No, the veto of Georgia's "religious freedom" bill doesn't mean churches are in danger

There seem to be two schools of national thought on Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s decision to veto a “religious freedom” bill. The first, as written by Jazz on Monday, suggests the bill may have gone too far and would have ended up being an “expensive headache.” The second suggests there’s a war on Christians in the U.S. which means the Left is plotting with gay and lesbian advocates to force churches into performing marriage ceremonies. Matt Walsh at the Blaze gave this very opinion in a dire piece called “Pay Attention, Christians. They’re Coming After The Churches Now” (emphasis mine):

The people who opposed this bill opposed, without a doubt, the very essence of the First Amendment…I didn’t quite expect our culture to make the transition from “only religious groups can be religious” to “every church must have their religious beliefs sanctioned by the government” so quickly, but I knew it was inevitable. This is why you cannot compromise with leftists. They do not want to come to an understanding — they want obedience. That’s all they will accept. Make one concession and they’ll demand another, and another, and another, unto infinity. Give them an inch and they’ll take your soul.

Now they want religious entities to amend their doctrines to make sodomy and same-sex “marriage” morally righteous. They want churches and religious organizations to strike Romans 1:26-28, Jude 1:5-8, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Mark 10:6-9, 1 Corinthians 7:2, and many other passages from the Bible. They’ve always wanted this — they’ve always hated Christianity and they’ve never had any regard for the Bill of Rights — but now it’s all quite out in the open. This is not about photographers and bakers anymore. Christianity itself is bigoted and hateful, they believe, and those who practice it should not find shelter in post-Christian America. That’s the message you can take from the news surrounding this piece of legislation in Georgia.

Put another way: Batten down the hatches, Christians. War has been declared.

The problem with this reaction is it doesn’t look at the actual facts of the case, and what the bill actually did. Charlie “Icarus Pundit” Harper writes at how the vetoed bill really didn’t do anything which wasn’t already on the books in Georgia (emphasis mine).

The bill is a combination of several previous proposals covering multiple concepts, yet ultimately changes little. A measure passed by the House that would reinforce the autonomy of religious services from government intrusion was grafted with a more controversial one that had passed the Senate. While much of this bill codifies existing state and federal law, it leaves any local ordinances (think City of Atlanta) to the interpretation of courts to see if the Government has met the burden for intruding into one’s exercise of religion.

There’s little in the bill that some evangelicals had been demanding: specifically, the ability of a shopkeeper to decline to render goods and services to customers they find objectionable. There’s just enough in there to raise concerns of the LGBT community that the bill is aimed at reducing their protections. We’re left with a bill that upsets activists on both sides of this issue but changes little.

Harper also believes this entire thing is a “dedicated public relations campaign” to see who the “most Christian” politician is and to appease a “standing pool of activists.” It’s something the GOP does tend to do on a regular basis, especially in statewide politics. A part of it is probably because there are plenty of Southern Republican and conservative activists who got involved in politics through their church. But Harper is right to say it’s appeasement to the louder ones, the ones looking to create ideological purity within a party without looking at whether a law even needs to be created because it’s either already on the books or already considered as part of the “unalienable Rights” of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Deal even mentioned this idea during his news conference on why he vetoed the bill. Via (emphasis mine):

“In light of our history. I find it somewhat ironic that some in the religious community today could feel that it is necessary for government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred upon us by God and not by man made government, then perhaps we should heed that hands-off admonition of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This isn’t going to appease opinion writers like Matt Walsh, who believes Deal has no spine and “will surrender every times, without fail.” It’s here where they actually become like those on the Left they abhor with a zealous passion. The “Pat Robertson Republicans” (to steal a line from Harper) want to see their beliefs put into code on the legal books. They’ve given into the idea the government should mandate their beliefs and their morals on everyone else, without stopping to consider who actually gave them their beliefs: the Creator or the Government. How is this any different from what the Left does when they try to do “special rights” for special classes? Both see the Government as a pickaxe of power, the idea of “you will behave” instead of trying to enact social change and let every person decide how they want to act. It’s an easy road to take because we “see and experience” the Government every day. We don’t always “see and experience” our Creator (whether it’s God, Odin, Crom, Allah, Yahweh, Vishnu, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Big Bang) on a daily basis. This shows the danger of letting the Government become the Creator of our rights. Does it mean people shouldn’t be involved in government? Absolutely not. But it does mean people need to be careful in deciding whether they’re actually pushing for a government which doesn’t do much, versus a government which is involved in “all the things.” Deal gets it right on this one. It’s too bad others don’t see it that way.

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