Gov. Deal says ‘religious freedom' bill not needed in Georgia

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal made a strong statement Thursday about a religious freedom bill stalled at the state capitol.

Deal was forceful with his words as he warned lawmakers not to send him the controversial religious liberty bill passed by the state Senate

“I don't think we have to have anything that allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” Deal told Channel 2’s Lori Geary.

He said the bill is not on his agenda because it would lead to discrimination against the gay community.

“I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same sex marriages pursue that route,” he said.

The so-called First Amendment Defense Act allows faith-based organizations to refuse services to gay couples and not risk penalties from state government.

Supporters say this bill is not about discrimination; it's about equal protection of faith.

“The First Amendment Defense Act makes it clear that your belief is in traditional marriage or your belief is in same sex marriage. That the government cannot discriminate with respect to either viewpoint,” said State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

Opponents, including members of the powerful business community, say this bill would ruin Georgia’s reputation on inclusion, and Deal agreed.

“I'm a Baptist and I’m going to get into a little biblical philosophy on my part right now. I think the New Testament teaches us that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts,” Deal said. “I hope we can all just take a deep breath, recognize it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs but we don't have to discriminate against other people in order to do that and that's the compromise I’m looking for.”

The bill in its current form is in the House, and it is not likely to pass there because speaker Ralston echoes Deal’s sentiments.