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Coke, others pile on in last-day effort to bury religious liberty bill


With state lawmakers set to adjourn at midnight, several companies are stepping out in public, to make sure that SB 129, Georgia’s religious liberty bill, remains buried.

Chief among them is Coca-Cola, which has kept a low profile until now. From a statement posted this morning:

Coca-Cola does not support any legislation that discriminates, in our home state of Georgia or anywhere else. Coca-Cola values and celebrates diversity.

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We believe policies that would allow a business to refuse service to an individual based upon discrimination of any kind, does not only violate our Company's core values, but would also negatively affect our consumers, customers, suppliers, bottling partners and associates. As a business, it is appropriate for us to help foster diversity, unity and respect among all people.

A screen shot of the Coke website is above. Note the headline that the company's publicists used -- "diversity legislation." They made an interesting decision to avoid the use of the word "religious" or "liberty." Nor can those latter words be found in the body of the Coke statement. Call it an effort to redefine what the argument is about.

Infor, a $3 billion software firm whose reach includes a large Alpharetta campus, copied us on an email from CEO Charles Phillips that includes this:

This morning I sent a letter to Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, the state of my birth, urging him to veto Arkansas HB1228, which he has just done moments ago. I shared with him my own experiences growing up in Arkansas during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and the greatest lesson I learned as a Captain in the Marine Corps – you cannot lead people by dividing them.

I also let him know that we were re-evaluating a summit we were considering hosting in Little Rock this fiscal year.

Back in 1993, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty led the coalition that worked for passage of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Today, the group is telling both sides to cool it:

We need to tone down our hyperbolic rhetoric and understand that our supposed “enemies” are really our neighbors and fellow citizens.

For our conservative Christian friends, try loving your LGBT neighbors unconditionally and understand that providing them goods and services in the marketplace is an act of Christian hospitality, not an indication of approval of their nuptial decisions.

To our LGBT friends, try extending grace to others who have religiously informed objections to same-sex marriage and not ask them, in their eyes, to participate in your marital ceremony. Give that privilege to businesses who will celebrate your marriage along with you.

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The latest from Hoosierville, courtesy of the Indianapolis Star:

Indiana Republicans said Thursday morning that they are presenting an addition to the controversial RFRA legislation that will make it clear no one "be able to discriminate against anyone at any time."

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis said at a press conference at the Statehouse that leaders will present the proposal to lawmakers at 9:30 a.m. after speaking with corporate and civic leadership this week.

"Hoosier hospitality had to be restored," Bosma said.

Gov. Mike Pence wanted the matter settled before the NCAA's Final Four begins in Indianapolis on Saturday.

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A press release from a group of clergy arrived late Wednesday, sounding an alarm about HB 492, which is now in conference committee:

The bill would further expand the state’s “guns everywhere” law, eliminating the ability of state agencies – like school boards – to regulate gun possession on their property, abolishing the fingerprint requirement for gun license renewals and reducing the discretion of probate judges to decide whether to issue gun licenses.

A quick perusal of the language also indicates that it would grant immunity – specifically, exempt from misdemeanor prosecution – holders of concealed carry permits when they carry weapons into government buildings that bar firearms.

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Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville is one of 16 applicants to be the site of a 2016 presidential debate site during the general election, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. (Thanks to Jamie Dupree for the heads-up.)

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Gov. Nathan Deal turned heads in Washington last week with his keynote speech at the Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform:

Deal also earned praise from the New Republic, which proclaimed his criminal justice overhaul "the nation's most successful prison reform." Here's a snippet:

At the summit, Deal recalled bringing up criminal justice reform during his first state of the state. “A lot of people said that’s not a topic that a Republican governor ought to be talking about,” he said. It was a pressing and perplexing problem, as Georgia was the tenth most populous state in the country at the time, and yet had the fourth largest incarcerated population. “I would address an audience like this: ‘Do you realize that one out of every 13 Georgians is under some kind of correctional supervision?’” Deal said last week at the summit. “They would sit there with their mouths open… start looking around the table trying to figure out who at the table is under correctional supervision.”

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 The 40th day of a legislative session is a lot of hurry among a small group of people, but a lot of waiting for an even larger set of lawmakers and lobbyists. Which, presumably, is why Creative Loafing traditionally chooses this day for its Golden Sleaze edition. Have at it.

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The Daily Report says the corruption trial of state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, has been scheduled for June 1 before U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg:

But Brooks' attorneys—former Gov. Roy Barnes and public defenders Thomas Hawker and Natasha Perdew Silas—are continuing to challenge the validity of the longtime civil rights activist's indictment by attacking the makeup of the grand jury that released it as "unconstitutional and legally deficient."


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.