Nathan Deal gives tacit support to 'religious liberty' bill

With a major fight brewing over the future of "religious liberty" bills, supporters of the legislation can count themselves a key ally: Gov. Nathan Deal.

The governor offered a reminder today that he voted for similar federal legislation that aimed to prevent government intrusion on faith-based activities when he was in Congress, and said he was surprised the debate here has taken on "rather interesting dynamics."

Some critics of the bill worry it could be a discriminatory end-run on the First Amendment that would allow business owners to cite religious beliefs to deny people service. Corporate forces say it could send the wrong message to prospective recruits.

But Deal suggested he was heartened by a draft of the proposal that aims to drive home the message that the legislation would only apply to government agencies and not to business owners.

Said Deal:

"I personally do not think that the adoption of such a law would have the negative impacts that many people portrayed it would have. The language of the proposal would probably ameliorate some of the concerns ... I don't think anyone who proposes that legislation or supports it supports it for the purpose of discrimination."

The remarks come before a major rally develops at the statehouse around the case of deposed Atlanta Fire Chef Kelvin Cochran, who has become the poster child for conservative supporters of the legislation.

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