Josh McKoon Defends His Efforts to Pass Religious Liberty and Ethics Legislation

To say that the 2016 legislative session might was a contentious one for Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus might be a bit of an understatement. In early February, Sen. McKoon went to the Senate well for a point of personal privilege to talk about the spat between Rep. Tommy Benton and Sen. Vincent Fort over the latter’s bill to eliminate Confederate holidays, and the need for everyone in the legislature to treat each other with dignity and respect.

The Senator’s passion for enacting a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Georgia came into conflict with the goals of House Speaker David Ralston, who was pushing for a more limited Pastor Protection Act. On the day the House moved to take up the bill, McKoon took to the well to talk about the need for stronger protections for people of faith, and tweeted his opposition to the bill. After it passed the House, the senator got into an argument with Terry Chastain, the Speaker’s attorney, and went to the well the following morning to address the issue yet again. Several days later, Sen. McKoon dropped a Senate Resolution in the hopper proposing a constitutional amendment to term limit the Speaker of the House. This did nothing to improve McKoon’s relationship with the Speaker, and also got pushback from Senate leadership, who had McKoon withdraw the proposed measure.

Of course, such activity does not come without repercussions. According to reports, the senator’s actions cost Columbus State University and the National Infantry Museum some $8 million in funding, removed from the 2017 budget at the last minute.

Are Senator McKoon’s crusades costing him support in the General Assembly and within the Columbus district he represents? On Sunday, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer published an interview with McKoon, balanced with comments from former spokesman for Governor Nathan Deal, Brian Robinson. In the story, which is well worth reading in its entirety, Sen. McKoon said that his three session push for religious liberty legislation was not a political stunt to build a support base of religious conservatives, but instead was a sincere effort that grew out of his conversion from Methodism to Catholicism. Robinson disagreed, pointing out that Sen. McKoon never met with the governor during the 2016 session to promote religious liberty legislation, and that was a sign that the Senator from the 29th wanted an issue rather than a a way to pass the legislation.

If McKoon is looking for a statewide run, Robinson said, he is going to have to appeal to many of the business interests he has alienated with the religious liberties legislation.

“It cost $400,000 a week to run television ads in the Metro Atlanta market, and I am telling you that you’re not going to raise the money you need by going to county party breakfasts on Saturday mornings,” Robinson said. “He got too cute on the last day of session with a bill that would subject Georgia’s biggest employers to class-action lawsuits. Not only will he not get help, he’s a target.”

McKoon disagrees.

“Brian makes an incorrect assumption that my effort to pass religious freedom legislation is some pretext to run for another office,” McKoon said. “I learned from my ethics reform fight that a successful model for getting a bill passed is raising awareness of enough Republicans statewide of an issue. That is exactly what I’ve done on religious freedom.

Senator McKoon continued to insist that he is motivated to pass ethics and religious liberty legislation because he sees such legislation as being important to Georgia. “I think I am doing my job,” he said in the Ledger Enquirer interview. “I’m far more fearful of having to live with myself after compromising my principles than I am of losing an election.”

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LoyaltyIsMyHonor
LoyaltyIsMyHonor

I’ve grown tired of this subject.

Noway2016
Noway2016

But not enough not to ignore it and not comment! LOL!

Jack Fitz
Jack Fitz

I still wanna see a conservative introduce legislation ending the tax-exempt status of religious organizations and/or non-profits. At a minimum, the property tax exemption.

Otherwise, I’d like to see the next Scientology center built in McKoon’s district. Just to stir the pot.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Josh McKoon needs to remember that pesky religious rule “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” (its one of the Big Ten). If it was not about discrimination he would have happily embraced the amendment that Marc Jacobs attached last session that would make it clear you couldnt discriminate…instead he said it ruined the whole point of the bill…ooops…showed your cards last year so instead of worrying about religious liberty…get your own house in order (as we all should without the government picking sides)

Benevolus
Benevolus

Just because you accept a legislative compromise doesn’t mean you have “compromised your principles”. Your principles should be independent of any specific legislation and your principles can remain intact to fight another day even if you don’t get everything you want right now. This making every issue a life or death fight to the finish is crazy. Look where it’s gotten the GOP. Now you’ve got a bunch of people who are really mad because they didn’t get much of what they were told were absolutely essential actions which they were never going to get anyway. Newt Gingrich says “you’re… Read more »

Will Kremer
Will Kremer

Brian is absolutely correct. If Senator McKoon truly desires to see “Religious Liberty” pass the General Assembly, then he’ll allow a nontoxic legislator to introduce the language he wishes to see. He’s hurting the cause by continuing to champion it with his current tactics. Perhaps another senator might have the gravitas to carry the bill.

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

MCKoon refuses to admit his bills always include personal discrimination by any personal definition of religions. He refuses to admit his haters have the freedom to discriminate in Georgia because we do not have comprehensive Civil Rights anti-discrimination definitions protecting his targets. His pretense for these new laws, may satisfy the religious meek, the less faithful, yet merely mask him sneaking in devious discrimination available to all. Then he boldly breaks a commandment constantly lying to literate people who see “discrimination for all” in the very Bill. Stop pandering to this lofty ideal that Religious people need extra protections against… Read more »

The Dixie Cheetomonger
The Dixie Cheetomonger

He used to talk about how bettors didn’t have comprehensive civil rights. He would always day say that lgbt people are not a protected class. I think he may have even said that you could discriminate against divorced people if you wanted.

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Why yes, and left handed people are scorned as simmers 25 times in the Bible. They too shall not be served.

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Simmers, oops sinners obviously.

TheManUndertheBridge
TheManUndertheBridge

Because of RFRA I had to agree with Jay Bookman/AJC today:

http://jaybookman.blog.myajc.com/2016/04/08/the-bigotry-that-dare-not-speak-its-name/

Durn you, GAGOP.

Will Durant
Will Durant

“State Sen. Josh McKoon, the poor man’s Williams Jennings Bryant from Columbus…” Good one Jay, though it is Bryan without the T.

Bart
Bart

Not to be outdone, Mississippi one ups everybody to ensure it remains the most bigoted state in the US – http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/mississippi-senate-passes-sweeping-religious-liberty-bill-n548601 – Come on Josh, be a real bible thumper and put some teeth into your legislation like they did in MS. Be honest with your bigotry and expose the rest in your myopic world by copying the MS law. If you’re going to insist on taking GA backward, let’s go full speed in reverse. Your half-arse attempt while trying to hide the obvious homophobia failed. Now you might as well go all in and just admit you support the… Read more »