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2021 Georgia Legislative Session set to begin

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It’s that time of the year again for the Georgia General Assembly to convene for the 2021 legislative session.

As all of you know, the last two years (and especially this past year with COVID, riots, and elections) have been some very busy, difficult, and strange times. (For more on that, watch the Intro to the 2020 Legislative Wrap-up.) However, when it comes to legislation, we are set to begin what will be the first of a two-year legislative cycle.

So, starting this month, new legislation will be introduced to the Georgia General Assembly. It is not uncommon that over a two-year period, Georgia Baptists will monitor anywhere from 25 to 30 pieces of legislation, covering approximately 10 or more subject headings.

In preparation for this year's session I want to go over three basic areas that we will be monitoring in 2021. I'm sure that there will probably be other areas as the legislative session begins, but I wanted to at least cover these three.

Religious Liberty

Once again, we need to be reminded that legislation related to First Amendment rights (known as Religious Liberty) are paramount! It is important for us to understand (whether we are religious or not) that the first freedom that we were given is the Freedom of Religion.

The Founding Fathers knew that the government was never to tell us what we can or cannot believe. Furthermore, we cannot be treated as second-class citizens for those beliefs. Nor should we be considered unfit for public service because of those beliefs, the way Chief Kelvin Cochran and Dr. Eric Walsh were.

This is the beauty of the First Amendment. As a citizen, you can worship, who, what, where, and when you want to or you can choose to not worship at all. And this worship has the right to transcend a place of worship into the free exercise of that faith in a citizen’s everyday life. This is our conscientious right as Americans.

During the 2019 session, Senator Marty Harbin introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) again in the Senate. SB 221 was introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Senator Harbin declined testimony until he had more time to explain the legislation. While this legislation was still alive to be moved upon in 2020, it did not get any attention. (Watch the legislative wrap-up video from 2020 on RFRA.)

We have been working hard for six years trying to pass a RFRA in the Georgia General Assembly. We are not intending to give up on this important protection for our citizens. Stay tuned for more information on how we will be working together with other faith groups to make sure Georgians have full religious liberty protection in practicing their faith and doing missions in the state of Georgia. (Click here for more info on RFRA.)

Gambling expansion

This will be more than likely another year of intense effort by the predatory gambling industry to push more gambling. It will be the seventh year in a row. (Watch the gambling wrap-up video.)

As we talk about the expansion of gambling including casinos, pari-mutuel betting on horses, sports betting, and daily fantasy sports it is usually based upon some very basic false assumptions. A lot of this information I am sharing with you came from listening to Les Bernal (national director of Stop Predatory Gambling). He testified in the fall of 2019 in hearings at the state capitol. (Watch his testimony here.)

#1. “Gambling is just like any other business!”

The fact of the matter is that it is not! The difference for example between casinos and pari-mutuel betting, including vices like alcohol and smoking, is that it is a big con game. Citizens are conned into thinking that they can make money, when the truth is that they are just going to get scammed!

#2. “Just let the people vote!”

There is just one major problem with this: It won’t be a fair fight. When you hear legislators say they won’t be the ones legalizing any more gambling in Georgia, don’t believe it. Because they are the ones who will OK the process for the gambling industry to hijack the ballot process by outspending the anti-predatory opponents by a 250 to 1 margin! Consider how many sitting officials would be reelected if they were out spent 250 to 1…

In 2019 Senator Brandon Beech pushed very hard to try to get the Senate to take up legislation (SB 45 and SR 84) that would have made pari-mutuel betting on horse racing legal in our state. Also that same year, Representative Ron Stephens once again introduced legislation (HR 327) to promote casino gaming facilities known as “destination resorts.” And then, in 2020 we had legislation regarding the legalization of sports betting (SB 403) introduced by Senator Bert Jones. (Watch my testimony against it here.)

Last year on the day before the 28th day (Crossover), the House Regulated Industries Committee met and voted out House Resolution 378 with pari-mutuel betting, casino gambling, and sports betting added to it. The bill was never brought up for a consideration in the House for a vote because there were not enough votes between Republicans and Democrats to pass it.

Another attempt was made to pass a constitutional amendment with all three forms of gambling in it during the last 11 days of the session in June. Thankfully, because of contacts from constituents, this legislation and no other gambling legislation was considered.

This makes six years that gambling expansion has been stopped in Georgia. See the Facebook video announcing the legislative victory. It will take your faithful efforts in contacting your state legislators to stop it a seventh time!

Child protection

It is expected that Representative Ginny Ehrhart will reintroduce “The Vulnerable Child Protection Act.” (Watch last year’s wrap-up on the bill.) This legislation would prohibit the trans industry from preying on gender-dysphoric minors by inflicting radical, experimental, chemical, and surgical interventions that will cause irreversible harm to these vulnerable children and their families. (See the Georgia Baptist Resolution on this issue.)

This legislation would also make it a felony to perform radical surgery on or administer drugs or cross-sex hormones to a minor child for the purpose of attempting to help him or her imitate the opposite sex.

One of the greatest dangers in most of these interventions is that they are irreversible; another is that their long-term effects have not been studied and are not fully known. Some of the known harms, though, include lifetime sterility; increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer; diminished brain development; severe psychological distress; and many others.

Studies have shown that children who are protected from procedures like those banned in this bill, and are supported through their bodies’ natural puberty, are 80 to 95 percent likely to embrace their natural biological sex by adulthood. And the propaganda from the trans industry that these confused children need to be experimented on for their own good has been roundly debunked.

When considering the danger of this kind of medical intervention with children, three issues immediately come to mind:

  • The legal issue: This has to do with the legal age of consent. This type of radical medical treatment to a person’s body should not be allowed until at least 18 years of age (at the earliest). Already there are laws regarding when a person can drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and get a tattoo.
  • The science issue: The fact of the matter is that no one is born transgender. According to the Book of Genesis, God created humans male and female. No matter what the chemical interventions or surgical procedures done to the human body, if that body is dug up in an archaeological find 400 years from now, that individual will still have the same DNA they were born with.
  • The moral issue: When the irreversible long-term effects on children who are pushed toward these changes are understood, this can only be described as child abuse. When children’s bodies are castrated or otherwise mutilated, we have to understand that it is for life.

I encourage all Georgians to stand with Rep. Ehrhart and to reject the child abuse these interventions will cause among those persons who are the most vulnerable in our state. Please contact your Georgia House Representative and ask them to support this badly needed legislation!

Pastor’s Day at the Capitol

This year we will be honored to have Governor Mike Huckabee as our special guest speaker at the annual Pastors Day at the Georgia State Capitol. This year's event will take place on Feb. 18 in the Floyd room of the Sloppy Floyd building across from the Georgia State Capitol.

The event will start at 10:00 AM with a citizen lobbyist training. There will also be legislators and activists that will be giving us reports on legislation. Also, there will be the annual legislator of the year awards given to Senator Bill Heath and Representative Sherry Gilligan. We are looking forward to honoring these legislators.

At 12:00 PM during the lunch, Governor Mike Huckabee will be speaking. Please be sure to get registered as soon as you can and make plans to be at this special event. Registration will be limited to first 180 participants. There will also be a $10 registration for the event.

Following the luncheon at 1:30 PM there will be a prayer tour of the Georgia State Capitol and instructions on how to contact your legislator during the 2021 session.

Once again, I want to thank you in advance for your prayers and support. As usual these are some very challenging times as we seek to stand for biblical values. Please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with what is going on day-to-day today.


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