As a business owner and state senator for Georgia, I’m a pro-business advocate for the people of our great state and believe that if we do the right thing for the people of Georgia, companies will seek to place their businesses where the people have the greatest freedom. Governor Nathan Deal has done an excellent job in helping Georgia be the number one state in which to do business.
But the issue of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA is one of the most misunderstood laws in America. There have been pages and pages of news stories, blog posts, and interviews dedicated to the subject. Unfortunately, most of them were full of misinformation and sometimes even outright lies.
One of the biggest half-truths being perpetuated in the news involves Amazon and its much anticipated HQ2. Those on the other side would love you to believe that passing RFRA would automatically disqualify Georgia from consideration for HQ2. While it is a bit early to speculate on where the second headquarters will be built, I am willing to make a bold prediction: Amazon will accept RFRA whether they like it or not.
This issue started with an article in the AJC on Oct. 24, 2017, which suggested that campaign rhetoric on religious liberty could dissuade Amazon from choosing Georgia. All across the country, “corporate boycott” has been the boogeyman lurking behind every religious liberty bill. Realistically, an Amazon boycott just isn’t feasible. Just like monsters hiding under the bed, this boogeyman is a myth, fabricated to scare us.
Business Insider ranks Atlanta second in their list of top ten cities to land HQ2, sandwiched between Austin, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Pennsylvania and Texas are very, very different states, they both have one thing in common: RFRA. In fact, Texas has one of the strongest RFRA laws in the country. You can also add Pittsburgh, Boston, Miami, and Salt Lake City to the list of potential homes of HQ2 that enjoy religious liberty protections.
If Amazon wants to build in a state without RFRA (or a RFRA equivalent), their only options from the Business Insider list are New York and Oregon. Considering Oregon’s proximity to “HQ1,” Amazon is really left with two options: build in New York or have a headquarters in a pro-RFRA state.
So that settles it, Amazon will have to just build in New York. That way they can avoid RFRA altogether. That still leaves a major problem, though. The current Amazon headquarters is in Washington, a state with religious liberty protections. Unlike Texas or Pennsylvania, which have RFRA laws that can be repealed, Washington instituted RFRA by a judicial decision (protection is provided by their state constitution). There’s nothing Amazon can do about it. Even if Amazon builds HQ2 in New York, HQ1 isn’t going anywhere.
At the end of the day, corporations care about one thing: profit. If Amazon decides Austin will be the most profitable location for HQ2, they will build in Austin. If Atlanta is the most profitable location, they will build in Atlanta.
There is absolutely no way Amazon leaves money on the table to build in a non-RFRA state. Unless they decide to uproot HQ1 altogether, a state RFRA is inevitable.
Ignore the fear-mongering. Georgians deserve the same First Amendment religious protections Amazon currently enjoys in the state of Washington. (Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTe7b6z18Hs)
[Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) is the state senator for District 16, which covers Lamar, Spalding and Pike counties and most of Fayette County. Sen. Harbin is vice-chairman of the Government Oversight Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions, Insurance and Labor, and State and Local Governmental Operations committees. Contact him at Marty.firstname.lastname@example.org.]