Over the last couple of weeks, the General Assembly has been discussing a “hate crimes” bill with varying language being thrown around until passage of a final version on Tuesday.
Reasonable people can come to differing opinions on such a bill. As believers, we see the heinousness of the acts associated with hate crimes, and there is an undeniable urge to do something. Yet, when we yield to government the power to judge someone’s thoughts we are handing over a weapon that can be used to one day targets beliefs – not rooted in hate – that a powerful government would seek to attack, namely Christianity.
Because I believe hate crimes legislation sets us on this dangerous trajectory and codifies into law our differences over our sameness, I was the lone testimony in opposition to this proposal in Senate committee last week. While recognizing that this is a tough issue, I’m proud that our organization took this stand, even though it ran counter to the demands of the media elite.
Others, however, opted to support the measure, and they did so for reasons that I respect. My former State Representative, Chuck Efstration, and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan had a greater hand in shaping the language of this bill than anyone, and I consider them both to be friends and allies. While we disagree on the solution, I believe they both supported this bill because they share our vision for a Georgia where all life is cherished.
Yet, as Senator Bill Heath spoke in opposition to the bill during floor debate on Tuesday, I saw a different side of this bill. As he referenced pastors that may be targeted for their beliefs, lobbyists – primarily associated with the Chamber of Commerce – that gathered around the screen to watch the proceedings openly mocked him. As this lone, brave voice standing for freedom spoke up for people of faith, the crowd that spends more money to influence policy under the Gold Dome than anyone, laughed. They scoffed. And, they declared his reference to Scripture to be ridiculous.
As some talk about turning Georgia purple, the need to moderate, or the sole focus of keeping Georgia the best place to do business, this is the crowd they want to turn our state over to. A group that mocks and ridicules faith. A group for whom our values are something to be scoffed at. There is no compromise but bending to their will at the altar of financial gain.
I want Georgia to remain #1 for business, for our people to thrive, prosperity to abound, and opportunity to be there for all. Yet, it’s imperative that our state never sacrifice our values for wealth.
In 2018, we supported Brian Kemp because of his commitment to making Georgia #1 for our values while also maintaining the conditions to keep us #1 for business – never selling out who we are yet keeping our state attractive to job producers. We’ve never regretted that decision for a minute, and we’re proud to call our Governor a close ally.
Yet, there are some that – in the face of liberal opposition – believe the prescription for Georgia is to moderate. My caution to any who would consider that approach, however, is to understand that this approach isn’t a move to the center. It’s a selling of our state to those who would openly mock all we hold dear.
My friends, I’m so grateful for bold leaders like Senator Heath – willing to stand alone, if necessary, to speak truth. I’m also grateful for Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan and the bold leadership they’ve provided our state. But, with election season upon us, the pressure on our legislators increasing, and a counter-vision for our state that involves us selling out to those who are hostile to our values, it’s up to us to continue on this course.
As believers, we know what the world really thinks of us. Now, more than ever, we cannot afford to shrink away from the fight. We all must stand firm and take action.
President and Executive Director
PS. While I saw some despicable behavior from these lobbyists, I continue to see commendable behavior from our Lt. Governor and many other legislators (I often remark that some of the finest people I know serve in the Georgia General Assembly). Even though Bill Heath – known for voting no most frequently in the Senate – opposed this bill and many others, Geoff Duncan turned the gavel over to him so that he could preside over the Senate briefly as his time in office comes to a close (pictured here with Heath standing next to Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller. This act of civility between two statesmen is just one of many I have the privilege to witness at the Capitol.