Here we go again.
My state, Georgia, is in the throes of another legislative season where various bills are proposed. These relate to gay marriage, protection of pastors, religious liberty, and the ability of Georgians to discriminate. How the issues are framed depend on which side you are on. Check a few quotes:
Our Governor, Nathan Deal, a Southern Baptist, says he is not interested in any bill that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith…”
Our paid Georgia Baptist lobbyist, Mike Griffin, a pastor, failed political candidate, and now employee of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board who roams the Capitol on our payroll says, “When it comes to the issue of marriage, while that’s changed [i.e. the SCOTUS definition of marriage], God’s definition has not.”
They are on opposite sides of legislative stuff on the issue but you’ve got to read between the lines to understand either on of them.
Deal doesn’t want a state where gay people may be discriminated against.
Griffin doesn’t want a state where people can be prosecuted for their religious beliefs on marriage. He says that House bill 757 currently bouncing around the Capitol, “protects people of faith from discrimination by the government coercing them into actions that violate their religious beliefs.”
Deal invokes Jesus and quotes the New Testament where “Jesus reached out to those who were considered outcasts…” and that “we do not have a belief…that says we have to discriminate against anybody.”
The quotes above are from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution which I can’t link. Try another, similar, here.
Griffin has a breathless article in the Christian Index that’s adds a bit. In “Religious Freedom Held in the Balance”, he says that the bill “will protect individuals (ex. counselors), churches, private schools, private colleges, adoption agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses from adverse government action because of their beliefs on marriage.”
Deal believes it to be a license to discriminate. A gay individual comes into a shoe store and is denied service because the owner (or worker) is against gay marriage. A gay couple is refused service at a restaurant. A gay couple wants to fly Delta to San Francisco for their honeymoon. A gay couple wants to stay at a motel. A gay couple wants to buy a Coke from the corner store. A gay couple wants to by some paint to fix up their domicile with some rainbow paint scheme. A gay couple wants to attend an AA meeting or a Celebrate Recovery meeting. In any of these scenarios, as I understand it, the current bill would give the individual a legal basis to discriminate against the gay person or couple, and that on the basis of the owner/employee’s religious convictions.
I’d ask Griffin if other religious beliefs are so protected. Interracial marriage or dating? Serving divorced people? People have religious convictions about these. Does the government have a list of acceptable beliefs that should be protected and a list of those that should not? Who decided what goes on what list? Is the bill narrowly crafted to deal with only the issue of marriage? Are gay people who shack up, but who aren’t married, not impacted by the proposed legislation?
To the public, Griffin says the bill doesn’t discriminate against anyone but just protects everyone’s religious beliefs.
To the Baptist choir, Griffin says that,
The opposition forces I face at the Capitol are passionate and aggressive in letting their voices be heard above everyone else’s. But the church, as a whole, is too quiet on these matters. We are simply allowing opportunities to get away from us. This is why I am asking for your help! We must not let the government do to us what Hitler did to the pastors and churches of his day. He got them to accept his protection from government action if they would agree to stay out of government. He basically said, you take care of the church and leave government to me. Pastors, this is happening before our eyes today!
Governor Deal, a Baptist, remember, is the representative of Adolph Hitler, sans mustache.
I have an idea. Junk the whole business and start over. Find a way to protect a narrow group of people (bakers, florists) who perform personal, artistic, or creative services for weddings and the like. Pass the naked Pastor Protection Bill (stripped of the expansive religious liberty language to which Deal and others object) that just says ministers (not government employees, officials like clerks, probate judges, and justices of the peace) shall not be required to perform any marriage to which they object. I’d note that no minister, not a single one, ever, has been prosecuted for doing so, but pass the bill anyway.
Deal has the mammoth Coca-Cola Company, Home Depot, and Delta Air Lines on his side. Griffin has a small but vocal cadre of Georgia Baptists on his side. While Griffin has pastored, run for office, and now works as a lobbyist in this state we have approved the lottery and other forms of gambling and greatly relaxed laws on alcohol. Maybe Griffin would find a better use of his time by soul winning and getting people saved, their hearts changed, and their lives turned around. Or maybe we could have our own laws that prohibit immigration from anywhere north of the Mason Dixon line or ban all people under the age of 50 from the state, those are the demographics that do not share what some are calling “traditional values.”
Plodder makes a stunning prediction: The Baptist governor, Coke, Delta, and Home Depot win. Griffin loses, but has plenty of material for the next breathless missive. Perhaps he could go beyond Hitler and work Stalin, Pol Pot, and Chairman Mao.
[For the record: I’m a one man, one woman, for life, guy. And I’m perfectly open to someone threading this needle. There’s bound to be a ton of things I haven’t thought about.]