Anti-gay supporters of "religious freedom" legislation at the Georgia Capitol wanted war. On Thursday, they'll fire the first shots as the latest proposal gets fast-tracked for a hearing in the state Senate.
Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon (photo) introduced Senate Bill 129 – titled the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act – on Tuesday. And soon after, the proposal was scheduled for a Thursday hearing before the Judiciary Committee that McKoon chairs.
The McKoon bill is the brother of H.B. 218, sponsored by state Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta. One apparent difference between the two is that McKoon’s bill would offer land use as an exercise of religion – an attempt to address that case in Kennesaw in which the city council sought to block the establishment of a mosque.
McKoon says his proposal offers "common sense protections."
“I am pleased to introduce SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which will provide vital, common sense protections for Georgians of every faith from intrusive actions by state and local government. It is humbling to have the public endorsement of half of the State Senate on this important bill that defends religious liberty for all.”
Anti-gay backers of the legislation are rallying supporters to pray and pack the hearing.
SB 129, also known as the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, will be heard in the Senate Judicial Committee on Thursday, February 19 at 4 p.m. The hearing will be held in the CLOB Rm 307.
GBC Public Affairs Committee Representative Mike Griffin is encouraging concerned Georgia Baptists to attend the hearing as a show of support for the bill.
Griffin noted that Sen. Josh McKoon, the bill sponsor, is also the chair of the Judiciary Committee and would appreciate citizens attending the hearing.
"If you cannot attend, please be in prayer for the hearing and the vote," Griffin added.
McKoon, along with state Rep. Sam Teasley, introduced similar measures last year. Both failed after generating controversy and a heated legislative hearing. And both men, rallying with anti-gay supporters at the State Capitol last month, pledged to push the measures again during the current legislative session.
During that rally, anti-gay religious figures called on supporters to help them "win this war" over the "religious freedom" bills. LGBT activists and gay-friendly faith leaders have denounced the bills as ways to protect "the right to discriminate" and launched a grassroots campaign – Georgia Unites Against Discrimination – to rally opposition.
The debate over the bills from Teasley and McKoon quickly turned divisive and personal. A campaign from gay-led Better Georgia targeted the two lawmakers in newspaper ads and mobile billboards.