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By Sandra Parrish
A newly expanded religious liberty bill continues to stir controversy under the Gold Dome, this time from members of the faith community.
Close to a dozen members of clergy held signs reading “No Discrimination in Georgia” as they denounced the bill which is now a combination of the First Amendment Defense Act or FADA and the Pastor Protection Act or PPA.
“It’s an attempt to use religion to divide Georgians, whether people of faith or otherwise; and divided as Georgians, we lose,” says Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B’nai Torah.
Rev. Timothy McDonald of First Iconium Baptist Church says black clergy members will certainly not support it.
“This bill discriminates and it sanctions discrimination; and therefore, we are opposed to it,” he says.
Last week the Senate added FADA, a measure that would allow faith-based organizations and individuals to refuse services based of their beliefs regarding marriage without threat of government penalty, onto PPA which passed the House unanimously. It protects pastors and churches from being compelled to perform same sex weddings.
The measure has been sent back to the House which would have to approve the changes. But with an outcry from the film industry this week threatening to pull out of Georgia because of it, Gov. Deal has said he’s working with leadership to come up with a compromise.
Heller says he could support the measure if FADA was stripped from the bill.
“The hope of the faith community is that there really is an opportunity to walk this back significantly,” he says.
But Virginia Galloway with the Faith and Freedom Coalition is hopeful the two measures will remain together.
“It’s a very balanced bill; it’s a common sense bill; it’s a live and let live bill,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Galloway says FADA doesn’t discriminate because it applies to any marriage, not just same-sex couples. She also says pastors want members of their congregations to be granted the same rights and protections as they would have under PPA.
“They feel like it’s only right to protect every Georgia citizen, not just themselves,” she says.SHARE THIS STORY