Two full-page ads in local newspapers raking Georgia lawmakers over the coals for supporting so-called “religious freedom” bills in Georgia have those on both sides of the debates throwing off the gloves and facing off in a bare knuckle brawl.
Well, if you consider social media the new virtual battlefield, anyway.
On Monday, Better Georgia, a socially progressive organization led by its openly gay executive director, Bryan Long, struck major blows with full-page ads in the Marietta Daily Journal and the Columbus Ledger.
The ads accused state Rep. Sam Teasley of Marietta, and state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus, backers of so-called “religious freedom,” of supporting child abuse through the bills because an offender could argue in court his or her religious beliefs permit abuse. Teasley’s House Bill 29 has already been proposed; McKoon is expected to introduce his bill in the very near future. Last year both men tried to pass similar bills but were defeated in the closing days of the session.
Better Georgia also has an ongoing petition drive urging people to sign it and try to persuade McKoon and Teasley from not going forward with their bills because they also invite LGBT discrimination. McKoon and Teasley have denied any intent to discriminate with their bills.
“When our elected officials put pure politics ahead of what’s best for Georgia families, Better Georgia holds them accountable,” Long says on the group’s website.
“That’s why we published full-page ads in [Monday’s] hometown newspapers of Sen. Josh McKoon and Rep. Sam Teasley. We’re telling voters in their home districts that, under the guise of supporting ‘religious freedom,’ Sen. McKoon and Rep. Teasley are sponsoring dangerous legislation that threatens the safety of Georgia families.
According to Macon District Attorney David Cooke, if Sen. McKoon and Rep. Teasley get their way, those who abuse women and children could use their religious beliefs in court to defend their despicable acts.
Even Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds, a conservative Republican from Rep. Teasley’s hometown, says he and other prosecutors share D.A. Cooke’s concerns.
In his op-ed, DA Cooke pointed out two prominent Georgia cases where he believed the “religious freedom” bills could have helped the abusers:
• In one case, a pastor and 10 members of Atlanta’s House of Prayer claimed “religious freedom” when charged with beating 7- and 10-year-old boys.
• In another case, a mother and father said they were following their church’s teaching when they whipped their son, locked him in a closet and told him to pray. While 8-year-old Josef Smith died as a result of this abuse, his parents and his church said the boy was disciplined in line with their understanding of the Bible.
Teasley, angered by the ads, fired back against Better Georgia in a late-night Facebook post on Monday, calling the group “unhinged” and describing the ads as “disgusting and abhorrent.”
These folks are unhinged. A group that calls itself “Better Georgia” has made some outrageous claims about the Religious Freedom measure that I have been working on.
The ad is disgusting and abhorrent. It is totally devoid of truth. These folks are so desperate to further their own political agenda, that they don’t care what lies they have to spread in order to advance it. If there was even the slightest bit of truth to their claims, I would oppose the measure myself.
It is unimaginable that a person could mount a SUCCESSFUL defense in a court of law using religion as their justification for domestic violence.
The bill simply states that government must demonstrate that there is a compelling state interest if it is going to burden a person’s free exercise of religion. How is that controversial? And, considering their claim, it is obvious to everyone objectively considering the issue that there is a compelling government interest in punishing those who perpetrate violence on others.
One of my favorite parts of their ad reveals what they are trying to do by opposing the measure – to raise money off of it so that they can smear others that don’t uphold their radical Left-wing views.
I have truly appreciated the many rational, thoughtful dialogues and debates that I have had on this issue with so many others. I look forward to many more. However, when it comes to this so-called group, “Better Georgia,” I feel the need to borrow a phrase… their pants are on fire on this one.
State Sen. Josh McKoon hit back at Better Georgia from the Senate well as well as with several sharp jabs via his social media of choice, Twitter:
— JoshMcKoon (@JoshMcKoon) January 26, 2015
— Georgia Pundit (@gapundit) January 26, 2015
— Better Georgia (@bettergeorgia) January 26, 2015
McKoon is also exposing an ugly side to the battle against the RFRA bills from gay people, sharing this recent tweet:
— JoshMcKoon (@JoshMcKoon) January 20, 2015