For Whom the Bill Tolls
By Tony Perkins
Thanks to the work of area pastors, the state of Georgia is one step closer to protecting religious liberty. The Georgia Senate just advanced SB 129, the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” with a 31-15 vote. As it currently stands, Georgians have no recourse under the law when they suffer religious discrimination from state and local municipalities. This is an all-too-real scenario for people like Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran who was fired by the city after sharing a book he had written about biblical morality.
In a letter to the Mayor of Atlanta, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) and five other Congressman from Georgia called for his reinstatement saying, “As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissal solely because of his religious views.” But this hasn’t stopped opponents of the bill from still claiming it’s unnecessary — or worse — that it’ll give people a “right to discriminate” against others.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The bill doesn’t grant any rights to a person at the expense of another’s. The bill simply requires the government to think hard on its reasons before it enacts a law that interferes with an individual’s right to religious freedom and expression. It does so by asking two questions: does this law serve a compelling state interest and is it serving that end in the least restrictive way possible. That’s not a license to discriminate — it’s a chance to demonstrate the state has burdened religious liberty.
In a letter supporting the House version of the bill, 14 legal experts on religious freedom protections point out, “Opponents of these bills often make absurd claims about the extreme results they would allegedly produce, but they have no examples of judicial decisions actually reaching such results. In the places where this standard applies, it has not been interpreted in crazy ways that have caused problems for those jurisdictions; if anything, these laws have been enforced too cautiously.”
Now the bill is now headed to the Georgia House where it awaits the approval of the lower chamber before going before the Governor. If you live in Georgia, the time is now to urge your state representative to Support HB 218, the House version of the bill titled “Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression Act.” Call or e-mail Speaker David Ralston and urge him to put his full support behind HB (404-656-5020 or David.Ralston@house.ga.gov).
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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