CLICK HERE to read the original article on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
By Aaron Gould Sheinin
A Cobb County lawmaker believes he has a simple solution to the religious liberty debate that has vexed the General Assembly for nearly two years.
Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, introduced House Bill 837 on Tuesday. It says that the federal statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will apply to all of Georgia.
“HB 837 ensures that Georgians have the same level of protection of their religious rights as do citizens of Washington DC, federal military bases, and inmates in our federal and state prisons,” Setzler said.
Congress adopted RFRA in 1993. It says the government must meet a strict test before infringing on an individual’s religious liberties. But the Supreme Court later ruled it could only apply to lawsuits in federal court and did not apply to the states. Dozens of states since have passed their own version of RFRA.
Some conservatives in Georgia have tried for the past several years to do the same, but concerns that the bills would be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians have kept them bottled up. Setzler said his bill is straightforward and unambiguous.
“I see this as different,” he said. “It’s substantive. But it’s a step that should be beyond reproach. You’ve got 23 years of case law around the federal RFRA. It’s stood the test of time.”
Setzler’s is at least the sixth bill dealing with religious liberty now before the General Assembly. Another of the newest is HB 816. It is a bipartisan bill — all the others are sponsored solely by Republicans — and its lead sponsor is Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain. The measure would expand the rights of students to pray in school and at school functions.SHARE THIS STORY