Georgia On My Mind

Whether true or not, social media and the 24-hour news cycle make some of us feel as though we are experiencing the most dynamic era in human history.  It would be impossible to track all important daily events, partly due to the volume, partly due to the filters that our preferred news sources utilize and partly due to so many unimportant events (e.g. what did Kim K. do today?) competing for time and space.  But there are two things going on in the state of Georgia today that everyone should be aware of.

The first thing is Georgia SB 375, a bill that the Georgia senate passed last Friday by a vote of 35 to 19.  Entitled “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act”, it would allow private adoption agencies—who accept taxpayer fundsto refuse placing children with same-sex couples.  The actual wording of the bill is “…allow a child-placing agency to decline to accept a referral from the department and decline to perform services not referred under a contract with the department based on the child-placing agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”  According to, the lead sponsor of the bill, Republican William Ligon,  indicated that “Just because you are a faith-based organization, doesn’t mean you have to check your faith at the door and cannot participate in government programs.”  One presumes, then, that if an agency’s god didn’t approve of inter-racial marriage or even inter-faith marriages, they could refuse placing children with couples meeting those descriptions.  But the main thrust of the legislation appears to be another attempt to allow someone’s feelings to override someone else’s rights, specifically, those of gay people.

I’m not sure what sort of constitution they’ve got down in the Peach State, but we have a national constitution that is fairly clear on some things, despite a barrage of recent court challenges.  One of those things is found in the first amendment, which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  I have always understood that sentence to mean that our government will neither make me worship in a particular way nor prevent me from worshiping in a particular way (unless that worship results in activities that have been prohibited by a constitutionally supported law).  The very title of the Georgia bill seems to suggest that someone’s religious beliefs will become a litmus test for someone else’s chance to adopt or foster a child and Senator Ligon’s characterization of the bill indicates that he would like Georgia to finance that test.

This is just the most current example of arguments that have been going on for years.  What can churches say or do without putting their tax-exempt status in jeopardy?  What can some religious hospitals or schools refuse to do and still accept government monies?  And while I still find myself on the fence as to exactly what behavior our government can require of private religious institutions who mind their own business, I feel no ambiguity as to what it can require of those sucking on the public teat.  If you want to preach politics to your congregation each Sunday, then pay your taxes like everyone else.  If you don’t want to perform abortions in your clinics or teach science in your classrooms (wait, when did we start talking about Texas?), then stop accepting government funds to keep your doors open.

I’d also like to remind the good folk of Georgia that homosexuality is neither a choice nor contagious, but it is legal, as is the ability for same-sex couples to marry and even to be parents.  Gay people enjoy the same rights as any other citizen in this country.  While those rights include being able to despise someone else, they do not include the ability to strip rights from those we dislike.

The second thing going on in the Goober State involves the Lieutenant Governor (and gubernatorial-hopeful), Casey Cagel who is threatening Delta Airlines with negative tax legislation if it doesn’t reinstate its relationship with the NRA.  

Though it is safe to say that most of us have never worked in the meat industry, we have a vague idea of how sausage is made.  And while most of us have never been lawmakers, we intrinsically know that there have been unscrupulous, unfair and self-serving deals made in backrooms ever since they created politicians and taxes.  But I can’t think of a more brazen and public example of attempting to use one’s political office to punish (or reward) an entity for having a different political opinion.  I can only surmise that Mr. Cagel believes the potential pay-off for this political theater out-weighs the risk of being removed for abuse of his office.  Maybe he knows what he’s doing.  I don’t live in Georgia.  And I don’t how much Casey has historically received from the NRA, but I bet the blood ink is still wet on the fat check his campaign is about to get.

Delta announced that it was ending its discount program offered to NRA members because “…it will not support organizations on any side of any highly charged political issue that divides our nation”.  The Lt. Governor tweeted that “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

I try not to use the proverbial broad brush, but the Lt. Gov. has wrapped all conservatives in a single cloak, suggesting they all support the gun manufacturer’s chief lobbyist and hatchet man (the NRA), so I’ll join him.  I’ll assume, too, that every conservative in Georgia is a gun-owning NRA member who believes the second amendment guarantees them the right to own a weapon of war and that any law preventing the sale of any gun just propels Big Brother’s scheme to come in the night and castrate them.  But the stereotype also mandates that every conservative has a love affair with unfettered business.  Have we finally verified what it will take for an American company to feel the sting of a Republican whip?

Delta (whose crime was attempting to minimize it’s perceived support for the merchants of death), is a publicly traded company with over 80,000 employees that happens to be tied for 13th of Georgia’s largest employers and is directly linked to millions of dollars in annual revenue generated by its largest hub, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport.  It has not suggested that those who support responsible gun ownership are wrong or are not deserving of a cheap flight.  I believe it just recognized that the organization pretending to represent those citizens is really just a divisive money-making machine that plays on people’s fears while sharing complicity for getting people killed.

So what are you going to do, Georgia?  Do you believe a child should remain in an institution rather than in the home of a loving couple who want and are willing to take him/her based on an individuals unfounded bias?  Are you willing to codify and then subsidize prejudice?  

Are you going to allow elected officials to alienate and punish one of your largest economic engines due to a perceived slight?  And would your answer be different if Delta had in fact advocated for more gun control?  Your Lt. Governor is banking on the belief that you’ve become so polarized and dogmatic that you actually believe law makers should craft economic policies to benefit only those who share their political views, to reward loyalty.  Is he right?  

You’re on my  mind, Georgia.