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Business Protection Act Passes Committee

Senate Bill 127  was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday. The bill protects businesses from discrimination by a state or local official or a local government on the basis of their personnel policies, such as employee benefits, so long as the business’ policies comply with state and federal law. The bill now heads to the Senate floor. Sen. Paul Bailey, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, Sen. Bill Ketron, Sen. Jack Johnson, Sen. Ed Jackson, and Sen. Mark Norris voted for the bill. Sen. Jeff Yarbro voted no, and Sen. Richard Briggs and Sen. Ken Yager chose not to vote.

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silhouette of a group of businessmen on the LGBT rainbow flag and an outline of Tennessee

Can Washington, D.C., Help ‘Tennessee Thrive’?

The extent to which then-candidate Donald Trump swamped the field of presidential contenders in the Republican Primary and then swamped Hillary Clinton should be an indication that a majority of Tennesseans rejects the liberal political values inside the D.C. Beltway. But some businesses in Tennessee don’t get it. They think we need the values of liberal political groups in D.C. in order for our state to “thrive.”

I’m referring to a new advocacy organization called Tennessee Thrives. It is composed of a number of businesses like First Tennessee; Pinnacle Financial Partners, a banking/investment business primarily in Middle Tennessee but expanding; Regal Entertainment Group, the theater chain; Jack Daniels; Auto Zone; and Saint Thomas Health. The group’s name sounds very pro-Tennessee, but it is actually an arm or an offshoot of an organization based in Washington, D.C., called Freedom for All Americans. Freedom for everybody sounds good. But what you “hear” is not what you get! It’s about less freedom and, ironically, less freedom for businesses.

Tennessee Thrives Is All About the LGBT Agenda

Freedom for All Americans and, consequently, Tennessee Thrives and its business members, are all about making sure the only voice that is heard in Tennessee politics is that of the radical politicos within the LGBT lobby and community. Yes, you heard that right. Your voice doesn’t matter unless you agree with the LGBT agenda. Let me explain.

The website for Tennessee Thrives and its business partners says that “Tennesseans must support policies of inclusivity and nondiscrimination.” That means you and me. And what are these policies?

Again they are very clear—you must support a policy that adds “gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity” to our state laws. Those words are not found in our state’s laws, but we are not alone in that regard. The laws in 31 other states don’t, either.

Yet these businesses now think we must impose on all business owners a requirement that their personnel policies must give special protection to people because of who they want to have sex with and whether their psyche tells them that their biological sex is not their real sex.

They think imposing those laws on all business owners is necessary for our state to thrive, which is ironic since the group’s website touts how Tennessee’s economy has been thriving in recent years without such laws.

Since not having sexual orientation and gender identity laws has not been a problem in relation to our state thriving, what is the real problem?

Show Me the Money

Their leaders have expressly said they don’t want any new laws that would be “harmful to the state’s economy.” So what new law, other than the one they happened to like, would be harmful to the state’s economy?

The answer is found in some of the initial stories heralding the group’s formation. One story noted the boycott in North Carolina over the law to keep men out of bathrooms and locker rooms for women. It said the boycott produced “a series of revenue losses that a group of more than 350 Tennessee businesses don’t want to see their state repeat.” Another story was about the “horrible” law Tennessee passed last year that allowed a professional counselor to make a referral if a client was asking the counselor to provide counsel contrary to their own beliefs as to what was good for the client.

In other words, they don’t want the Legislature to pass any new laws that the LGBT activists don’t like and that might cause them to threaten a boycott of the state.

What This Means and What You Can Do

With that as background, let me interpret for you what I hear these businesses saying to you and me:

We don’t care if LGBT advocates would have judges violate the separation of powers by asking them to reinterpret our laws and Constitution to suit their agenda. We don’t care about the rule of law. We don’t care about religious liberty. And we for sure don’t care like North Carolina did about the safety of women and children when men invade their bathrooms and locker rooms. The voices of all you who care about these things, even though you are the majority in Tennessee, don’t matter to us. We just want to make sure the LGBT community is happy and doesn’t boycott Tennessee, because all we care about is money, period. Yes, our Constitution, the rule of law, religious liberty, and our children’s safety are all for sale to the most organized consumer group.

These short-sighted businesses have essentially told these economic terrorists, “We’ll do whatever you want, just please don’t mention the ‘boycott’ word.” I hope our legislators are not so easily intimidated and their values are not so readily for sale.

