A former aide to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign wrote in a wry Sunday opinion editorial that a religious liberty bill under consideration by the General Assembly would “chase away business and jobs” as it “create[s] a frightening solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Marisa Flores, who directed Hispanic outreach for Santorum’s Georgia operation, took to the pages of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer to urge lawmakers to abandon the First Amendment Defense Act lest the local economy backslide.
“For the first time in eight years, Georgia’s unemployment rate fell last month to pre-recession levels,” Flores wrote. “Things were looking up for the state, finally. And then the Georgia General Assembly convened.
“Rather than busy itself with a growth-oriented agenda that might capitalize on the shifting economic tide, lawmakers instead proposed a smattering of bills that would facilitate discrimination by government and business against law-abiding Georgians. Just what we need: something to chase away business and jobs.”
Flores, who said the proposal would facilitate discrimination against gays and lesbians, cohabitating unmarried couples, and divorced persons, said she was terrified government would “grow to a size to empower itself and others to discriminate.”
“Faith genuinely informs my politics, just as it does for Sen. Santorum,” she wrote. “I place my faith in God, not government — and I don’t need government to tell me how to exercise my faith. The expression of my faith free of government intrusion is not in jeopardy, I am certain. But the safety and wellness of some among us are.”
The vehicle for the commentary’s publication is worth noting: the Ledger-Enquirer is the largest newspaper in the district of Senator Josh McKoon, the chief sponsor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and one of the most vocal proponents in the legislature of related proposals.
The publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle wrote Wednesday on the newspaper’s website that a religious liberty proposal under consideration by the General Assembly “threatens to undo so much of the progress our region has made.”
David Rubinger, who was named publisher of the weekly business paper last year, said the giants of Atlanta history—”[l]ast names like Woodruff, Hartsfield, Russel, Abernathy, and King”—would be “appalled” by the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow for persons and non-profits to deny service on the grounds of sincerely held religious beliefs.
Critics of the legislation maintain it will enable discrimination against gays and lesbians, single mothers, unmarried co-habitating couples, and divorced persons.
Already some businesses have said they intend to leave the state in protest, like the Decatur-based telecommunications startup 373k, and some fear that the film and entertainment industry will boycott the state if it is perceived as a discriminatory environment.
“Most Atlanta business and civic leaders believe that this bill should never have gotten to this point,” Rubinger wrote. “Now the business community is rallying to speak as one voice, protecting Atlanta from the potential public relations damage this legislation could have on future business growth, convention business, and sporting events like the Super Bowl.
“If Gov. Nathan Deal and the Speaker of the House David Ralston are unable to untangle this mess that the General Assembly has created, then it is much more than the LGBT community that suffers,” he said. “We will all suffer is business, conventions and major events decide to leave our city over this debate.”
The bill passed the state Senate last week and awaits final consideration by the House of Representatives.
An Atlanta church is urging passersby on one of the city’s busiest streets not to support controversial religious liberty legislation, calling the measure an “affront to the Gospel.”
St. Mark United Methodist Church, situated along Peachtree street in midtown Atlanta, devoted its sign Tuesday to join the debate raging in the General Assembly over the First Amendment Defense Act, which was passed last week by the state Senate and now awaits final consideration by the House.
“Legalized discrimination is an affront to the Gospel,” the church’s street-facing sign reads.
An Atlanta church situated on one of the city's busiest streets uses its sign to join religious liberty debate. pic.twitter.com/L0WbJO0WzO
— Georgia Tipsheet (@GeorgiaTipsheet) February 23, 2016
The owner of a Georgia-based telecommunications startup says he is relocating his firm in protest of the state Senate’s approval last week of the First Amendment Defense Act.
Kelvin Williams said the decision to uproot his company, 373k, was in direct response to the General Assembly’s consideration of the controversial religious liberty proposal.
The bill, which must now be approved by the House of Representatives, would empower individuals and not-for-profits to refuse service if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Critics of the measure say it would give licenses to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and also unmarried couples and single mothers.
“That’s just something that we can’t live with,” Williams told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB. Watch the interview after the jump.