CEOs Against Georgia’s Push to Allow Faith-based Groups to Refuse Certain Services

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By Angela Willis

It’s been nearly a year since Corporate America stood against legislation in Indiana that would have permitted business owners to refuse to serve same-sex couples based on religious grounds and now an increased number of companies and CEOs are speaking out again.

This time, the battle is against a Georgia bill that passed legislature on Wednesday and is on its way to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk. The bill, has endured several changes, but says that faith-based organizations can refuse to provide certain services to those who violate their “sincerely held religious belief.” In addition, it says faith-based groups could not be made to hire or retain employees whose beliefs contradict their own and the government must prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion.

Governor Deal is being prompted to veto the bill as business leaders and major corporations are making threats to pull business from the state, and even criticizing it as out of step with the times. This time, they include both large coordinated groups of businesses that have formed in opposition to the bill and high-profile leaders sounding off on Twitter.

CEO of Salesforce.com has been extremely vocal in the fight against similar legislation in Indiana about a year ago and has led the business world in tweeting about the bill for weeks. He wrote on Thursday, “Once again Georgia is trying to pass laws that make it legal to discriminate. When will this insanity end?”

Back in February, Benioff tweeted a poll asking his 207,000 followers if the company should move an upcoming conference from the state if the bill were to pass.

His company issues a statement on Thursday that threatened to do just that. If the bill becomes law, the statement read, “Salesforce will have to reduce investments in Georgia, including moving the Salesforce Connections conference to a state that provides a more welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community.”

Other companies have voiced their opinions on the bill as well. Apple issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying, “Our stores and our company are open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. We urge Gov. Deal to veto the discriminatory legislation headed to his desk and send a clear message that Georgia’s future is one of inclusion, diversity and continued prosperity.”

Other CEOs have made Twitter comments in agreement with Benioff or stating their own opposition. Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Michael Dell of SecureWorks and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich are only a few of the many company leaders that have shown their support for Benioff.

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