The Effort to Include Non-Discrimination Language in the Religious Liberty Bill Takes Shape

We told you last week about the likelihood of dueling religious liberty resolutions that are expected to be proposed at the Georgia GOP convention that begins on Friday. One resolution, mimicking those offered at the GOP District conventions in April, is expected to call for passage of Senator Josh McKoon’s Senate Bill 129 without any amendments such as the one offered by Rep. Mike Jacobs last session that would effectively limit the ability of someone to use Georgia’s Religious Freedom Restoration act as a reason to refuse service to people protected by a federal, state, or local non discrimination law. Among those who would likely be protected are gay or lesbian couples planning to marry, and wanting products or services for their ceremonies.

Another group calling itself Georgia Republicans for the Future is mounting a push to include non-discrimination language in any bill passed by the General Assembly. And they plan to be vocal this weekend, with a full page ad in the Athens Banner Herald that includes this language:

The recent debate surrounding the religious liberty legislation has highlighted the diversity of opinion on both the national level and within our own party here in Georgia. It points the way for a common sense approach, one that is consistent with our values as conservatives while at the same time reaffirming our mission to treat others as we would want to be treated.

We strongly support nondiscrimination language in any religious liberty bill. The two objectives are not mutually exclusive. Both are true to our founding principles, and allow us to broaden the tent of our party.

In addition to the ad, the group has created a Facebook page and website. They will also have a booth at the convention promoting their cause.


  1. Enjoy the Silence says:

    When will we acknowledge these laws are bigger than discrimination alone? They will allow any person to claim their religious beliefs trump any law….and sure the state or local government will still win most of those cases….but at what taxpayer cost?

  2. Josh McKoon says:

    Enjoy the Silence — No. RFRA does not “allow any person to claim their religious beliefs trump any law” It does allow a person to object to the application of a law that substantially burdens their religious belief. But the objection is only sustained if the government is unable to show that a) there is a compelling government interest and b) the law at issue is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest.

    As for the newspaper ad, website and FB page it is classic “astroturf” — where are all of these “Republicans for the Future”? Not a single delegate to the state convention (of which I believe there are about 2,000) signed this advertisement.

    Do we know who paid for the ad? Has a PAC been registered? Do we know anyone at all associated with this group? It is Competitive Georgia and Georgia United Against Discrimination all over again. Anonymously funded groups whose sole mission is to get the Republican Party to turn its back on people of faith.

    We did learn recently who was behind some of the funding for these other efforts:

    HRC [Human Rights Campaign] officials announced at the dinner that the organization spent $70,000 to team with Georgia Equality and create Georgia Unites Against Discrimination in January.

    Don’t be fooled by last minute slick public relations. Protecting individual religious liberties of all Georgians is consistent with the long held principles of the Republican Party. Senate Bill 129 will extend the same protection Georgians currently enjoy from federal government intrusion into their free exercise to state and local government action — that is it.

    • xdog says:

      “whose sole mission is to get the Republican Party to turn its back on people of faith.”

      Please. Their ‘mission’ is to avoid a future Georgia where legally supported religious authority impedes commerce and civil society. Many people of faith treasure their freedom to worship without believing the rights and freedoms of others should be constrained as a result.

    • BikeSmith says:

      How many Georgians are suffering from state and local government intrusion into their free exercise (of religion)? What percentage of the population is legitimately affected by this phenomenon? What are the most common intrusions? Which agencies are most responsible for said intrusions? I have followed this debate for some time and have never heard a legitimate answer to any of these questions.

      This bill DOES allow people to use religion to trump MANY laws.

      The whole thing is a joke and an unnecessary piece of legislation.

    • Enjoy the Silence says:

      “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the
      burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of
      this Code section.
      (b) Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is:
      (1) In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
      (2) The least restrictive means of achieving that compelling governmental interest.”

      So yeah, any person can claim that their religious beliefs trumps any law and the only way the state or local governments can win is by spending taxpayer money on litigation.

      Oooooooh I get it. It’s a jobs bill!

    • Will Durant says:

      Sen. McKoon,

      Several times in this forum and elsewhere you have made the claim that the intent of your bill is not to allow discrimination, yet you continue to disallow the inclusion of a discrimination clause. Which is it? 3rd time I’ve asked this in this forum with no response.

      Does a group need to register as a PAC to run a newspaper ad? What is Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition but an anonymously funded group whose sole mission is to get the Republican Party to turn its back on people of who are NOT of faith (read evangelical Christian)?

  3. eehrhart says:

    Lets posit a test of those who claim they are for NON discrimination ?

    Classic language in the Affirmative Action and Quota debate tested in many courts on the public side of the equation.

    Since we are talking about private as well; lets see if those who are ostensibly anti-discrimination really are?

    I propose this amendment:

    “Neither the State of Georgia, its agents, nor any of its political subdivisions shall use race, color, creed, gender or national origin as a criterion for either discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group.”
    “No private enterprise doing business in the state of Georgia may discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group based on race, color ,gender or national origin.”

    Can you just hear the Diversity Grievance Industry come crashing down if this passes ? I can already hear the BUT we want to discriminate for certain reasons from the victim industry!

    You absolutely have to argue FOR discrimination to argue against the above language. If you do, expect the Hypocrisy meter to begin its siren if you claim to be non-discriminatory except for those YOU want to discriminate against.

    Before you jump: Yes I did leave out religion in the Private language as there has been common law religious exemption for 200 years on that subject. You cannot force a Synagogue to hire a Priest for example.

    I also confined my language to the current legally protected class’s only.

    • Enjoy the Silence says:

      Or you think you did.

      You forgot disability and age are both protected classes as well, but don’t let facts get in your way.

  4. objective says:

    putting in non-discrimination language will be official notice to anyone seeking to misuse the law to not waste any taxpayer dollars misusing it. but, without the language, anti-discrimination laws would still win. no religious belief would provide legal justification to trump anti-discrimination laws. but in the meantime, lots of people could get hurt, and taxpayers will waste a lot of money in courts. in the anti-discrimination language, you would also have to include protected classes under local law, for the same reasons to prevent waste and abuse, and to uphold principles of home rule.

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    Eight plus years of hit or miss on highway funding, and it may not be over yet.

    Glad the GaGOP has its priorities straight.

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