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By 11Alive Staff and Donna Lowry, WXIA
ATLANTA — The fight over religious freedom legislation is heating up. Some clergy members and the hospitality community are speaking out against legislation being proposed at the Georgia Capitol.
There are several religious freedom bills floating around in the Capitol this legislative session.
The Hyatt has joined other major hotels, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, the film industry and even global brands, such as Coca Cola in opposing legislation – HB 757 — which passed in the Georgia senate last week in reaction to the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.
As written, HB 757 states, “…relating to marriage generally, so as to provide that religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion.”
“The reason we need this bill in Georgia there are millions – listen to me – millions more Georgians who hold that marriage is between a man and a woman than that marriage is to be between same sex couples,” said Sen. Greg Kirk, (R-District 13).
A diverse group of religious leaders, who say they represent nearly 300 members of the clergy, came out strongly against the bill in the Senate and other similar legislation.
In a statement posted onwww.clergyunitedagainstdiscrimination.org, clergy said:
“We oppose this proposed legislation. First, it would put an individual’s religious beliefs ahead of the common good. Second, it could unleash a wave of costly lawsuits that will add burdens to both the courts and taxpayers alike. Third, our freedom of religion is already guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and Georgia’s State Constitution.
Fourth, a state RFRA could legalize discrimination by allowing businesses to refuse to serve customers based on religious objections. We believe that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. We strongly oppose giving for-profit corporations religious rights that could allow them to pick and choose which laws to follow and discriminate against employees based on any characteristic—from their religious practices to their sexual orientation. This principle harkens back to the civil rights movement and our nation’s core values of equality and justice.”
The statement was signed by 272 clergy members.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Sen. Nan Orrock said the bills threaten Georgia’s economy.
“I call them religious discrimination bills,” Orrock said. “We are threatening our economy when we pass his kind of legislation. We need to put the breaks on it.”
Rabbi Joshua Heller called the bills “an attempt to use religion to divide Georgians.”
The tourism industry predicts if the law passes they’d take a billion dollar hit.
“The college football national championship, the Final Four, the Super Bowl — events such as that are a telling us they’re really going to think twice about coming to Atlanta,” said Hayatt Regency Atlanta General Manager Peter McMahon.
Backers of the RFRA measures say they don’t discriminate.
“We have no desire to discriminate against anyone. The concern I have is that people of faith in Georgia are being discriminated against. And that needs to stop,” said Dr. Robert White of the Southern Baptist Convention during a rally inside the Capitol on Feb. 2.
The state House is now looking at the version the legislation that passed in the Senate, and observers expect the language in the bill might change.SHARE THIS STORY