January 08, 2019
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is packing up his office this week -- and fans of religious liberty aren't exactly sad to see him go. The Democrat-turned-Republican did a lot of things in his eight years at the top, but it's his betrayal of our freedom to believe that voters will remember most.
During a sit-down with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week, Deal looked back on that decision. And, two years later, he still doesn't seem to understand the magnitude of it. "He bucked his own party in 2016," the AJC points out, "when he vetoed a religious liberty measure long sought by conservatives to provide more legal protections for the faith-based, including those who oppose same-sex marriage. The veto, which came the day after Easter Sunday, was a seminal moment in Deal's tenure." Corporate leaders, the article goes on, "rallied to his defense," but the tension with his party was too much.
"...[H]e angered conservatives, prompting some activists to call for his ouster. His ties to the Georgia GOP were so strained that year that he didn't attend the state party convention." But even though some voters "most remember his tenure for that splotch of red ink," Deal still insists that people of faith don't need Georgia's protection. "They couldn't give an example why it's needed in Georgia," the outgoing governor argued. "On a human level, we're a loving state. I don't see any reason to pass something that lends itself to the implication that the government is encouraging discrimination. That's not good government. It doesn't make the state strong. It makes it weak."
Voters obviously disagreed -- powering religious freedom activist Brian Kemp (R) to the race against Oprah's protégée, Stacey Abrams (D). All throughout the campaign, Kemp refused to back down from his promise, "I believe in religious freedom," he said, "and I will fight for it as governor." His opponent, Abrams, took a decidedly different approach to faith -- and it cost her. "No matter what you hear," she told voters, "there's no necessity for this legislation in Georgia," Abrams said. "And the notion that we can hearken back to 1993 ignores the very strong difference between then and now."
Georgians couldn't believe their ears. They'd all watched with horror as native son Kelvin Cochran, an Atlanta fire chief appointed by Barack Obama, was fired from his job for daring to write a men's Bible study book espousing biblical values on his own time at his own expense. There was indeed, they agreed, a necessity for this legislation in Georgia. As bakers, florists, sportscasters, teachers, policemen, nurses, athletes, and so many others lost businesses, careers, and life-savings for their beliefs, it was increasingly obvious that if Georgia didn't do something -- and fast -- the religious hostility of Deal and others would metastasize throughout government.
So, they elected a leader who understood the threat: Brian Kemp. After watching Deal sell their First Amendment rights down the river in the fight over the religious liberty bill, they were ready for a governor who would make sure that what happened to Kelvin Cochran wouldn't happen again. So far, he hasn't disappointed. Governor-elect Kemp has been so outspoken about the issue that it landed him a spot on LGBTQ Nation's Top 10 "Worst Politicians of 2018!" Alongside Vice President Mike Pence and others, they mock Kemp as an "unrepentant, knuckle-dragging right-winger," who, to the far-Left's activists' surprise, managed to win on a religious liberty issue they'd convinced themselves didn't matter.
Maybe that's because, as Kemp says, "Georgians are sick and tired of these politically correct liberals... who are offended and outraged by our faith, and our guns and our big trucks." Vote Kemp, the campaign signs read, "He's no wimp!" And on the fundamental issue of religious liberty, voters are anxious to see him to prove it.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.