The sponsor of the Georgia religious freedom legislation vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal says he is “extremely disappointed” in Deal after lawmakers bent over backward to craft a bill to satisfy the governor and the business community and protect limited freedoms for clergy and institutions of faith.
“I think the message the governor sent with the veto is that it’s open season on people of faith in Georgia,” said State Sen. Josh McKoon, sponsor of Georgia’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
He says the veto especially stung after the governor’s office had been directly involved in the crafting of the bill.
“This bill was the result of a lot of negotiation between house and senate leadership,” McKoon told WND and Radio America. “The governor’s office was involved, as was he business community. We certainly felt like we had a achieved a compromise that was acceptable to all sides.”
After the bill passed easily in both chambers of the Georgia Legislature, a fierce public relations campaign rose up to oppose the bill, especially among big businesses. Movie studios threatened to stop filming in the state if the act became law, and the NFL said it could negatively impact Atlanta’s chances of hosting the Super Bowl in a few years.
“I think the governor caved to pressure from the business community, from largely empty threats from out-of-state companies that were suggesting that they would withdraw or reduce their business in the state if the legislation passed,” McKoon said.
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Most baffling to McKoon is how much he and his allies “watered down” the original bill to appease Gov. Deal and businesses.
“We had done everything we’d been asked to do to just try to get a modest protection for houses of worship, religious schools and religious nonprofits,” he said. “If we can’t protect those in a state that’s run by the Republican Party, it was was a very bad day for people of faith in Georgia.”