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By Dave Williams
A Georgia lawmaker from Cobb County introduced a new religious freedom bill Tuesday that would mirror federal legislation on the controversial issue.
Congress adopted a religious freedom law in 1993 aimed at protecting Americans’ religious beliefs from government intrusion.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled several years later that the federal law only applies to the federal government. That prompted states to start looking for ways to incorporate its provisions into state laws.
“House Bill 837 takes a balanced, time-tested approach to protecting the right of religious expression,” said Georgia Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, the bill’s chief sponsor. “By simply referencing federal law, [it] ensures that Georgians have the same level of protection of their religious rights as do citizens of Washington, D.C., federal military bases and inmates in our federal and state prisons.”
The main competition to Setzler’s bill during this year’s General Assembly session likely will be a religious freedom measure introduced in the Senate last year by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus. McKoon’s bill seeks to accomplish the same goal – prohibiting state and local governments from interfering with a person’s right to exercise his or her religious beliefs – but does not contain the specific language of the federal law.
Civil rights advocates and business groups have lined up against religious freedom legislation as a thinly disguised effort to discriminate against gays and lesbians. A coalition of many of Georgia’s most prominent companies – including Delta Air Lines Inc., The Home Depot Inc. and Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. – was formed this month to oppose the bills.
Three Republican legislators are cosponsoring Setzler’s bill, including House Majority Whip Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City.SHARE THIS STORY