Commentary: Preparing for the 2024 Georgia legislative session


The 2024 legislative session has already kicked off in Atlanta. We are beginning the second year of a two-year legislative cycle. This means bills that did not pass last year are still available for consideration this year.

In 2023, the Public Affairs Ministry of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board was monitoring approximately 27 pieces of legislation on a wide range of social and moral issues, such as religious liberty, gambling, child protection, alcohol, pro-life, foster care, and adoption.

This year’s session is part of an election year. Every two years, the Georgia General Assembly is up for reelection in the House and the Senate. Legislators recognize that citizens are likely more attentive when an election is at stake. That typically means lawmakers will lean into some legislation if it helps them or lean away if it could hurt.

So, once again we will be facing a slate of bills that will cover a wide range of subjects. We will be focusing on at least four or more areas.


We are thankful again that we will be facing a legislative session with Roe v. Wade having been overturned by the Supreme Court. In addition, the 2019 Heartbeat Law is now continuing to be in effect even as the Georgia Supreme Court ruled back in October of 2023 and affirmed the constitutionality of the law.

We will still need to continue to work on legislation and regulations that do a better job of protecting all innocent human life. Whether it’s updating the Heartbeat Law, better regulating chemical abortions, or improving maternity care, we must be vigilant in doing all we can to protect the health and safety of all mothers and babies.

While we would all love to see abortion ended in Georgia, we must realize that until that can be accomplished, we have to continue to educate and legislate on this issue. We must make sure we do so with sound reason and prudence, so that we don’t do more damage than good in reaching the ultimate goal.

If we proceed with only the goal of “saving all babies in the womb or none,” we will damage the progress we have made with the Heartbeat Law that has already saved thousands of lives. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, until we can get to the perfect. We must continue to save as many lives as possible, until we can save them all!

Religious Freedom

Protecting and enhancing religious freedom must remain one of our top priorities in the state. It is important for us to understand, whether we are religious or not, that the first freedom that we were given is freedom of religion!

We are thankful that Sen. Ed Setzler, along with more than 20 other senators, introduced SB 180, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), last year. This legislation is very simple – it merely provides that the RFRA protections from federal law will also apply to religious-liberty questions arising under Georgia law.

The enactment of SB 180 will bring Georgia into line with at least 34 other states that have taken action to restore a full level of legal protection for people of faith. This short video explains RFRA.

Under current federal RFRA law, a claim brought under the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment is treated as a full constitutional right which must be analyzed using the “strict scrutiny” legal standard. 

This legal standard simply means that the government may not substantially impact a citizen’s free exercise of their religious faith unless it demonstrates a truly “compelling interest” and that in doing so the government agency uses the “least restrictive means” to achieve its compelling interest.

This legislation was assigned last year to the Senate Judiciary Committee but did not have a hearing. We are hoping and praying that this bill will be moved upon in the Senate as soon as possible so we can get this legislation to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.


It has been amazing at the amount of gambling legislation that has been introduced over the last few years. If you include both the House and Senate chambers, there were at least eight bills introduced last year.

This included legislation on everything from sports betting, horse racing, casinos, and Coin Operated Amusement Machines (COAMs). Thankfully, all three of the gambling bills that made it to the Senate were defeated. (See the legislative wrap-up video for more info: )

I have thought all along that it was a good possibility that sports gambling and other forms of gambling would be brought back up again. On the second day of the legislative session, enabling legislation was brought back up in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee and voted out to go to the floor for a vote. This legislation will require a constitutional amendment and one is expected to be introduced soon.

We are also hearing that there could be two more types of gambling constitutional amendments brought up in the Senate for consideration.

There is no doubt that legislation like sports gambling should be opposed by legislators and citizens because the detriments of sports gambling far exceed the benefits. Sports gambling is one of the most dangerous forms of gambling because of its easy accessibility and its ability to create addiction. American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM 5) classifies gambling as an addictive product likened to heroin, opioids, alcohol, and cocaine.

While I know it is being said that many are already doing this kind of gambling anyway, we must understand that just because somebody is doing something illegal does not mean that it should be made legal. Something as detrimental as sports gambling made legal will be like putting gasoline on a fire. It will make something that is already bad, just worse.

Now is the time for you to reach out to your Senate and House members and ask them to vote NO on ANY gambling expansion in Georgia! See the following handout for more information on this subject (“ABC’s of Gambling” by Professor John Kindt:

Child Protection

This is a priority for Georgia Baptist. You see, children are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our nation. We're living in a day when children are suffering the most from societal ills that are facing our culture. Whether it's abortion, sex abuse, pornography, alcohol, drugs, gambling, drag queen events, misuse of bathrooms, lack of girls’ sports protection or gender dysphoria, children are reaping the greatest consequences of the most grievous social ills of our time.

I have stated on numerous occasions that, “If we (the church) don’t at least care about the impact the culture is having upon our children, then what kind of ‘gospel’ are we preaching?”

The Lord Jesus himself placed one of the highest levels of responsibility on the care and protection of children when he said, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6 NASB).”

Today we need to understand that God calls upon all parents, all adults and yes, all governments to act as shepherds when it comes to caring for the welfare of our children. We should all know that the first responsibility of a shepherd is to protect his sheep.

Protection is more important than feeding and leading sheep. Think of it this way. If sheep are not alive there is no need to feed or to lead them.

So, the first responsibility of a shepherd is to protect their sheep from any harm. They must remain protected if the shepherd is going to lead them to places to feed them.

Therefore, we will be supporting these types of legislation that:

  • Protects minors from sexually explicit performances
  • Provides school privacy protection for boys and girls
  • Removes library exemption for obscene material to minors
  • Protects girls sports from male participation

As always, it is important to closely monitor legislation at the state Capitol. God calls upon us to protect our most vulnerable and valuable asset: our children!


These are just some of the areas of focus at the state Capitol during the 2024 legislative session. Please know how much I need and appreciate your prayers and support! Thank you for the opportunity to represent Georgia Baptists and the Biblical values for which we stand.


Mike Griffin is the Public Affairs Representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.