Governor Nathan Deal not only abandoned his Republican base and the faith-based community when he vetoed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by both the Georgia House and Senate, but he violated the trust of those who had confidence that he would sign the legislation he had promised to support.
Then to add insult to injury he recently stated in a speech, “Some people hold grudges [but] let me ask them this: Instead of just having rhetoric why don’t we have examples? No one has ever yet provided me one clear example of anything that has occurred in the state of Georgia that the state’s embrace of religious freedom legislation deemed discriminatory by many.”
I want to provide some helpful information to the governor who asked for examples rather than rhetoric: Give heed, dear governor!
First, remember Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. Mayor Kasim Reed terminated Chief Cochran because he wrote a book expressing his heartfelt, biblically-based convictions. His termination attracted national attention. It is hard to believe the governor missed it.
Second, Dr. Eric Walsh, a Georgia pastor, was fired by the Georgia Department of Public Health for something he said in a sermon. Walsh was hired as a district health director on May 7, 2014. A few days later, health department officers and other government officials began investigating his religious activities.
Todd Starnes of FOX News reported, “DPH officers and other employees spent hours reviewing these and other of Dr. Walsh’s sermons and other public addresses available online, analyzing and taking notes on his religious beliefs and viewpoints on social, cultural, and other matters of public concern as expressed in the sermons and other public addresses.”
Starnes added, “The behavior of the DPH was so egregious that its own counsel twice warned them on May 15 that ‘under federal law Dr. Walsh’s religious beliefs could play no role in any employment decision by DPH.” It is hard to believe that the governor is oblivious to the federal lawsuit that has been filed against his Department of Public Health.
Third, when Kevin Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Villa Rica, had a baptismal service for a football coach and some of his players in a portable baptistery on the high school football field he had no idea it would create such a national outrage.
The church had a “Gridiron Day” last fall for the local high school football team and one of the coaches asked if he could get baptized on the football field. Several players, who had recently converted to Christianity, also asked to be baptized.
Williams explained, “We live in a free nation. People choose what they want. These people that got baptized – freely chose at a church service to accept Christ and this was a follow up to that.
“Times have been tough in Villa Rica – especially for young people. Over the past few years several teenagers have committed suicide. We’re trying our best as a community to reach out to these kids and love on them and show them there’s a better way.” A video was made of the baptism event that went viral.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that easily get their feathers ruffled any time God shows up, saw the video and wrote a condemning letter to the Carroll County School superintendent decrying the baptism. They contended that the action constitutes “proselytizing”, is coercive, and is not legal in schools.
This event was much-publicized locally and nationally. It was the observance of a Baptist ordinance. The governor is a Baptist. Is he not his Baptist brother’s keeper? Did he miss this much-heralded baptism? He could find it right here in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Fourth, Savannah State University administrators revoked official recognition for a Christian student club due to alleged hazing violations. According to administrators, this hazing occurred when the ministry held a foot washing ceremony on a discipleship retreat. Such a ceremony follows the example of Christ, who washed the feet of His disciples in an example of service, love, and humility. This resulted in the student group’s complete loss of access to the campus for any activities.
Is the governor not keeping up with the decisions made in his state colleges and universities? There were many news stories on this but look at this one.
Fifth, a religious liberty source reported that an individual had requested officials with the Atlanta Public School system for permission to begin a religious student club at Sutton Middle School, but their request was denied. The district allows many other student clubs to meet before, during, and after school without charge and to have access to certain benefits and privileges in terms of publicizing group activities to others. The district, based on so-called “separation of church and state” concerns, denied the request for equal treatment, insisting on treating the club as a community organization that must rent school facilities before a settlement was reached to give the club equal access.
Did the governor fail to be informed about this discrimination against people of faith in the same city where he governs? Is he suffering from an ostrich syndrome when it comes to discrimination against people of faith? He wants to stop the rhetoric and be given examples of religious discrimination and the need for a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
If he needs more examples, there are plenty to go around, but this is a start. If the governor will call a press conference and let the public know just how many examples of religious discrimination he needs to rescind his veto, I am of the opinion that it is a forgone conclusion that an ample number of examples can be provided.