© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Georgia Republicans step up to preserve religious liberty despite fury of LGBT activists and other radicals
Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Georgia Republicans step up to preserve religious liberty despite fury of LGBT activists and other radicals

Republicans in the Georgia Senate stand a good chance of passing legislation aimed at shielding Americans from government efforts to trample their religious liberty.

Although the proposed legislation largely mirrors the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, LGBT activist groups and other radical outfits openly hostile to orthodox religious beliefs — particularly those concerning marriage and sexual morality — have raised the alarm, claiming that Senate Bill 180 is a "license to discriminate."

The bill

Republican state Sen. Ed Setzler's SB 180, titled the "Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act," is a legislative effort to ensure that the First Amendment right of free exercise is on the same level as the freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press.

"In 2017 the Georgia Attorney General confirmed that without a state religious freedom law, Georgia did not have full religious protections, allowing the state and local governments to infringe on people's basic right to practice their faith, for any rational basis," Setzler told the Georgia Recorder.

To rectify the imbalance, SB 180 would have Georgia adopt the compelling interest test provided for in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a "manner that applies it to the actions of state and local governments in Georgia."

Accordingly, state law would be amended to preclude the government — defined as "any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, and official or other person acting under color of law of this state" — from substantially burdening "a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability."

The government could substantially burden a person's religious exercise only if it can demonstrate that such a burden is in "furtherance of a compelling governmental interest" and the "least restrictive means of furthering such compelling governmental interest."

The bill also allows for a person whose religious rights have been burdened without such a demonstration of exception to take legal action and obtain relief against the government.

SB 180 successfully passed the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee in a 6-3 vote along party lines.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicated that supporters are hopeful that SB 180 will pas and ultimately be ratified because it does not veer from federal religious liberty law. This, after all, is apparently a sticking point for Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who vowed when running for governor in 2018 that he would only accept a "mirror image" of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which became law in 1993.

National context and backlash

Setzler suggested that extra to the federal government, 34 other states have such laws on the books, including Montana and South Dakota, which joined the protection party in 2021.

In recent weeks, Republicans in other states have taken steps to strengthen their religous liberty protections.

The Iowa Senate, for instance, passed Senate File 2095 last week, which includes much of the same language found in Georgia's SB 180. Kentucky Republicans are likely to pass House Bill 47, which would reinforce the state's existing religious liberty law and ensure that Kentuckians get a "fair day in court" in the event that their religious freedoms are infringed by governmental actions or forces.

Just as with the restorative efforts in Kentucky and Iowa, SB 180 has been met with leftist outrage and condemnation in Georgia.

The ACLU of Georgia claims that SB 180 is "not about protecting religious freedom, it's about creating a license to discriminate against LGBTQ communities."

"I prefer that the government indeed has a compelling interest in protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people who could otherwise be discriminated against under the guise of religious freedom," said Sarah Hunt-Blackwell of the ACLU of Georgia.

The Georgia Recorder highlighted Hunt-Blackwell's criticism that the bill is not a perfect mirror of federal law, omitting a clause prohibiting the government from establishing a religion.

"The Establishment clause is not optional," said Hunt-Blackwell. "It is quite literally written into the fabric of our country's Constitution. The text verbatim says that the government quote shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Georgia Equality, an LGBT activist group, has parroted the ACLU of Georgia's talking point, alleging, "SB 180 would create a broad license to discriminate on the basis of faith with no necessary protections against discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, etc."

Oliver Clyde Allen III, the leftist bishop who oversees the Vision Cathedral of Atlanta, and Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, a pronoun-providing gay activist, penned an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution Sunday, painting those behind SB 180 as "extremists" engaging in a "chauvinist agenda masquerading as religious values."

The leftist faith leaders claimed both that religious liberty "is not under threat" and that "your free expression stops at the infringement upon our dignity."

When SB 180 was first introduced last year, there was a similar rash of leftist apoplexy. Democratic state Sen. Nan Ornock, for instance, complained that the bill might enable religious health care professionals to refuse to fill prescriptions or provide medical services if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

Setzler underscored that there is "a lot of histrionics and claims about what this bill does, but in fact, RFRA has a 30-plus year history of applying legitimate interests on both sides of the question and applying them in a fair and balanced way."

"Governmental interests can be accomplished, but they're done in ways that the right of the individual can be accommodated in every way possible," added Setzler.

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?
Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News. He lives in a small town with his wife and son, moonlighting as an author of science fiction.
@HeadlinesInGIFs →