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NFL: No Freedom League?


In the NFL’s offseason, league officials are trying to invade someone else’s turf: Georgia’s. In the ongoing scrimmage over the state’s deflated religious freedom bill, the National Football League is using a familiar playbook to frighten Governor Nathan Deal (R) out of signing H.B. 757, a shell of a measure that — in its old form — would have shielded Christians from the heavy hand of the government. Now, days after the proposal was gutted of any meaningful conscience protections, the NFL, NBA, and MLB are pulling out all the stops to kill a bill that’s actually less inclusive than the First Amendment!

Unlike the original version, only a fraction of faith-based groups and churches will have safe harbor from the government’s ruthless attacks on Christians. But instead of actually reading the bill, the NFL and other businesses seem quite content to take the media’s misleading word for it. While activists at the Human Rights Campaign resort to lies to defeat the measure, the reality is that H.B. 757 doesn’t offer even the barest of buffers for people like Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, or Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. If anything, it does as much to quarantine faith as it does to defend it.

Even so, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank is blasting leaders for considering it. “I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer,” Blank said in a statement Friday. “House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia.” True diversity is respecting everyone’s opinions — not a vocal few who refuse to practice the same tolerance they preach. The NFL went even further, threatening (not so subtly) to pull the city from Super Bowl consideration in in 2019 and 2020. “NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”

Of course, we saw this same bullying in Houston, where voters overwhelmingly rejected an ordinance that would have censored Christians. Despite the League’s big talk, it backed down, leaving plans in place for the championship game next year. Clearly it was nothing more than a corporate head-fake meant to placate the LGBT crowd. But if the NFL is so anti-freedom that it will pick up its ball and play somewhere else, let them. Who believes these entertainers are actually credible voices on the issue anyway? This country was built on religious liberty — not the narrow mockery of it made by this bill, but an all-inclusive privilege meant for every citizen everywhere. Is the League so fundamentally un-American that it’s willing to stand on the wrong side of 83 percent of the country on this issue? In poll after poll, the people of this nation have made it clear that the government should never punish people for their beliefs — not the same-sex couple getting married, nor the Christian they want to force to take their photographs.

The more corporations, Hollywood, and professional sports try to trample these freedoms, the greater backlash they’ll face. Religious liberty is the issue of the 2016 election, as even liberal media are acknowledging. If it weren’t an issue of fundamental importance to voters, then I guarantee candidates — including Hillary Clinton — wouldn’t waste their time talking about it. No one is more in touch with what the American people care about than the men and women on the campaign trail talking to them every day. Obviously, voters recognize the threat to their First Freedom and want to elect someone who will do something about it. Politicians ignore this issue at their own peril. If Governor Deal vetoes this bill, it will put him to the left of President Obama, who has always thought religion belongs where this legislation confines it: within the four walls of the church. If you live in Georgia, contact Governor Deal and tell him to get off the sidelines and sign the bill. Or better yet, tell him to work with the legislature to restore the bill to its original form so it truly does protect religious freedom.


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