Faith Leaders Vow to Pass a Religious Liberty Bill

Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project addresses the press with faith leaders behind her. Photo: Jon Richards
Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project addresses the press with faith leaders behind her. Photo: Jon Richards

At a Capitol press conference this morning more than 30 religious leaders expressed their disappointment over Governor Deal’s veto of House Bill 757, and vowed to redouble their efforts to override the governor’s veto or to pass religious freedom legislation in an upcoming legislative session.

The group announced the results of a new poll conducted the week of March 21st by Clout Research. In that poll, 66% of likely voters agreed that Governor Deal should have signed the Free Exercise Protection Act, which was described as “a bill that provides for pastors and churches to exercise their religious freedoms in their service to their communities.” 79% of Republicans, 62% of independents, and 59% of Democrats strongly or somewhat disagreed that the bill should be signed.

In addition to tabulating support for HB 757, the survey asked respondents their opinion of Governor Deal. 44.9% felt he was doing a good or excellent job, while 49.7% thought he was doing a fair or poor job. A majority, at 47.2% though their local community was headed in the right direction, while 37.3% felt it was on the wrong track. 16.5% weren’t sure.

80.3% agreed that political correctness, defined as “where people are afraid of speaking truth because they may offend someone and may suffer some sort of retribution” as gone too far, while 13.6% disagreed. 6% were not sure. When asked whether respondents felt that government and the courts have become too intrusive into how Georgians live their lives, 79.5% agreed while 23.1% disagreed. The poll of 811 likely Georgia voters has a margin of error of 3.44%.

One of the speakers at the press conference was Rep. Wes Cantrell, who serves as youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Woodstock. Cantrell said that he has the utmost respect for Governor Deal. He described how over the last two years, there were ongoing negotiations in good faith between the Senate, House, and their leaders, in an effort to craft a bill that has no discrimination in it. “The bill explicitly states,” Cantrell said, “that it cannot be used for discrimination. However it’s been demagogued; it’s been lied about; there’s been deception. And so we lost the argument because the narrative from the press and from special interest groups and lobbyists have caused people to have a complete misunderstanding of the bill.”

Rep. Cantrell stated that he had been inundated with phone calls, emails and texts opposing the governor’s veto. He estimated that 80% of his district was in favor of the Free Exercise Protection Act, and his Cherokee County constituents could not understand how a Republican governor could stand against religious liberty.

Senator Marty Harbin of Tyrone said that the legislature needed to call a special session. Visibly angry, Harbin called for Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston to have their representatives meet in a special session and deal with whatever it takes to get a religious liberty message through.

“We need to realize this,” Senator Harbin said, “If we crush religious freedom, we crush what made this country great. You can’t ask for God to bless America when you cut God out.”

Southern Regional Director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition Virginia Galloway summed up the position of the religious conservatives nicely. Quoting the words of John Paul Jones, Galloway said, “We have not yet begun to fight.”

Note: A previous version of this post reported Democratic support for signing HB 757 was 69%. It is actually 59%.

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Loren
Loren

“The group announced the results of a new poll conducted the week of March 31st by Clout Research. In that poll, 66% of likely voters agreed that Governor Deal should have signed the Free Exercise Protection Act, which was described as “a bill that provides for pastors and churches to exercise their religious freedoms in their service to their communities”.” In other words, the poll basically asked respondents whether the Governor should have signed the unanimously-passed Pastor Protection Act. And when a majority said ‘Yes’, it *reported* that a majority of respondents said the Governor should have signed the very… Read more »

DAinGA
DAinGA

Indeed I was about to say the same. I also find it ironic that one supporter says the bill has been “demagogued” while another then says ““If we crush religious freedom, we crush what made this country great. You can’t ask for God to bless America when you cut God out.” Uh….last time I checked, no religious freedom has been crushed. Even Atlanta, which probably has the most liberal ordinances protecting LGBTs is limited and wouldn’t hurt a business who refused to bake a cake or someone who wouldn’t rent their B&B for a gay wedding. And even if it… Read more »

augusta52
augusta52

How many of those “faith leaders” are not Southern Baptist?

rickday
rickday

What. A. Bunch. Of. Crybabies.

This is why secular and theology should mix like water and oil.

But there is someone just CONVINCED if they shake it hard enough.

gsupantherfan1
gsupantherfan1

“A bill that provides for pastors and churches to exercise their religious freedoms in their service to their communities.” That may have been what HB 757 started as, but it does far more than that. That is an intentionally misleading question.

Bart
Bart

How about a trade off – you get your discrimination law in exchange for paying property taxes on your church locations and income taxes on all the $$$$$$ you bilk from old folks. That will help offset losses our state will incur as businesses scatter for other less bigoted areas.

Jack Fitz
Jack Fitz

YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! No one is refusing your right to free exercise, just your right to free exercise while not paying taxes.

And the argument that “smaller churches might not survive” is spitting in the face of capitalism.

I love pizza, its great. I’d eat it all day, everyday. But if I’m the only one that goes to my local pizza shop, cause there is a Mellow Mushroom down the road, and my local place can’t survive, then so be it. The market deemed it so. Let’s try this out with all tax exempt status.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

They must be getting pretty frantic about this because the longer we go without this bill happening, the more their case for its need falls apart.

bethebalance
bethebalance

it’s easy to see how misdirection enters these survey questions, preying on respondent ignorance. that’s not science, that’s advocacy. plus, this whole idea of political correctness has been skewed by many for a long while now. in the above excerpt, i never even considered fear being part of political correctness. how would people respond if the question was framed to something like: “should people address other people in ways that reflect common courtesy and respect for their ethnic, religious, and racial identity?”. words matter.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Exodus 20:16 How can so called men of the cloth stand behind a chart containing at best half-truths, but obviously the results of a push poll? If they are willing to bear this false witness then how can other statements they make from the pulpit be trusted as the gospel truth? How is it that Ralph Reed’s organization is once again the only lobbyists allowed to hold press conferences on the Capitol steps, prayer meetings in the Sloppy Floyd towers, and last year even an organized protest rally in the dome?… Read more »

rickday
rickday

I thought it was kosher for Christians to lie if it further’s God’s Plan (known only to them)? Authority trumps truth. Police can, and do lie, in order to implicate someone into an arrest. Preachers can lie about support if it means they can score points with The Jesus for hooking more souls for the church plate.