A diverse group of 272 Georgia clergy have signed an open letter opposing so-called “religious liberty” bills before the state legislature, saying the U.S. Constitution already safeguards their religious liberty.
Twenty-nine Baptists, 32 Episcopalians, 31 Jewish rabbis, 42 Methodists and 53 Presbyterians urged lawmakers to reject a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” being pushed by some elected officials, describing it as “a vague and broad religious exemptions bill that could result in discrimination and have many unintended consequences.”
“As faith leaders from diverse traditions, we believe freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but religious freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or exclude others,” said the group identified as Clergy United Against Discrimination.
The faith leaders cited four reasons they oppose the bill:
“First, it would put an individual’s religious beliefs ahead of the common good. Second, it could unleash a wave of costly lawsuits that will add burdens to both the courts and taxpayers alike. Third, our freedom of religion is already guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and Georgia’s State Constitution. Fourth, a state RFRA could legalize discrimination by allowing businesses to refuse to serve customers based on religious objections.”
“We believe that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms,” the letter stated. “We strongly oppose giving for-profit corporations religious rights that could allow them to pick and choose which laws to follow and discriminate against employees based on any characteristic — from their religious practices to their sexual orientation. This principle harkens back to the civil rights movement and our nation’s core values of equality and justice.”
Baptist signers include Rev. Timothy McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta; James Lamkin, senior pastor of Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta; Frank Broome, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia; and David Gushee, distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.
Other names include Courtney Allen, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.; Greg Deloach, CEO/president at Developmental Disabilities Ministries and former pastor of First Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.; and Walker Knight, a member of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., and founding editor of Baptists Today.
Oakhurst co-pastors Lanny Peters and Melanie Vaughn-West added their signatures. So did Pastor Mimi Walker of Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta; Pastor Tony Lankford and associate pastor Trey Lyon of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta; and Michael Tutterow, lead pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga.
Others wanting to sign the letter can find it here.