On Monday morning, March 28, Governor Nathan Deal announced that he intended to veto HB 757, or the “Free Exercise Protection Act." Following his announcement he proceeded to veto the bill, which many believed to be the most important measure the governor will consider during his term in office.
HB 757 had essentially been debated for two years and was finally passed by both the House and the Senate. Not only did legislators who represent their constituents pass the bill, but also a statewide poll released on March 29 indicated that 66.2 percent of Georgia voters wanted the governor to sign the bill.
The poll revealed that 79 percent of likely Republican voters, 62 percent of likely Independent voters, and 59 percent of likely Democrat voters support HB 757. There was a majority support in each of Georgia’s 14 Congressional Districts. There was also support across gender, race, and income levels.
One might ask, “Whatever happened to representative government?” Those who put Governor Deal in office were abandoned by him in a vote that was of utmost importance to them. The governor did not honor the wishes of the people, but of big business and special interest groups.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank came out in opposition to the “Religious Liberty Bill,” stating that it could jeopardize Atlanta’s bid to host the Super Bowl. Atlanta is competing against New Orleans, Tampa, and Miami for the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl.
The argument that Atlanta could lose out to cities in Florida and Louisiana because of a religious liberty bill is ludicrous, because those two states already passed similar legislation. Furthermore, Houston, TX, where a bill very much like HB 757 has also been passed, will host the 2017 Super Bowl.
Last year Governor Deal was expressing caution about passing a religious liberty bill because such legislation could prevent Georgia from attracting huge corporations like Volvo to Savannah. We did not succeed in getting the bill passed, but Volvo decided to move its first U.S. auto plant to Charleston, SC, which already has a religious liberty bill.
One of the opponents of HB 757 was Hollywood’s movie industry. Variety magazine recently ran an article with the headline: “Hollywood Condemns Georgia Religious Liberty Bill.” Lionsgate, 21st Century Fox, the Weinstein Company, CBS, Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Time Warner all threw a fit about the religious freedom bill and said, “HB 757 is anathema to our studios and to all those who value diversity and inclusion.”
Some threatened to move the production of their movies to another location to protect their values.
Georgia has been called “Y’allywood” and is becoming the film capital of the world, because of the remarkable 30 percent tax incentives being offered to them. Governor Deal said that Georgia-lensed feature films and television productions generated an economic impact of $5.1 billion during fiscal year 2014. Congratulations to the almighty dollar! Money often seems to trump (no pun intended) principle when it comes to politics.
I know that there are those who think having movies produced in Georgia is really “cool”, but do we really want Hollywood values permeating our state? Hollywood values are characterized by decadence, narcissism, hypocrisy, rampant drug use, extramarital sex, lawlessness, and the promotion of the homosexual agenda.
A 2006 poll by MSNBC said 60 percent of Americans agree that “Hollywood’s values are not in line with the rest of America and that the quality of movies has diminished in recent years.” In the last ten years few would deny that the influence of Hollywood has become even more pervasive and malevolent.
Even Disney have threatened to suspend filming in Georgia and take their business elsewhere. Really? If they have such deep convictions about inclusiveness and diversity maybe they should shut down Disney World in Florida for the same reason.
Governor Deal stated in his announcement to veto HB 757, “I do not respond well to insults or threats.” The facts seem to prove otherwise.
The governor has made his choice not only on HB 757, but on the legacy he will leave as the chief political official in Georgia. More than anything else his decision to veto HB 757 will define his his eight years in office. His legacy will be focused on his decision for discrimination against religious liberty and accommodate Arthur Blank, the NFL, and Hollywood, who were probably bluffing in the first place.
I want to express my gratitude to Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston and the members of the Senate and House who fought for the religious liberty bill and voted for it. I also want to congratulate the opponents of the bill on their victory. However, they need to be reminded that they may have won the battle, but the war is not over and in the end, we will win.
However, for the present, I couldn’t be more disappointed in the events of this week. I enthusiastically supported Governor Deal’s campaign twice, but feel forsaken and abandoned.
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