ATLANTA, Ga. — The Republican, Southern Baptist-identifying governor of Georgia recently cited the Bible in denouncing a proposed bill to protect objectors to same-sex “marriage,” as he asserts that the move is not Christlike.
In speaking to reporters following a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Atlanta on March 3, Gov. Nathan Deal said that he would reject any bill that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.”
He was referring to a recent legislative move to combine H.B. 757, also known as the Pastor Protection Act, with S.B. 284, the First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia. As previously reported, the Pastor Protection Act unanimously passed the Georgia House, finding support among Democrats and Republicans alike.
“No minister of the gospel or cleric or religious practitioner ordained or authorized to solemnize marriages, perform rites, or administer sacraments according to the usages of the denomination … in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion under the Constitution of this state or the United States,” it reads in part.
The First Amendment Act of Georgia mandates that “[g]overnment shall not take any discriminatory action against wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes, speaks or acts in accordance with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
On Thursday, Gov. Deal cited the Bible in asserting that the proposed laws were somehow unChristian.
“I think what the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world and said to those of belief, ‘This is what I want you to do,'” he said. “We do not have a belief—in my way of looking at religion—that says we have to discriminate against anybody. If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.”
Deal then pointed to the biblical account of the woman at the well to further his point. The woman had been married five times and was living with a man who was not her husband. Jesus called upon the woman to turn to His truth to find Living Water.
“What that says is we have a belief in forgiveness and that we do not have to discriminate unduly against anyone on the basis of our own religious beliefs,” he said.
Deal, who personally believes in marriage as being defined as the union of one man and one woman, said that he does not see those who disagree as being a “threat” to Christians. Deal attends First Baptist Church of Gainesville, which has several female pastors on its team.
“We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us,” he asserted. “We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route.”
“I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs,” Deal continued. “But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that. And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for.”
The office of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston issued a statement in response to the governor’s comments, outlining that Ralston is open to working out a compromise on the proposals.
“Speaker Ralston appreciates and shares Governor Deal’s sincere commitment to protecting religious liberties while ensuring that Georgia continues to welcome everyone with genuine southern hospitality,” it said. “Productive conversations continue with the governor’s staff as well as other members of House leadership regarding HB 757 and the Speaker is confident that we can find a way to move forward together.”