The Relationship Between Guns, Religious Liberty, and the Opportunity School District

Political capital is an odd commodity. In some cases, you can spend it, and end up with more than what you started with. Governor Deal’s promotion of criminal justice reform earned him votes in 2014 that he would not otherwise have had. In other cases, spending it the wrong way can quickly deplete your account. Think of George W Bush pushing for Social Security reform following his re-election in 2004. And in any case, political capital is a wasting asset which declines to zero the closer one gets to lame duck status.

After Governor Deal gave tacit approval to an effort to allow guns on college campuses, the General Assembly passed a campus carry bill, allowing those 21 and older who possessed a concealed carry permit to take their guns to classrooms, and almost anywhere else, save dorms and athletic events. After the bill passed both houses, the governor said he couldn’t support the measure unless it was clear that it didn’t apply to on-campus day care centers, or at campuses that have high school students taking classes under dual enrollment programs.

Legislators appear to be unwilling to make changes to the campus carry bill. By refusing to make changes, the governor will be forced to decide whether to spend his political capital on a veto of the bill, or to let it become law as is. If he decides to use his veto pen, legislators will be able to tell voters at home that they supported campus carry, but the governor was the bad guy who vetoed the bill.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly passed the Free Exercise Protection Act, which combined elements of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Pastor Protection Act and the First Amendment Defense Act into a measure intended to settle the three year debate over religious liberty in the Peach State. Prior to the introduction of the compromise measure, the governor stated he would veto a religious liberty bill that allowed discrimination.

Almost predictably, those supporting the measure say it doesn’t enable discrimination. They point out that the measure requires religious organizations entering into contracts with government to provide a service such as a homeless shelter must follow any anti-discrimination provisions in the contract. They point to a line in the RFRA portion of the bill that forbids “invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.” Opponents of the bill claim it could trump local anti-discrimination ordinances, such as the one in the city of Atlanta. They say that other portions of the bill allow religious organizations to discriminate in hiring and in providing social benefits.

The governor will have to decide whether the bill permits discrimination or not. If he signs the bill, he will have to spend his political capital convincing businesses that it isn’t discriminatory, and that Georgia remains the best state in which to do business. On the other hand, a veto will cost him a lot of his remaining political capital with voters concerned about religious freedom.

Much has been said about how Governor Deal no longer needs to face the voters in an election, and how that affords him some freedom to act that he would not have had otherwise. That fact should give him some flexibility in deciding how to spend his remaining political capital.

However, there is one piece of unfinished business needed to cement the governor’s legacy: the Opportunity School District. In order for it to become a reality, voters will need to approve the constitutional amendment enabling the OSD in November. Getting that approval will require some political capital from the governor. How much political capital Governor Deal has left to spend on promoting the Opportunity School District as we move towards November will be determined by how he spends it in deciding the fate of the campus carry and religious liberty bills.

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Charlie
Charlie

The article misses one big piece of political capital the Governor will have for two more legislative sessions: The line item veto. There was a point in Zell Miller’s second term when the legislature decided to declare him a lame duck and pursue their own agenda. Key members soon discovered that their pet projects were left on the cutting room floor. We don’t have as many toys in the supplemental budgets as we did in those days, but it’s no secret who wants most pieces of legislation passed under the Gold Dome. I would expect to see a fairly aggressive… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Clarification please as the morphing of 757 got me turned around.

Does the bill apply to an individual’s activities outside or those activities within faith based organizations ?

Hopefully, An owner, employee or representative of a non-faith based enterprise has no protection under this law.

Then comes the definition of a faith based organization.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Thanks, confirmed my assumptions. A sole proprietor would have a business license or tax ID of some sort. Most of the attacks on this bill relate to individuals or businesses doing something against their religion in an exercise outside what is protected in this bill.

