Governor Nathan Deal and State School Superintendent Richard Woods were among the speakers at the second annual Legislative Luncheon held on Thursday by the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia. Over 150 people attended the event, held at the Sloppy Floyd Building near the Capitol.
In his keynote speech, Governor Deal described the ability to get and hold a job as the foundation of a stable home, community and state, saying a good job allows an individual to support his or her family and do things for the community, thereby having less of a reason for the government to provide support.
The governor described the success of the criminal justice and prison reform programs he implemented during his first term, including the expanded use of accountability courts for nonviolent offenders, saying, “I think we got it right. We’re seeing lives being saved.” Observing that the job of helping prisoners stabilize their lives involves both the private sector and the faith based community, he told those in attendance to ask themselves what they could do to make reform work.
After talking about the relationship between a good education and the ability to get good job, Deal wrapped up his speech by noting the tendency of people to blame government when bad things, including abuse or even death, happen to children in troubled homes. Acknowledging he might get some flack for his thoughts, he wondered when was the last time the press asked whether the greater family might be responsible for when a child got into trouble, and that he was galled when a grandparent complains about DFACS being called in. He asked rhetorically, why it seemed that the mother of a child is arrested, when the child’s father is never located? Summarizing his frustration, Governor Deal noted that government has become the only answer to problems that historically have been the responsibility of the greater family unit.
Speaking prior to the governor, State School Superintendent Richard Woods talked about the need to give children the best education possible. But he also touched on a concern of many in the audience: the need to make sure traditional values are taught to students. He pointed out that in addition to pledging allegiance to the flag, teachers must explain what the pledge means, and that students students should know the importance of the founding fathers. Pointing to Article 8 of the Georgia Constitution, he emphasized local control, saying he didn’t want to outsource the curriculum for American History to anyone outside the state. That line drew applause from the audience.
Faith and Freedom Coalition Regional Director Virginia Galloway talked about some of the legislation the group was watching this year, including House Bill 1, the medical marijuana bill, which she said the group could not support. The group is also concerned about potential unintended consequences with Senate Bill 8, the safe harbor bill sponsored by Renee Unterman. The group is also watching House Bill 40, which attempts to reduce bullying in public, charter and private schools. Because many private Christian schools teach biblical principles, the group is concerned that some might take an an insistence on biblical teachings as bullying.
However, the bill that appears to be the biggest concern for the group is the Religious Freedom bill filed by Rep. Sam Teasley in the House, and expected to be filed by Sen. Josh McKoon in the Senate. The pair talked about the need for the religious freedom bill, citing cases in Florida and Pennsylvania where RFRAs in those states caused ordinances banning the feeding of homeless people outside to be overturned. Referring to the controversy over concerns the bill would allow someone to claim a religious right to abuse children, Teasley said that the bill was not a get out of jail free card. For his part, Senator McKoon called the Religious Freedom bill “the civil rights battle of our time.”