Several hundred people braved a steady rain Friday to rally for what they said were their Christian values, saying Georgia’s faith community faced a wake-up call after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed “religious liberty” legislation many of them supported.
“We have our voices and our votes, and we’re going to use them,” said Pastor Will Allen of White Graves Baptist Church in Ranger, one of a number of people in the crowd who said Deal’s veto gave the event added importance. “We want to show state government we’re going to stand with God as a church.”
The “We Stand with God Pro-Family Rally” on Liberty Plaza across from the Georgia Capitol building had been planned months ago, but gained prominence after Deal struck down House Bill 757 a little less than a month ago. A good number in the crowd said they came to Atlanta from outside the metro area, with some riding on church-sponsored or charter buses to get there.
“I think it’s about gay marriage: it’s biblically wrong,” said Keith Haddock, of the Smithboro Baptist Church in Monticello, when asked what the message of the event was for him.
“Our foundation is around the King James Bible,” said his friend, Jimmy Whitley. “That’s where we stand with Jesus.”
Conservatives and some religious groups in Georgia have vowed to keep Deal’s veto in the spotlight through this year’s state election season and into January, when those groups expect to again push legislation they say would protect religious viewpoints and prevent discrimination against faith-based groups, particularly those opposed to same-sex marriage.
Deal said he vetoed HB 757 because the bill did not reflect the state’s image as home to “warm, friendly and loving people.” The bill he rejected was a fusion of several different religious liberty ideas and would have, among other things, protected faith-based groups’ ability to fire employees because they are gay and prevented anyone from being forced to attend a gay wedding.