Updated: Pastor Protection Act is Filed by Rep. Kevin Tanner

** Update **

A bill filed in the Georgia House exempts some small businesses from having to serve a customer if such service would violate the religious beliefs of the business owner. According to someone involved in developing the bill, this language would have the effect of allowing a baker or florist with strong religious beliefs to deny service to a same sex wedding couple. The exact details of House Bill 756 bill are unknown, including any restrictions on company size or ownership in order to be covered by the bill. It is also unknown whether the measure has the support of Speaker Ralston, as the Pastor Protection Act does.

Original Post

State Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville dropped the Pastor Protection Act this morning. The bill, which will be HB 757, is seen by some as an alternative to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act proposed by Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus, features three provisions designed to protect freedom of religion.

The first provision protects ministers and other religious practitioners from being forced to solemnize marriages in violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of religion under the Georgia or U.S. Constitutions. While this right is widely recognized already, this portion of the bill further protects pastors from a possible breach in the wall between church and state.

The second major provision of the bill relates to the use of property owned by a church or religious organization, and protects that property from being used for a purpose the organization objects to. The measure applies to tax exempt organizations which are “a church, a religious school, an association or convention of churches, a convention mission agency, or an integrated auxiliary of a church or convention or association of churches.” An example of where this section might apply would be if a LGBT couple wanted to use a church facility as the site of a marriage, even if that marriage would be performed by someone not affiliated with that facility.

The final provision of the act prevents governments from requiring a business to be open on Saturday or Sunday, the two days of rest already listed in the Georgia Code. As an example of how this section would apply, based on a real law in Brazil, government could not force a gas station operated by Seventh Day Adventists to be open on Saturday, the day of rest for that denomination.

The bill should get a first reading in the House on Thursday, and quick passage of the measure is expected, given that it is supported by Speaker Ralston. While what will happen in the Senate is uncertain, the speaker indicated he hopes the measure will be supported there as well.

Here is the legislation as filed:

[gview file=”http://www.georgiapol.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Pastor-Protection-LC256547.pdf”]

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Robbie
Robbie

Sections 1 and 2 seem to be pretty innocuous – section 1, of course, contains already guaranteed rights, but fine, if you’re into anti-gay paranoia and this makes you feel better, have at it.

Section 3 is interesting though – “for purposes which are objectionable to such religious organization” seems like it could lead to some very strange places far beyond anti-LGBT posturing.

wchetmartin
wchetmartin

Section 1 and 2 grant rights already guaranteed by the First Amendment, Section 3 just… defines the concept of private property?

Robbie
Robbie

I think that was the intention, and I can totally support that idea.

I’m just not sure the bill, as written, is that simple – there’s something about the phrase “for purposes which are objectionable” that makes me very uncomfortable – it definitely could be interpreted a million different ways.

Benevolus
Benevolus

So I have a question about the Christian baker example: If a cake baker didn’t want to serve, say, gays, couldn’t they call themselves a Christian cake maker and then they wouldn’t be discriminating against anyone because they only sell Christian OK’d cakes anyway? It would be like a Christian bookstore- you can’t make them sell dictionaries (or porn for that matter) because they never do. They don’t have to make an exception for anyone. I guess my point is, if you want to run your business according to (example) Christian principles, then just have that be part of the… Read more »

wchetmartin
wchetmartin

The idea, which has a history in English Common Law, is that if you open yourselves to the market, you have an obligation to do business with all comers. So, to use the cliche, the kosher deli cannot be forced to sell pork. But it can’t refuse service to all Gentiles either.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Just like RFRA, I am not really grasping why this bill is necessary. Are Catholic priests being forced to marry same-sex couples? I remember when my wife and I were planning our wedding, the Archdiocese wanted us to complete a couple’s counseling retreat before a priest could marry us or before we could use a church for our ceremony. Since I’m no longer Catholic and my wife was never Catholic to begin with, I didn’t feel like throwing down a couple hundred bucks to be shamed about our decision to have an interfaith marriage and use contraceptives. Could I have… Read more »

John Vestal
John Vestal

Wait….Second Amendment?

Robbie
Robbie

(Georgia’s Constitution)

Robbie
Robbie

While the PPA is nice legal fluff, for the most part, the second bill, HB 756, as described, is flat out anti-LGBT discrimination.

Jean
Jean

Does this mean that if an individual owns a piece of property that they rent out for occasions — corporate functions, weddings, etc., that they can go onto the internet and become a pastor of the i-like-to-discriminate-church and then declare their property a “church”? Would they then be able to discriminate at will over who uses their property? I’m very suspicious that this is trying to sneak in some new option. I strongly believe that churches should maintain their religious right to discriminate for any reason they choose. I’m just very concerned about this trying to expand beyond the Baptist… Read more »

Lea Thrace
Lea Thrace

“Letting private businesses discriminate based on religion would undo the civil rights movement”

Which is clearly the intent here. I am not sure why more people do not see this. Look at McKoon’s reaction to anti discrimination language. He balks at it because it would gut exactly that end result.