God, guns, GOP and Georgia — state lawmakers hell-bent to pass ‘Preservation of Religious Freedom Act’ Dyana Bagby February 20, 2014 Editorials, Today in Gay Atlanta 21 Comments In its last two weeks at the Georgia General Assembly, the damned-near-everyone-is-a-Republican-legislature wants to pass a law that would essentially wipe out all anti-discrimination laws, including the few that protect LGBT people. Why? Because religion. And because Arizona is doing it and a host of others, including Tennessee, South Dakota, Kansas and Mississippi are trying their hardest to pass similar bills, too. The bills being considered today at the same time in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are named the “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” aka HB 1023 and SB 377. Georgia Equality is urging people to call their legislators but to also come to the Gold Dome and lobby on Monday and Tuesday. The state Democratic Party is calling the bills “dangerous and immeasurable in scope.” “Among many other things, [the bills would] open a Pandora’s box of LGBT discrimination and unfairly target women based on their health care decisions,” stated a press release from the Democratic Party of Georgia. “What makes this even more alarming is the fact that Republicans are using a tactic they seem to be quite fond of lately by scheduling the hearings in tandem to sidestep opposition testimony,” said Michael Smith, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “The pathetic part of this is that Republicans could have spent their time crafting legislation that put people back to work or armed Georgia’s future workforce with a first-class education,” Smith added. “Instead, the Georgia GOP has connived ways to manufacture right-wing primary fodder for the far fringe of their base that stealthily silences the voice of any mainstream voter who will find this legislation objectionable.” According to the state Democratic Party, the proposed bills would: • Allow individuals and private organizations to claim an imposition on their religious freedoms to make decisions otherwise protected by current law. For instance, both of these bills would allow employers to discriminate against potential employees based on current protected legal statuses — like race, sex, age, pregnancy, nationality and even religion under the guise of protecting the employer’s religious freedom. • Also: “While Republicans state that the bills are designed to protect religious freedoms that are already guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, the legislation is tailored in a way to limit some of our most basic protections — including access to birth control for women and protection from state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT individuals.” Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group, sent out an action alert today to members urging them to contact their state representatives and senators and to ask them to say no to this bill. “We strongly believe in the freedom of religion and fairness, but HB 1023 and SB 377 go too far. The language in this law is too broad and unclear and could open the door for serious and even harmful unintended consequences for all Georgians, including nullifying discrimination, public safety and health laws,” the action alert stated. Georgia Equality adds in its argument: • This bill would allow a person to take advantage and use personal religious beliefs to claim the right to break important laws that are meant to protect all of us. • Expansion of religious freedoms should not come at the expense of Georgia’s existing civil rights protections, public safety provisions, and other laws that serve the common good. These bills could allow: -An employer to fire a woman who remarried after a divorce or who is pregnant and not married. -A person whose religion demands pacifism and non-violence to refuse to rent an apartment to a tenant who owns a gun. -The owner of a sandwich shop to refuse to serve a gay customer. -A healthcare worker to refuse a woman a prescribed medication. -A counselor be exempted from state required licensing requirements. “The bill applies not just to individuals but also to for profit and secular corporations and organizations. These businesses entered the stream of commerce for monetary gain and thus should not be allowed to reap the benefits of the marketplace but not have to play by the same rules as everyone else,” Georgia Equality stated. This is the state where residents can now buy specialty license plates decorated with a Confederate flag and where the state Senate has passed a resolution calling for a constitutional convention of all the states to basically rewrite the U.S. Constitution and voted this week to loosen gun laws in the state and allow Georgians to carry their guns into churches, schools, local government offices and, yes, bars. The hysterical reaction of Georgia lawmakers that a bakery may go out of business if it refuses to sell a cupcake to a gay person, or a lesbian wanting to get inseminated at a clinic where a Christian nurse works (and pretty much that’s what this bill is about) comes a day after Georgia Equality sent out an email alert to its members that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was joining an initiative to work toward getting full marriage equality in southern states. One step forward, three steps back. And where, dear God, does it say in the Bible to be mean to people you don’t like, to be so arrogant, to be so ignorant of what is going on in the world around you? Oh, it doesn’t. And yet Georgia’s Republican legislators seem to want to rewrite what God had to say and incorporate these laws into their fiefdom. Don’t let these suckers win by making us suckers. Call, write and vote. It’s time to rise up, Georgia. SHARE ON 21 Responses Cliff Norris February 20, 2014 The House version of the bill has two Democratic co-sponsors, so both sides need to hear from us. Let’s contact *all* our state legislators regardless of party to make sure they know there are people in *all* districts who are opposed to this legislation. To find out who is your state representative and senator, visit http://votesmart.org/officials/GA/L/georgia-state-legislative#.UwaI3IVFGi0 and enter your address in the box in the top, right-hand corner. Reply Thom February 21, 2014 I can’t believe how backwards our legislators really are, but they obviously think their