Professor: Religious Exemptions Bill Allows Discrimination

Georgia lawmakers worked into the evening Wednesday under the Gold Dome to pass HB 757.
Georgia lawmakers worked into the evening Wednesday under the Gold Dome to pass HB 757.
Credit Al Such / WABE
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Gov. Nathan Deal has said he opposes any legislation that even appears to discriminate.

So will does the new religious exemptions bill pass the governor’s test?

Soon after lawmakers approved House Bill 757 Wednesday night, Gov. Deal’s office issued a one-sentence statement: “The governor has been clear as to his position on this issue and will assess the legislation in April during bill review.”

Until two weeks ago, Deal had avoided commenting on the several religious exemptions measures pending in the General Assembly. When he did finally speak about the bills at length, he cited his religious beliefs. Deal told reporters, “It is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs …  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.”

Assistant Professor Sasha Volokh teaches Constitutional Law at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Law. He reviewed HB 757 and says, “If your goal is to not sign anything that allows for discrimination, you have to veto this bill.”

Volokh does not believe Gov. Deal’s stated views line up with the new legislation, saying, “At the very least, it allows faith-based organizations to refuse to serve whoever they want for religious reasons.”

Supporters of the bill point to an anti-discrimination clause in the legislation, but Volokh says the measure still “explicitly allows them to discriminate even if there’s an anti-discrimination law to the contrary.”

Gov. Deal can sign the bill, veto it or do nothing, at which point HB 757 becomes law without his signature.

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