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Pastor Protection Act proposed
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Pastor

A House Representative from Dawsonville plans to carry a bill in the next legislative session that proposes to protect pastors from being required to participate in a marriage or celebration if it violates their religious beliefs.

House Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonvile) said pastors and clergy need to know they are under no obligation to perform a same-sex marriage.

A lot of ministers are uncertain what the (same-sex) ruling means, Tanner said. Its important to reinforce that our pastors and clergy and churches are under no obligation to perform a ceremony of any kind on church property that they are not comfortable with. This (bill) reinforces that and the law.

Clergy are currently protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

There is no provision or law or any court decision that would require a pastor to perform any undertaking as a pastor that he or she chooses not to perform, said First Amendment Lawyer David Hudson, who works with the Georgia Press Association. So it is my view that a bill along these lines would be a solution looking for a problem.

Tanner said protections offered by the First Amendment are not codified in Georgia law.

Theyre understood, but its not in the code, he said. With all the uncertainty, we want clergy to know Georgia code will protect them. I think its very important that a law be placed on the books in Georgia, and that the Georgia General Assembly stand behind it and protect that freedom. It will also assist courts if theyre looking at a case .

After a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling June 26 made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, Tanner said he received calls from local clergy.

Ive had phone calls from pastors and ministers of various faiths about what the recent ruling means , he said. Theyre asking, What do we have to do? Are we going to be in trouble?

House Speaker David Ralston, who represents parts of Dawson County, has publicly supported the proposed bill.

According to Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen, a draft of the bill says: No minister of the gospel or cleric or religious practitioner ordained or authorized to solemnize marriages according to usages of the denomination, when acting in his or her official religious capacity, shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to free exercise of regression.

The First Amendment also clearly states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of

Tanner said the issue is broader than same-sex marriage.

Were making an effort on behalf of the state it reinforces to clergy that they get to choose, based on their own belief system, what they want to do. If two Christians wanted to get marriage in a synagogue, the rabbi has a right to tell them no. Likewise, if someone whos been divorced wants to get married in a Baptist church, the pastor has a right not to marry them.

In Texas, a similar act becomes law Sept. 1, while Republican lawmakers in Tennessee and Florida are expected to take up the issue.

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