Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act and the Right to Discriminate

By now many of you have heard about Arizona S.B. 1062, which essentially grants any business or individual the right to deny services to any person based solely on their religious convictions (This bill was vetoed by AZ governor Jan Brewer just before publishing this article). In lock step with Arizona the poor marginalized Christians of the Georgia House and Senate have found it necessary to propose their own bill – Georgia H. B. 1023 – dubbed ” Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” – aptly titled considering the long list of religious freedoms being threatened and/or taken away from people of faith currently. For reference I’ve compiled a comprehensive list below:

 

Oppressed Religious Freedoms

A comprehensive list of all the freedoms Christians and other people of faith are currently losing, lost, or at risk of losing.

I guess now you can see why Christians are on the defensive. Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act entrenches within State Law the one right many Christian’s hold most precious: The right to discriminate against people you don’t approve of.

I’m going to put my snark to the side for a moment so that I can really address this Bill and the issues that are sure to come of it.

 

What does this bill actually imply?

 

Simply put – if a person (or any business or corporation) denies any individual a service and the reason for than denial is due to religious conviction, this law stands as sufficient defense for that denial of service. In other words, if the individual being denied service sued the business or individual denying the service – this law would suffice as a defense for their actions and free the defendant from legal damages.  This, at least, is the intent of the law.

 

What is the Scope of this law?

 

As best I can tell this law is all inclusive. Any private business or individual can deny services under the claim of “religious freedom”. The only exceptions stated apply to penal institutions. That’s actually why this law is scary; you see, most of the EMS services in this state are contracted to private companies – it seems to me that, according to this law – EMS services could knowingly be denied to an individual based on their sexuality, gender identity,  religious leanings (A good Southern Baptist wouldn’t give mouth to mouth to a Methodist right?  They usually have liquor on their breath!) , or simply for being “too sinful to associate with”. Volunteer fire departments, as they aren’t given exception here either, may also be able to choose which houses, kittens, and people to rescue.

Does this sound like a slippery slope argument?  I’m not so sure it is – as without these exceptions being distinctly being written into the law they seem rife to be tried in court…that means someone may get to test the idea first before an amendment is made, assuming an amendment is made. Opportunity for something terrible exists within this bill. That should worry us, and not because all believers are assholes….but because 1 in a thousand are.

That’d be one of my two caveat’s for this bill:  Provisions should be made to ensure that life preserving and health preserving services are never denied to anyone, for any reason at all. My second caveat?

Why the hell are you wasting on this bull right now? Have you seen Georgia’s test scores lately in math and science? How about the Georgia economy?

 

My unfiltered response to this bill and it’s supporters:

 

Everyone that knows me knows that I’m an advocate for LGBT rights, freedoms, and safety. Everyone that knows me knows that if you need someone in your corner – I’m the one to call and I’ll come running to assist in any way that I can. I love people, simply put – and I care deeply for the disenfranchised and discriminated against, especially the LGBT community.

I hate that there are people in this world, and in my state, that would deny service to LGBT couples, or couples of mixed race, or atheists for that matter – but there are. I also own a business, and I fully believe that I should have the right to deny service to someone if I chose to, if I found that person to be of unsavory character or if I don’t want to have my business associated with them.

When it comes to discrimination against people of color or the gay community – I believe that every bigot has the right to be a bigot and to make a complete ass of themselves.  I believe they have the right to jeopardize the fidelity of their business and their income by taking a stance against marginalized people, in the name of Jesus or Allah or even The Flying Spaghetti Monster (PBUH).

When it comes to personal freedom of speech, I don’t really see many limits. I hate that people will be hurt by the actions, words, and deeds of others – but I’m confident in the fact that there are good people out there willing to take up the slack left by others. There are people out there willing to try to heal the scars of hate with love and kindness.

What it all boils down to , though, is that people should have the right to be assholes. I’ve talked about this a few times before – like when I wrote about the Phelps’ family and their right to picket funerals, or Chick-fil-a president Truett Cathy’s right to say stupid things.

Something magical happens when people have and use the right to expose their true character:

Consumers determine who they will do business with based on that exposure.  That’s a free market – and that’s consumer choice. It’s voting with your dollar and rewarding socially conscious businesses and people. Frankly, I don’t get upset when people don’t do business with me because I’m an outspoken atheist – and yes, I’ve received reports of just that. But I’m delighted when people do business with me because they know that I stand up for what I believe in and that I care for people that are treated poorly by society, that too is something I hear on occasion.

People will, when given the chance, spend their dollars where they feel welcome. I say let them. I say let every racist turn away the non-white customers they don’t want – I’ll take them. Let every zealot turn away the non-Christian customers they don’t want – I’ll take them. Let every bigot turn away every gay customer they don’t want – I’ll take them.  When their doors are closed and mine are still open – we’ll know why.

 

 Conclusion:

 

Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m not defending this bill outright. I think it’s an inane waste of time. I think it will and has already caused undue emotional harm to an already marginalized minority in my state – but it does deal with something that I believe in on a fundamental level: The Inalienable Right to be a Jackass.  That’s in the Constitution somewhere – I’m sure of it, one of you legal types can show me I’m sure. Let people observe that right, then we’ll know their true colors and those of us that don’t want to share our business and space with them can find better uses of our resources – like the black owned business down the street, or the lesbian owned shop across the way.

 

PRIDE