Recently, the Georgia State Senate passed a bill that clearly targets LGBTQ people. Had Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill, the state would have pretty much given faith-based organizations the power to fire current employees and reject job applicants they believe do not uphold their values. Basically, it would have given organizations the right to practice hate against anyone they find, as the bill, describes, “objectionable.”

The NFL made it clear to Gov. Deal that the state could have lost out on hosting Super Bowls if he signed the bill into law; he vetoed it on Monday.

It was the right move, but it had nothing to do with protecting LGBTQ people. As is the case with any pushback against discrimination, the powers-that-be normally buck to the pressure of business entities because they simply do not want to lose money.

This is the most tragic part of the anti-gay bill in Georgia being squashed.

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(Photo Credit: USA Today)

It should not have taken the NFL and other powerful voices to force Gov. Deal’s hand. In his remarks announcing his veto, Gov. Deal went into great detail explaining why the bill was not legally possible to enforce in his state, suggesting that he may have considered signing the legislation, had it not been for a few pesky legal details.

He said little about protecting LGBTQ people, because, quite frankly, he simply doesn’t care about them.

This, to me, is what is frightening about not only Georgia, but the rest of our country during this very xenophobic election cycle. That a bill like this was even considered reveals how much energy our lawmakers have in upholding bigotry and making it law because, in their interpretation, it is God’s law.

We have to stop using God as a means to legalizing hate against people whom we feel do not meet the standard of humanity.

I am a Christian and have been for quite some time now. I attend a church, in Brooklyn, N.Y., in which LGBTQ people are not only welcomed, but affirmed. Of course, I know that all churches do not provide such affirming spaces in their pews, but the hateful legislation we saw in Georgia pretty much starts in churches that co-sign hatred against LGBTQ people in the pulpit.

The NFL showed its leadership in speaking out against the Georgia bill, but I think we, as a society, need to take our outrage a step further and call out church leaders and people of faith for their roles in creating breeding grounds for politicians to consider laws that discriminate against anyone who is not them.

Essentially, many faith leaders are radicalizing its members into hating people, simply by interpreting scripture that, they believe, says that God does not honor “those people.”

This is an issue that is much bigger than sports; it has everything to do with who we believe deserves to live freely and those we believe should exist as less than human. Christianity is being used by lawmakers across the country to make that call and that should terrify all of us.

The NFL had to contend with LGBTQ inclusion a few years ago when openly gay college standout Michael Sam was drafted out of Missouri. Though his training camp apparently came and went without little incident (he wasn’t picked up by an NFL team), it did reveal that the league was willing to challenge hatred against gay people.

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(Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Photo Credit: USA Today)

But, again, what took place in Georgia (including other states that are considering anti-gay laws) is bigger than what any sports league can fight from a business perspective.

Fighting hatred against LGBTQ people should not come down to protecting business interests; it should be a purely moral one. Ironically, though, morality and faith are at odds nowadays.

To be hateful and discriminatory is to be moral in many Christians’ view of the world. There is a separation of church and state as far as how America governs, but that doesn’t mean Christian values don’t inform how people make decisions.

The NFL prides itself on being a family-oriented league and many of its players and other employees would consider themselves to be Christians. Often television cameras pan to players, often from opposing sides, on bended knee praying after games together.

This is a great thing. Faith, if practiced correctly, should be a unifying power. It should never be used as a weapon against those we do not like. 

Gov. Deal did the state of Georgia a great service by vetoing the anti-gay bill. The state is eligible to host a Super Bowl, but the Christian bigotry that lead to his hand being forced remains, and Sunday will continue to be the most segregated day of the week.

That is a reality that even the NFL can’t address.