ASA Executive Committee Condemns So-Called “Religious Freedom Restoration” Acts
For Immediate Release
John F. Stephens, Executive Director
March 20, 2015 — In response to the Georgia legislature’s consideration of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB129), the American Studies Association (ASA) is suspending its bid to hold our 2018 annual meeting in Atlanta. Should the legislation pass, the ASA will not meet in Georgia.
Georgia’s SB 129 would allow individuals and corporations to discriminate against marginalized groups on the basis of religious beliefs. In the name of religious freedom, this legislation would justify the refusal of services to Muslim and LGBT communities and their members. As critics have pointed out, this legislation could also be mobilized to defend those who inflict violence and abuse upon family members or community members by suggesting these actions reflect their deeply held religious beliefs. Former Georgia attorney general Mike Bowers notes, “Obvious targets for discrimination based on a supposed burden on religious exercise are members of the LGBT community and religious minorities. But more insidiously, this legislation will allow state and local government employees to refuse services to citizens.” (Mike Bowers' memorandum, quoted at Buzzfeed.
The American Studies Association (ASA) is an academic organization consisting of over 5000 members from the United States and around the world. We are the oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history in a global context, supporting scholars, teachers, administrators, writers, critical thinkers and activists around the world. In pursuit of these goals over the decades, the ASA has evolved into one of the leading scholarly organizations known for taking action in the worlds of politics and policy to create and defend conditions for open debate and the pursuit of meaningful, engaged scholarship and teaching. Given the ASA’s commitment to social justice, the Executive Committee of the ASA strongly condemns the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 129).
By suspending its bid to hold the 2018 annual meeting in Atlanta, the ASA also is withholding the potential infusion of $1.4 million into Georgia’s economy, the amount ASA members spend on airfare, hotels, food, and other services when attending the meeting. We call on other professional and scholarly organizations opposed to state supported discrimination to cancel their annual meetings, and reconsider their bids to meet in the state of Georgia if SB 129 is passed and signed into law.
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