DAinGA
DAinGA

Perhaps most of the attacks YOU have seen, but hardly most of the attacks. One big issue many have is that it guts local protects, put into place by cities or counties. The line ““invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law” is rather a red herring since Federal law doesn’t protect LGBT folks and the state of GA has no civil rights law of any kind. So the only amount of protection LGBT folks in GA get is at the local level, which this guts. Not to mention since this Frankenstein of a bill takes some… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

……….The governor will have to decide whether the bill permits discrimination or not. If he signs the bill, he will have to spend his political capital convincing businesses that it isn’t discriminatory, and that Georgia remains the best state in which to do business. On the other hand, a veto will cost him a lot of his remaining political capital with voters concerned about religious freedom………… It is clear this bill have an economic impact on our state. Before we get into any more debate of language in the bill, can someone please tell us first how we replace the… Read more »

DAinGA
DAinGA

Or Senator Kirk from Americus, since he seems to think the companies are bluffing?

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Not being hard but struggling to understand how, other than misunderstanding, how the companies take issue. To keep it a bit low caffeine and with a smile: So we have a religious organization/church that ministers to all comers and tells a same sex couple we don’t bless same sex unions but you are free to go to the courthouse or down the street to do so and unfortunately we wouldn’t honor your request to anoint your naked bodies with Coca Cola either. Coca Cola is going to come in and tell the pastor, we will give you a pass on… Read more »

DAinGA
DAinGA

Simple.Coke runs a HUGE program for non-profits will allows them to get Coke products for free for events. They can simply not donate to that church. But more likely is that if the won’t schedule board or bottler meetings in GA. They will take that business elsewhere. Saleforce is already saying that one of it’s large conventions will go elsewhere if this happens. That is how companies make their views known, they withhold discretionary items that would enrich GA.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

I remember when BofA cut off the Boy Scouts until they knuckled under as a shell of their past. Imagine that is the direction churches will be going in this schism.

John, assume you expect all rabbi’s to marry same sex couples and Charlie expects all Methodists to follow ?

This is the state controlling religion.

John Konop
John Konop

Salty, This is why Indy called uncle, it was no bluff. Atlanta has way bigger business than Indy on the line. The current bill clearly opens up open season on gay people being they are not a protected class. I would guess it could be applied to divorced people as well since they are not a protected class. I am not divorced nor gay, but being Jewish, I do not want to go back to a place with signs denying people service based on being divorced and or gay. I do not think anyone should be forced to perform a… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

To complete – churches don’t usually deny ministering to those that don’t follow their traditions but they have restrictions on who can receive their blessings on specific matters. That is what churches do, set their moral compasses.l

Your link read like a media spin to individual discriminations. we are talking about beliefs of religious organizations.

John Konop
John Konop

Salt, The reason I have been very outspoken about this issue, is first when I heard about the suicide rate associated with gay teens, via people like Sen. McKoon creating an environment of hate toward them. I had an older brother that committed suicide via mental health issues. From that experience, I have become very sensitive to the issue. When leaders like Sen. McKoon use issues like this for political gain it is flat out morally wrong! I have very good friend who is a scholar on Christianity, he has always told me the first think you need to know… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Geez every time I try to read you answer…..we are not talking about a government service but a religious service…..go to the courthouse….the church does not have to bless government contracts nor be told to.

John Konop
John Konop

I am already said if the bill was limited to not forcing clergy to marry people I am for it. This bill goes way farther…..

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

The main body of the church I attend marries and has leaders that are in same sex relationships but it was the churches decision not the states.

You expect the Temples to $$ whore themselves out ( in their eyes) for a city convention ?

DAinGA
DAinGA

I expect the government to do what is right for the best of ALL it’s people. NO ONE is forcing anyone to marry anyone. Jews aren’t forces to marry Catholics now and the “Pastor Protection” part of this bill was never needed. It is already a right. But even so, if the original Pastor Protection Act had been left as it was, the hue and cry wouldn’t be a great because no one, GAY or STRAIGHT, wants to force faith leaders to have to marry anyone. Or a church to have to host a wedding not of their faith. But… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

I agree this process will be a moneymaker for lawmakers and have waited for the versions to slow down morphing before commenting. The original was certainly bizarre and attracting religious zealots. “where state lawmakers have cobbled together a dangerous piece of legislation that would prohibit the government from punishing anyone or anything — individuals; businesses; and nonprofit groups, including those that receive taxpayer funds — for discrimination, so long as they claim it was based on their religious views of marriage.” It is much different now focusing on the rights of religious organizations. The opposition has stuck with the original… Read more »