betraying the “character of Georgia.” Just ask former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who was abruptly terminated — without a single allegation that he’d ever discriminated against any employee or citizen — simply because he wrote a book that advanced the orthodox Christian position on sex and marriage. Just ask the multiple Georgia college students who’ve been subjected to unlawful discrimination at Georgia public universities simply because of their faith.

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Moreover, if Deal and his cronies can’t win a public-relations battle with the world-class hypocrites at Apple and Disney, then they need a new job. These giant multinationals, which invest billions in nations that systematically suppress human freedom, have the gall to engage in crowd-pleasing moral posturing against the very notion that Christian college students can form their own clubs or that a Christian employee can keep his faith and his job. They defend their own right to a corporate conscience, while attempting to suppress the religious conscience even of faith-based employers. Pitiful.

And experts wonder why the Republican establishment is now in full retreat, facing the wrath of the grassroots. Again and again, when GOP politicians face a choice between the people who put them in office and pressure from progressive corporations and the progressive media, the politicians back the social-justice warriors. Out of pure fear. It’s disgusting to watch.

#related#Donald Trump, of course, has probably given less than nine seconds of thought to religious liberty. He’s been too busying enjoying the full benefits of the sexual revolution to think even for a moment about the conflict between sexual hedonism and religious freedom. Ted Cruz, however, has been stalwart in defense of the faithful. He is the anti-establishment politician who actually understands the role of faith in our national history and culture and understands the direct threat from the “social justice” left. Cruz would call Disney’s bluff.

In the meantime, however, today is a day of defeat. Once again, press releases and hashtags triumph over founding principles and ancient liberties. Small men give away great freedoms. A weathervane politician has turned with the cultural winds, and the faithful will pay the price.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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