The Apostle Paul told the Philippians that they should always let their requests be made known to God with thanksgiving. I trust that you have been praying for our governmental leaders that they might lead our state in what is right. I trust that you are thankful for what our leaders were able to accomplish that was to our benefit. But, the work is far from over on several fronts.
As Georgia Baptists, we need to have a sense of urgency in this matter of passing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in our state. The Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, sponsored by State Senator Josh McKoon, ran into a buzz saw again this year and stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.
Once again the LGBT activists were able to capitalize on the media’s willingness to demagogue and fearmong the religious freedom bill. As a result, leadership in the Georgia House (even after the Senate approved the measure) was unwilling to take a chance on moving a bill that was perceived as a law justifying discrimination against homosexuals.
Never mind the fact that since 1993 (22 years) more than 30 states have enacted some form of the RFRA. Not one single lawsuit has ever proven that RFRA allows discrimination. In fact, what RFRA does is restore the strict scrutiny standard to religious liberty cases and forces the government (not the citizen) to prove a compelling interest when government action infringes upon a person’s deeply held religious practice.
This standard was lost in a 1990 Supreme Court case and restored in 1993 through the federal RFRA, which passed almost unanimously in Congress. But in 1997, another Supreme Court case held that the federal RFRA protections could not be applied with regard to state government actions that adversely affected religious liberty and that each state would need to pass its own RFRA.
Never mind the fact that since 1993 (22 years) more than 30 states have enacted some form of the RFRA. Not one single lawsuit has ever proven that RFRA allows discrimination.
Georgia has been trying to pass a state RFRA for two years. The LGBT activists have taken this legislation hostage, not only in Georgia but around the country trying to convince the nation that those who identify themselves as homosexuals should be a protected civil rights class and that homosexuality should be a fundamental right that trumps even the First Amendment liberty of our God-given freedom to serve God according to the dictates of our conscience.
It is a fight that we, as the Body of Christ, cannot afford to ignore. The outcome of this debate will not only determine if religious liberty will be protected according to the First Amendment standard, but will determine the direction of society, including if children in public schools will be taught to affirm same-sex “marriage.”
Already Christian businesses are being targeted for not participating in same-sex weddings. They are being boycotted and threatened with physical harm and hate. Christians have never been known for denying services to the LGBT community, but they have been known for being unwilling to participate in practices, such as homosexual weddings, that violate their consciences.
Take note that state and local public accommodation laws are being passed to further an agenda that is aimed at forcing businesses (and eventually churches) to comply with standards that violate their Christian beliefs. For example, last year in Texas, the mayor of Houston subpoenaed sermons of pastors who had led a recall referendum against an ordinance requiring public bathrooms for transgendered people. These are just a few of the examples why Georgia needs a RFRA.
Take note that state and local public accommodation laws are being passed to further an agenda that is aimed at forcing businesses (and eventually churches) to comply with standards that violate their Christian beliefs.
There is, however, much cause for thanksgiving. On other legislative measures Georgia Baptists had positive results. We were able to keep pari-mutuel betting on horseracing from passing the Senate. We saw “Rachel’s Law and the Safe Harbor Act” passed to create tougher laws against sex trafficking along with a potential fund being created for victims. “The Hidden Predator Act” passed to primarily extend the statute of limitations on civil suits for children who were victims of sexual abuse, but do not file charges until they are adults. We helped defeat a bill that would have allowed Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 10:30 a.m.
Monitoring approximately 30 pieces of legislation made for a very busy year, but we hope always to be vigilant on behalf of Georgia Baptists. Next year will see a renewed fight for RFRA and against pari-mutuel betting and casinos.
Please visit www.gabaptist.org/publicaffairs for the latest on what is happening in our state on ethics and legislation. If you would like for me to come and speak to your congregation or association to do a public policy briefing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.