September 18, 2015 Radio Commentary

Pastor Protection Act

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, September 18, 2015 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Lest we forget: The U.S. Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech.” That protection is provided for everyone in the United States, including professionals in what may be called the “religious industry,” but such professionals have been targeted, lately.

Last October five pastors in Houston, Texas were subpoenaed to turn over sermons in which they referenced the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and homosexuality in general, i.e. moral beliefs.

Since Christianity includes moral doctrine, the pastors took a stand for religious liberty, resisted the order, and public backlash caused officials to back down. But the situation revealed such antagonism toward Christianity that freedom-loving Texas legislators passed the “Pastor Protection Act” on June 11th, and it became law a couple of weeks ago on September 1st.Under the new law, no pastor or church in Texas can be required to perform marriages or related ceremonies that may violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. And, based on the law, they can rest assured their biblical view of marriage will be respected, legally.

But, specifying religious liberty only for on-the-job pastors and churches smacks of a shift from freedom of religious expression to freedom to worship within certain confines and parameters. If Congress can’t restrict religious freedom, neither can anyone else, but the campaign to eliminate Christianity continues. Result: States are working to counteract the intolerance.

Tennessee, Ohio, and Florida are considering legislation to do the same thing, and so is our state. House Speaker David Ralston proposed a Georgia “Pastor Protection Act” the second weekend in July during a Republican retreat on Jekyll Island, and Republican Representative Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville plans to sponsor it next session.

Representative Tanner explained that the law is necessary because First Amendment protection for religious freedom is understood as a constitutional right, but such protection is not codified in Georgia law. Adding that same-sex marriage is not the only issue the law would affect, he said, “If two Christians wanted to get married in a synagogue, the rabbi has a right to tell them ‘no’. Likewise, if someone who’s been divorced wants to get married in a Baptist church, the pastor has a right not to marry them.”

But, let me add this. While God-given religious freedom is embedded in the Constitution for EVERYONE, the law should not be necessary. HOWEVER, if it IS necessary, legislation should be written to protect everyone, not just on-the-job pastors and churches. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.