A Modified Pastor Protection Act Is Ready for Consideration by the Senate

Those attending a Tuesday Senate Rules Committee hearing believed it would consider two bills, the Pastor Protection Act, sent over from the House, and the First Amendment Defense Act, sponsored by Senator Greg Kirk of Americus. Instead, what they got was a substitute for the Pastor Protection Act that took the original, and added on many elements of Kirk’s original bill.

The Pastor Protection Act portion survived virtually intact from what was sent over by the House. There were two significant changes made to the First Amendment Defense Act portion from the bill originally filed by Senator Kirk.

The previous version of the bill offered protection from state sanctions for those who recognize marriage as being between a man and a woman in a traditional marriage. That definition led to charges of viewpoint discrimination, since it didn’t offer protections to those who recognize same sex marriage. The new version recognizes marriage as between two people, which could be same-sex or opposite sex. The definition does not offer protection to polygamous relationships.

The previous version of Senator Kirk’s First Amendment Defense Act used a standard definition of “person” used elsewhere in the Georgia code, which could include corporations and business partnerships, including religious organizations. The new version defines person as a natural person only. Its provisions have been modified to include protections for faith-based organizations, which are defined as “any organization or other legal entity whose governing documents or mission statement expressly acknowledges a religious belief or purpose.” The net effect is that individuals and religious organizations can assert a first amendment right of protection, but secular businesses or corporations, ranging from a mom and pop florist to a corporation like Hobby Lobby cannot.

While these changes address some of the concerns expressed about the First Amendment Defense Act, there are likely to be some issues with the bill as it stands. One issue was brought up during Tuesday’s hearing: A church or faith-based organization that accepts funds from the government in order to carry out a program would, according to the bill, be allowed to exclude those who did not agree with that organization’s beliefs regarding marriage, even if one of the conditions for receiving the funding was that the program would be available to all.

The second issue, which was brought up during the discussion of the original bill, deals with the case of a government employee who believes in one of the protected definitions of marriage. The bill provides that a government employee cannot use the First Amendment Defense Act as a reason not to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. However that person can put up a “I hate gays” sign above his or her desk, and can’t be reprimanded for it.

As debate on the measure drew to a close, Senator Steve Henson of Tucker suggested a delay before the Rules Committee adopted the bill so that it could be properly examined, and if necessary, amendments could be offered. Rather than accepting the Minority Leader’s suggestion, Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga pointed out that amendments could be made on the floor during deliberation by the entire Senate. Due to Senate rules, the bill is not likely to show up on the calendar until Friday at the earliest, providing some time for senators to examine the bill.

Assuming the Senate passes something, it will return to the House. If I am right on parliamentary procedure, the House will disagree with the Senate substitute because the original bill was passed using a structured rule. The ultimate fate of the measure could rest on who Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle appoint to the conference committee, and whether they can figure out how to count to four.

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Robbie
Robbie

This bill is absolutely disgusting and a clear effort to allow discrimination against same-sex couples, single mothers, unmarried sexually active people, and even interracial couples. Senator Kirk was blatantly lying when he said this bill doesn’t allow for discrimination. That’s its express purpose. Kirk also lied when he said he had the endorsement of the business communities – specifically the Georgia and Metro Chambers – Kirk doesn’t seem to know the difference between the phrases “some of this language is a step in the right direction” and “yes, we endorse this.” The AJC makes it pretty clear they did NOT… Read more »

Calypso
Calypso

I am appalled that with all the real problems and issues facing our state that the yahoos under the Dome are wasting time and dollars with crap like all these ‘religious protection’ bills.

They are simpletons, too distracted by the petty to pay just attention to the necessary.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

My issues with this bill (and RFRA, and FADA) are myriad. But I recognize the whole “gay people are people and have rights” argument tends to fall on deaf ears. After all, you can’t just convince a dim-witted homophobe to not be a dim-witted homophobe, especially when said dim-witted homophobe has the glorified participation trophy that is a position in the state legislature. So I’ll try this in terms that they’ll understand. This is a waste of government money. We’re wasting the paper the bill is printed on. We’re wasting the ink and toner used to print it. We’re paying… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

We have a Baptist with six children from Americus tossing out a bill his fellow legislators see worthy of considering probably because that is what their constituents want to see……..I doubt Kirk is a rogue and part of the disapproval numbers as he is a newbie and for term limits.

That said, I agree with all the outrage that questions where the hell are our priorities ? Nationally we are on the cusp of having a mobocracy led by a narcissist or an amoral sociopath enriching herself.
The enemy is us.

John Konop
John Konop

Salty,

Ironically it is BS do nothing pandering to special interest groups like this driving the Trump/Bernie show. People are frustrated, and this is what our officeholders are focused on. We have real issues, with traffic, schools, cost of college, wages, healthcare………and this is what we get? Officeholders need to look in the mirror instead of asking why the Trump/Bernie train keeps rolling.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Issues we have way too much Federal involvement. Why do you call out Bernie and not Hillary ?

John Konop
John Konop

Hillary is part of the do nothing establishment beholden to her donors. I do not agree with Bernie, but I understand the frustration he has tapped into aa well as Trump. Agree or not with Bernie or Trump they at least do not seem like the status quo. This has been nothing more than a fund raising bill on this thread for McKoon. officeholders like McKoon have made people wake up to the BS….Focus on non core issues to anyone’s life right or left, and ask for money.

John Konop
John Konop

BTW this is the same Sen. Josh McKoon who calls out everyone else, and look at this article. McKoon is just playing people to get ahead, and is just one more politician telling us one thing and doing another. …….Amid the unveiling of a plan to cap gifts from lobbyists at $100, Columbus state Senator Josh McKoon is courting big donations from the same crowd the rule would impact. State lawmakers are prohibited from raising campaign funds while the General Assembly is in session, so eleventh hour funders are hardly surprising, but a Sunday report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution… Read more »

Teri
Teri

“We have a Baptist with six children from Americus…” Ha! Salty, my dad is a Baptist with six kids, but that’s because he married my Catholic mother. Not sure what Kirk’s offspring count has to do with this, though.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Just started with his bio and locale, he is doing his thing and I imagined what his constituents want.

My only objection to a big family is being the oldest with too much responsibility….there should be law that household income is $50k per child….😄

My problem is the collective legislative body gets sidetracked and fails to clear the big issues.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Why not make it GaGOP omnibus constitutional amendment protection legislation and add campus carry and fetal heatbeat protection?

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I would like to point out that this bill still allows adoption agencies to deny placement to same-sex couples, still allows parochial schools to expel children of gay parents, still allows a parochial school teacher to tell a kid his two dads are going to hell and are Godless sodomites…

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

An epic waste of time, money, and thought. There is no need for this legislation. Rabbis have as long as I have known refused to marry mixed religion couples (Jew/Non Jew), and have never faced any legal scrutiny for it. You just get married elsewhere or find a Rabbi more accommodating. No clergy member is ever forced to marry 2 people they dont want to marry…and thus this bill is a waste of time other than the contortions they are wrapping themselves in to try to find a way to discriminate against gay people…and that, my friends, aint gonna fly.