Current Georgia Republican Governor Nathan Deal’s office is apparently willing to sacrifice First Amendment freedoms in exchange for business deals. A top aide within his administration stated he is concerned that any efforts (successful or unsuccessful) at enhancing religious liberty within the state could hamper the state’s attempt to land a bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.
Chris Riley, Governor Deal’s top aide, stated concerns that increasing “rhetoric” within the state’s gubernatorial race could harm the state’s chances at securing the development deal with Amazon.
Amazon’s second headquarters is projected to be a $50 billion development and could bring as many as 50,000 jobs along with it. Riley expressed his concerns that even touting the idea of religious liberty proposals could result in an unsuccessful bid.
To say the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters is hotly contested is an understatement. More than 200 cities have put in bids. According to The Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the state’s proposal is its most “aggressive economic attraction package” in history, and Chris Riley also reiterated it was a “very aggressive offer.”
Others have roundly criticized the statements by the governor’s office balancing money over religious liberty and freedom of speech. Brant Frost, chairman of the Coweta County GOP, stated, ”I’d rather have the First Amendment than Amazon,” said Frost. “I won’t barter away my children’s birthright of religious freedom for 30 pieces of economic development silver.”
Other’s noted that while offering Amazon such an “aggressive” development package is a proposal worth considering, their religious liberty shouldn’t be an item “for sale” as part of that package. State Senator Michael Williams, one of the most vocal and outspoken Republican contestants in the gubernatorial race, said, “Call me crazy, but handing out the biggest corporate welfare check in history from a state seems like a bad idea,” he said. “I want Amazon to come to Georgia, but I don’t want to pay them an enormous sum that will take them more than 100 years to pay back.”
To silence ensuing pushback since his “warning,” Governor Deal commented in a recent media interview, saying that his position had not changed. He also stated issues like these must be dealt with in “a very delicate fashion,” and that “there will be repercussions.”
Governor Deal fails to acknowledge the most severe repercussions. The lost of economic development deals, while typically not good for a state’s economy, should never come at the expense of First Amendment freedoms or religious liberty protections for all. After two terms n office, Governor Deal will leave having taken steps to secure neither.
Josh Denton is a contributing writer to Family Policy Institute of Washington.