From an email from Sen. Jesse Stone (GA-23, representing all or parts of Burke, Columbia, Emanuel Glascock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, McDuffie, Richmond, Screven, and Warren Counties):
“During the 2015 General Assembly session, I was among 27 original sponsors of the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Senate Bill 129 authored by Sen. Josh McKoon. As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, I voted in favor of RFRA in committee and again voted for it on the floor of the Senate. RFRA currently waits for recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee to reach the House floor for a vote. This important bill deserves a floor vote in the House.
SB 129 strengthens protections for the free exercise of religion. It follows closely the federal RFRA which passed Congress almost unanimously in 1993. Congress passed RFRA in response to a Supreme Court decision that lowered protections for religious freedom. However, federal law does not protect persons of faith from actions at the State level – therefore, the need for Georgia to pass a State RFRA. Thirty-one other States have adopted these protections, including four of our neighboring states.
How does RFRA protect religious freedom? It restricts the power of government to interfere with its free exercise. RFRA limits the power to situations involving important governmental interests. If the government objective is important, then the State should adopt the measure which has the least adverse effect on religion. RFRA provides courts with a balancing standard for reviewing the legitimacy of laws passed by the State that affect religious freedom. It is appropriate that courts use a strict standard that favors this fundamental freedom, recognized under the First Amendment as a basic right of all people.”
“RFRA is long overdue in Georgia. Without it, government is more prone to overreach, for example:
1) A public college requiring a religious group to accept non-believers as officers in their organization;
2) A police department firing an employee who publicly espouses a traditional view of marriage;
3) A State threatening the tax exempt status of a religious charity that uses the Scriptures in guiding adoption decisions.
Where RFRA has not been adopted, these protections are being eroded daily.
Liberal special interest groups and big corporate opponents of RFRA are using scare tactics to block it. They claim RFRA will send the wrong message to the business community and that Georgia will be boycotted. This has not been the experience of the thirty-one States that have already adopted RFRA. Regardless, passing RFRA is the right thing to do – it defends a fundamental right of our citizens.
Please urge your members of the Georgia House of Representatives to pass RFRA without amendment and send it to the Governor’s desk for signing.”