EDIT: Since originally posting this story and concluding with the idea that you might be lead around by certain leaders for the purposes of money or influence, the AJC.com has a fantastic, short write-up of how this “hunch” was correct.
Here in the great State of Georgia, we have been getting almost non-stop local coverage over the issue of religious liberty. And while I believe that all Americans — regardless of their personal belief system — should have equal protection under the law, the knee-jerk reaction to what Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of HB 757 has produced (one of the two religious liberty bills floating around our General Assembly) needed some rational commenting.
However, what really got me going today was what the Rev. Franklin Graham said yesterday about this issue. I am really sorry that Rev. Graham is taking the stance that he is, because he clearly has not actually read HB 757, and neither has Sen. Ted Cruz, because it would absolutely not do anything that they’re going on about. The bill would have essentially provided for the following:
- From Section 2 of the bill, any leader in a faith-based organization has the right to allow or disallow activities based on their beliefs and cannot have negative repercussions on account of their stance;
- From Section 3, any business has to allow for reasonable accommodation for an employee to have a day of rest either on Saturday or Sunday;
- From Section 4, a faith-based organization can’t be forced to rent, buy or sell products or services that go against their faith, and such refusal can’t be grounds for a lawsuit or other repercussions;
- From Section 5, no faith-based organization is required to hire or retain talent who has a different belief system than that of the faith-based organization.
From a religious perspective, a number of those points sound great, don’t they? But remember that such laws tend to have unintended consequences that would occur. For example, what happens if all of your employees were to decide that they weren’t going to work on a Saturday or a Sunday, and if you threatened them in some way, they could come back and sue you — but wait: they couldn’t sue you, because the same law says that you cannot be sued on account of religious stances. Ooo. First bug.
What about wholesale discrimination? According to this law, if you were a church leader (or any other type of lay person), you could legitimately refuse anyone who is gay, divorced, a glutton, an adulterer (or any other favorite sin) from darkening your church’s doorsteps and such potential parishioners could do nothing about it (because you’re protected from being sued). Further, if your non-church organization decides to do the same thing (by virtue of rejecting to sell products or services), you’d be free and clear to discriminate.
Well, you’d be free and clear to discriminate at the State level. However, there is still federal law that states that, in the marketplace, you can’t discriminate based on protected areas. Ooo. Second bug.
As a third illustration, what about the situation where you’re an employer and you discover that your employee is a Jehovah’s Witness, or maybe a Mormon (both of which are considered cults with respect to orthodox Christianity), perhaps even a Roman Catholic (because you think all real Christians must be Protestant, or maybe it’s vice versa)? Or, maybe the employee is pro-choice, and you’re not? Perhaps the employee has gay friends, and you vehemently disagree with that lifestyle? According to this legislation, you as the employer could fire that employee solely based on their beliefs and/or belief system. Ooo. Third bug.
For those who are detail-oriented, you might be saying, “but wait — doesn’t the law specifically describe a faith-based organization? This doesn’t count towards a ‘regular’ business, does it?” To which I would then say the following:
- Section 2 only refers to the individual, not a business situation, and is therefore open to interpretation;
- Section 3 specifically refers to businesses, not faith-based organizations;
- Sections 4 and 5 do specifically refer to faith-based organizations.
As such, we can already see that this proposed law is, at best, not complete in its application of discrimination, something that federal law takes great pains to alleviate (i.e.: you must equally cover law across everyone in your jurisdiction). And make no mistake, this is lawful discrimination.
You might not like hearing that, but the reality is — and as Gov. Deal specifically stated in his veto promise — the First Amendment to the American Constitution already guarantees the right of free speech. In my opinion, trying to add to or take away from this fundamental right only confuses the issue. Unless your right is being infringed by someone impugning someone else’s ability to exercise the same right, there is no wrong here.
As a corollary, however, the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to be heard. Whether you’re a left-winger or a right-winger, it’s already a truism (sadly, except for the concept of health insurance, which is currently a federal mandate upon all American citizens) that you cannot be forced by any third-party entity to buy, sell or otherwise engage in something you simply choose not to engage in, specifically when it comes to any private entity. This carries with it the onus on the individual to proverbially change the channel and go somewhere else if the current situation is not in that individual’s best interests.
Let me tell you why this is therefore such a big deal, and why some don’t believe the First Amendment essentially has anything to do with this (if you listen to their banter).
It’s because they (whomever they are) have an agenda. They want you to stop thinking for yourself, stop doing your own homework, and simply trust what they have to say. This way, they can persuade you to think like they do, and ultimately give them money and support. This is brutal commentary, but it’s the truth.
What’s my agenda? It’s to first vent, and then to present what I see as the facts of a percolating situation in the court of public opinion. I’m simply tired of folks being led by the nose towards irrational ends by leaders in the community who really do know better (and if they don’t, they’re being disingenuous with you) because the facts simply contradict what their griping and whining is actually stating.
At the end of the day, you are not going to lose your ability to go to church if this bill doesn’t get passed. You are not going to lose your right to free speech, nor your ability to formally confront someone (sue them) about your rights being infringed. Why not? Because of the First Amendment!
Instead, perhaps we all ought to be asking the following questions of our alleged leaders:
How will my rights under the First Amendment be curtailed if Georgia’s so-called religious freedom bill does not pass?
How will someone be able to stop me from going to church or from me being able to opine on a blog if such a bill does not pass?
How will I not be able to sue someone else if they make certain claims against me if this bill does not pass?