State Sen. Josh McKoon (File photo)

It’s gay scholar versus ‘religious freedom’ bill author in the AJC

The AJC has dueling op-eds today. In this corner we have state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), who proposed SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which failed for the second year in a row. And in this corner, we have gay constitutional scholar Anthony Micheal Kreis (both columns are behind a paywall).

Kreis says the time has come for a statewide civil rights law in Georgia, something the Georgia Voice explored in this recently posted article. He points out there are no protections for LGBT government employees (something Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) has been trying to rectify in recent years without any luck) and highlights the unfortunate company Georgia is in with four other states—we have no public accommodations law.

“These laws defend protected classes from being targeted with additional transaction costs, prevent businesses from choking off access to goods and services, and guarantee the dignity of citizens in the public square. There is no justification to perpetuate injustices for which 45 other states have crafted a remedy,” Kreis writes.

As Kreis notes, it’s not just the LGBTs that are left out when it comes to employment protections in Georgia—there are no protections based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin either.

“We join only Alabama and Mississippi in failing to meet this basic obligation of government,” he writes. “That is not a distinction we should keep.”

Sen. McKoon stays in the same lane he’s been in since the beginning of the debate, saying the government is trampling on people of faith and that there are no examples of discrimination in other states that have passed RFRAs.

However, there is one notable entry that strays from his standard message.

“Protection of religious liberty is inextricably linked with having a truly free-thinking, free-speaking society,” McKoon writes. “When we think of historical examples of countries that denied religious liberty – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union – or contemporary examples like Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and others, we know those nations also deny many other basic human rights. On the other hand, countries like the United States that have a tradition of protecting religious freedom also robustly protect other civil rights. Denying people their freedom of conscience today will have a much greater cost if it means we have decided that all freedoms hinge on whether their expression satisfies the majority of our population.”

In other words, let’s not be Nazi Germany, pass RFRA. Yikes.