constituents are stupid enough to want this. This is a bad idea, not just for LGBT people and those who don’t conform to the religious beliefs of those they deal with. Sure they can deny us employment and refuse to serve us, but it’s a two way street. LGBT and others who have such people they employ and serve can then also fire them and refuse to serve them. That’s not a good situation to have built into the law. Employers can already fire anyone they want, they just have to be smart about it and find other reasons to do that. The real test of this will be when one of these bigots refuses service to someone and there are real injuries like a gay diabetic slipping into a coma after being refused service in a restaurant because their blood sugar dropped too low. Then their family can sue their pants off. Current anti-discrimination laws are there to try and stop such acts of stupidity. Ending them is going to have some unintended consequences, especially when these lawmakers end up on the other end of the discrimination spectrum by allowing discrimination based on religious beliefs. Atheists can then refuse service and employment to Christians. Democrats can refuse service to Republicans. Republicans can refuse service to Democrats, and then there’s the Libertarians and Independents who fall between. Personal religious beliefs can take on any form to provide endless means of discrimination. There will be no end to it if we open up this Pandora’s Box. And then there’s the lawsuits that the state will have to pay for to defend this stupid law if it passes. There are much better things to spend public tax money on than this! Reply Cat Springer February 22, 2014 Separation of church and state. Forever. Reply jeff poss February 23, 2014 best comment i read about this: “This should be no surprise at all really, considering how it must put sand in their vaginas every time a state legalizes same-sex marriage (also the ACA, etc). Does it itch, GOP? I bet it itches.” Reply Laughing all the way February 23, 2014 This is hilarious. I love how the LGBT turns every law like this into a “Gay-bashing,” “lesbian hunting,” declaration. This is not simply about the LGBT community. This is about larger freedoms. I support the GOP for pushing religious freedom but not in this manner. It is time that Christians can stand up for what they believe in and not be judged by the liberal media Reply HawkAtreides February 24, 2014 Christians already have full religious freedom in this country. What they do not have the right to do, what no one has or should have the right to do, is to force compliance with a particular sect’s beliefs on others. Reply Impishparrot February 24, 2014 Well, this law also extends the same rights beyond Christianity to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, atheists, agnostics and people who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” So what will the Georgia judiciary response be when it has to rule in the affirmative to say — Islam over Judaism, or Christianity over Buddhism. What will you Christians do when a court upholds the right for an Islamic cardiac surgeon refuses to operate on a Christian Dominionist? When a Christian nurse refuses to process a blood sample from an injured person they think is a homosexual, but who turns out to not be one at all, and that person dies? What happens when a contingent of elected Christian legislators refuse to allow an elected Buddhist to enter the state house? What happens when a Christian EMT refuses emergency treatment to an atheist at the scene of an accident? If this is the world the fundamentalist, Christian Dominionist in ALEC want, they should prepare for the ensuing civil rights war that will tear the fabric of this representative democracy, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights apart. Reply Wesley Cole February 25, 2014 it is time that churches are taxed out of business Reply ms. directed February 24, 2014 two steps forward…50 years back. WTF?? i don’t necessarily agree that private business owners should have laws that mandate who they can do business with…same as i don’t disagree those same business owners shouldn’t be publicly listed as bigoted a**holes…but as for the rest of it? GA will allow anyone to move here…a-n-y-o-n-e, but won’t move forward 50 years in it’s legislative policy?? watch all these liberal filmakers and screenwriters start packing up and moving on and tell me how that ‘Preservation of Religious Freedom Act’ is working out… Reply Stefanie Dye February 26, 2014 I haven’t written a letter to a legislator for the 18 years I’ve lived in this state because it is frowned upon in my profession. I couldn’t help myself this time. Below is the text of the email I just sent to my State legislators. Feel free to borrow as much of it as you may like, and write your legislators! Fondly, Stefanie Dye Dear Representative/Senator X, I am writing in reference to the above bill, the ill-titled “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.” It occurs to me that our founding fathers came to the New World to escape the pressures of State-sponsored religion. Contrary to the popular title, this bad bill is an attempt to reintroduce the system of religious intolerance from he Old World. It is in fact a way to squelch the religious freedom of persons who would be treated unfairly should this bill pass. Religious freedom should be a shield, not a sword. It isn’t religious freedom when you are using it to hurt another person. We have a constitutional right to equal protection under the law. That means you don’t pass laws that favor one class of citizen over another. If a person’s religion doesn’t support birth control, they shouldn’t use it. If a person’s faith says same-sex marriage isn’t recognized, then they shouldn’t marry someone of the same sex. But their right to their religious conviction ends where mine begins. Religious freedom doesn’t mean that another person should be able to impose their religious beliefs on me. Our country was founded to stop religious persecution, and it’s un-American for the state to enforce one person’s religious beliefs on another. They’ve got that backwards. Thank you for your attention, and please oppose this horrible offense to civil liberties and true religious freedom. Sincerely, Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Name* Email* Website 4 − = one Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.