Find out who these businesses are and then avoid patronizing them when you can. After all, they don’t think you matter anyway.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Woman in business suit holding sign that says Senate Bill 127

Senate Bill 127 Referred Back to Committee

Senate Bill 127, which had previously been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee by a 9-0 vote, was referred back to the State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. The bill protects business owners from discrimination by rogue mayors or state officials on the basis of their personnel and employee benefit policies.

The bill was sent back to a committee after Democratic leaders Jeff Yarbro and Lee Harris attempted to obfuscate the simple issue – should every city be able to dictate to a business its personnel and employee benefit policies? Republicans sat by and watched and then sent the bill away for more consideration.

These are the senators on that committee who will determine the bill’s outcome:

  • Chairman Ken Yager – (615) 741-1449
  • Senator Richard Briggs – (615) 741-1766
  • Senator Ed Jackson – (615) 741-1810
  • Senator Paul Bailey – (615) 741-3978
  • Senator Todd Gardenhire – (615) 741-6682
  • Senator Jack Johnson – (615) 741-2495
  • Senator Bill Ketron – (615) 741-6853
  • Senator Mark Norris – (615) 741-1967

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FACT Report: April 16, 2014

Politics in the Workplace (April 16, 2014)

In the aftermath of the forced “resignation” of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla Corporation, some conservatives commended him for never bringing his political beliefs about marriage into the workplace. But is it really good that the leader of a business is able to leave such political beliefs aside when he comes to work?

Unlike beliefs about the best brand of ice cream, political beliefs about marriage flow from beliefs that go to the very core of how we see God, man, and the world. Aren’t those the kinds of beliefs that should influence the decisions we make, regardless of the context in which those decisions are made?

Thankfully many owners of smaller businesses are standing up for marriage, even at risk of financial loss. When they do, let’s support them, and pray that more will follow their lead.

More On This Issue

Read more about this issue in David Fowler’s recent commentary Does Mozilla Have the Right to be Intolerant?

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Does Mozilla Have the Right to Be Intolerant?

I’ve read several great commentaries this week on the “resignation” of Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla Corporation. But some of the comments I saw made in his defense made me ask, “Does a business have the right to be intolerant?”

At the outset, let me be clear, it is not good that a group of people would try to cost another person his or her job simply because the person exercised a right to participate in the political process. To boycott a business because of its policies or its business practices is one thing, but to make it about getting a particular person fired on the basis of political disagreement is quite another.

That being said, here are two comments made by several commentators in Eich’s defense that gave me pause: First, he never brought his politics into the workplace, and second, Mozilla was very “gay friendly” in its workplace policies.

The First Question We Must Ask

So, at the risk of drawing the ire of fellow conservatives, I must ask, “Is it good that a CEO who will be providing direction for a business is able to leave his political beliefs aside when he comes to work?”

I know most today would say, “Absolutely,” and there is a part of me that wants to agree. Yet something nags at me.

Unlike beliefs about the best brand of ice cream, political beliefs flow from beliefs that go to the very core of how we see God, man, and the world. And aren’t those the kinds of beliefs that should influence the decisions we make, regardless of the context in which those decisions are made?

For Christians, the ability to put our personal religious beliefs aside when we walk out the church door is often called “compartmentalization.” That’s not a commendable quality, because we Christians are effectively saying that some “thing” about our existence—reputation, wealth, power, etc.—is more important than the will and truth of Him who created us and sustains our existence.

The Second Question We Must Ask

Holding that thought, let’s now turn our focus toward Mozilla. If Mozilla’s corporate value system embraces a worldview that says sexual acts between two men or two women is ethically virtuous, that marriage is not a relationship between a man and a woman, and that there are no differences between men and women and therefore men should be allowed to behave as women and women behave as men, then does the corporation have the right to employ leaders who embrace those values?

Putting these two thoughts together, if Mozilla, having learned of Mr. Eich’s political contribution, believed that his contribution reflected a deeply seated moral value grounded in a worldview incompatible with its corporate worldview, then should it have the right to not promote him or to fire him once they realize what his beliefs are?

Conservatives need to be careful before they answer. If Mozilla does not have that right, then neither does the Christian business owner who has different beliefs about human sexuality and marriage.

Why the Questions Are Important

While we rightly condemn the viciousness of those who, as outsiders to a business, would seek to deny a person their livelihood because of political disagreement, we better be careful if and when we ask civil government to intervene in the affairs of business employment decisions.

In Tennessee, that day is coming. What will our legislators do when asked to make sexual orientation, gender, or even marital status a “protected class” in the workplace? The answer will depend on how much “intolerance” our respect for liberty is willing to tolerate.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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