‘Pastor Protection Act’ that has been a topic of discussion in U.S. government circles was passed unanimously in Georgia.
House Bill 757, Known as the Pastor Protection Act was passed unanimously in Georgia this week and now goes to the Senate.
The Act allows clergy to decline performance of same sex marriages without any punishment.
The bill, supported by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, moved easily after several lawmakers gave impassioned, Scripture-based speeches on its behalf. Ralston also made a rare appearance on the floor of the House to support it.
It was introduced last summer by Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, and found support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“No minister of the gospel or cleric or religious practitioner ordained or authorized to solemnize marriages, perform rites, or administer sacraments according to the usages of the denomination, when acting in his or her official religious capacity, shall be required to solemnize any marriage, perform any rite or administer any sacrament in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion under the Constitution of this state or the United States,” the bill reads in part.
In addition to churches, the bill also applies to religious schools, missionary societies and denominational conventions.
“The Pastor Protection Act is a simple reaffirmation of our bedrock principle of separation of church and state,” Tanner told reporters. “It makes clear that Georgia respects and honors the sacred oaths taken by our pastors, priests, rabbis and other clergy and that government has no intention of asking them to violate those oaths.”
Homosexual advocacy groups decried the move, opining that it grants a “license to discriminate.”
“It allows faith-based organizations to withhold services if they choose to do so,” Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, said in testimony before the Senate Rules Committee, which is considering a similar combined bill. “I am especially concerned that this bill will have a chilling effect on the state’s LGBT families.”