Well, that escalated quickly.

We asked former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers at a press conference this morning whether he had heard from state Rep. Sam Teasley, state Sen. Josh McKoon or any other Republicans about his criticism of Teasley’s and McKoon’s so-called “religious freedom” bills and he said he hadn’t. Until now.

A group of Georgia Republican state representatives just released a statement in response to Bowers’ comments, calling him “shameless” and saying they are disappointed as fellow attorneys. Their wording is curious since many would assume their disappointment lies in Bowers being a fellow Republican, but perhaps this is the point when supporters of the bill begin to put distance between Bowers and his political affiliation.

“We are extremely disappointed in Mr. Bowers’ shameless attempt to lend legal credibility to the hysterical and baseless political ranting of the extreme left. His ‘analysis’ is not a credible legal document, but rather nothing more than a recitation of the tired scare tactics often repeated by misguided opponents on this issue,” the statement says.

It is signed by state Representatives Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), Alex Atwood (R-St. Simons Island), Andy Welch (R-McDonough), Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), Stephen Allison (R-Blairsville), Dusty Hightower (R-Carrollton), Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), and Barry Fleming (R-Harlem).

The group continues to express their disappointment saying Bowers’ opinion lacks facts and legal precedent.

“We expect political zealots to make claims lacking in facts or legal precedent in an attempt to deceive the public into believing religious freedom laws will lead to acts of discrimination, despite the fact such claims have been completely discredited over the two decades that RFRA has been federal law and on the books in dozens of states,” they write. “However, it is offensive when a fellow attorney engages in these same smear tactics that impugn the motives and intent of the authors of this important legislation.”

They end the statement by saying Bowers’ opinion is a “political argument.”

“To cloak a political argument on behalf of a paid client in the guise of offering a legal opinion demeans our profession and he should be ashamed,” they write.

Bowers said this morning that he has no time for detractors, saying, “They can say anything they want to. All I can tell you on this: the analysis we did on this is primarily a legal one. And I defy any one of them that wants to take us on to show me how this bill does not discriminate, number one. Number two, how this bill does not create all kinds of opportunities for folks to say, wait a minute, the law doesn’t apply to me, and I’m going to get out of it because of my religious belief. And three that this isn’t going to create absolute chaos.”

Georgia Equality hired Bowers to give his legal opinion of the bills, a move that drew widespread attention thanks to Bowers’ history with the LGBT community. Bowers was at the center of two of the state’s biggest LGBT rights cases, successfully upholding anti-sodomy laws and defending himself against Robin Shahar, whose job offer was rescinded by Bowers after he learned she was a lesbian. Shahar, who is now Mayor Kasim Reed’s LGBT adviser, called Bowers’ public stance against the bills a “courageous act.

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders

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