Religious Freedom Act back for another battle

Marty Harbin

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That seems to be the mantra for State Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone.)

Last week, Harbin announced his intentions on Facebook.

“Yesterday, I introduced Senate Bill 221 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This simple legislation would meet the Supreme Court’s 1997 requirement that if a state wants to protect the first amendment right of religious freedom from government incursion it must pass this federal legislation at the state level. So far 31 states have done this, and it is past time for Georgia to do so as well.

This legislation is currently in place in Virginia, the site of one of Amazon’s new headquarters. This legislation would require the government to have a compelling interest before it could interfere with someone’s religious practices. It would also require the government, in cases where interfering was necessary, to do so in the least invasive way possible,” he wrote.

The bill was immediately condemned by voices around the state.

In its policy statements for 2019, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce puts legislators on notice that it will not tolerate legislation that could lead to discrimination.

“The Georgia Chamber of Commerce opposes legislation or policies that support or promote, or appear to support or promote, discriminatory practices. Georgia is home to a diverse business community of large and small companies across various sectors, which employ and serve a multicultural demographic. The preservation, establishment, and practice of discriminatory policies or culture will jeopardize the state’s ability to grow its economy and negatively impact Georgia’s reputation as a leader for global commerce,” the statement reads.

“Here we go again: extremist lawmakers seem prepared to put us in a negative national spotlight yet again, risking Georgia’s economic reputation and putting LGBT people in harm’s way,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality in a press release.

“The freedom for religion is important to all of us, including LGBT people. The idea that treating people fairly and equally under the law somehow erodes religious freedom is, frankly, false. This legislation would send our state in the wrong direction and will spark a painfully divisive debate just by its introduction. Rather than spend yet another year gridlocking over discriminatory measures that would harm our state, they could finally advance a comprehensive civil rights law that protects Georgians from all walks of life.”

The bill had a committee hearing Monday, but no action was taken.

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