How to preserve religious freedom across the nation

Attorneys in the Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius case on March 24 began proceedings before the Supreme Court. The Christian-owned private company opposed to abortion is fighting for the right to opt-out of providing abortifacients as part of their health-care plan, basing their case on the First Amendment of the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

State Senators’ McKoon, Shafer, and Ligon this year in Georgia introduced Senate Bill 377, which would have been a statewide mirror of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, bipartisan legislation passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed into law in 1993 by President Clinton. The RFRA protects people from government action being taken against them for exercising their right to not participate in an act that violates their beliefs.

This same state version of the law is providing protection to 31 other states, including Illinois, where it was supported by President Barrack Obama when he served as a State Senator. Unfortunately, for Georgians, this legislation was met with objection by the left and corporate lobbyists from Coke, UPS, Delta, and the Metro Chamber of Commerce. This bill was never allowed a floor vote.

This bill is not discriminatory. There has never been a single case where the outcome calls this truth into question. It is also not a guarantee that a plaintiff will be legally successful. This is not the Arizona bill vetoed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer. State Religious Freedom Restoration Act is already the law in Arizona and has been for years.

This bill is necessary because institutions and some state agencies have shown reckless disregard for federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and a state version would provide an extra layer of protection. One such example occurred in the state of Florida, where a student was asked to write the word “Jesus” on a piece of paper as part of an exercise against symbolism, and then asked to stomp on it. When he refused, he was given a failing grade; but because, there is a statewide Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Florida, he was able to successfully retain counsel and take action against the university, who restored his passing grade.

This bill is about freedom. A rabbi should not be forced to hold gentile services in a synagogue, a Halal butcher should not be forced to serve pork. A Catholic physician should not be forced to provide abortions and a privately owned company like Hobby Lobby should not be forced to violate its beliefs because of a government mandate. Our rights come from God and nature and are further protected by our founding documents. They are inalienable, not occasionally applicable at the discretion of the government.

What we look for in our leaders is integrity, strength and dedication to the principles this nation was founded on. In Georgia, the Republicans hold a supermajority in the state senate and are one vote away from a supermajority in the state house yet, when it came to protecting one of the reasons this nation was formed, they caved to pressure from corporate lobbyists and the radical left and were just too scared to allow a vote of conscience. Understand that every time our officials cower and look the other way for what they deem politically expedient, the left is further validated in its attempt to make people of faith the group it is politically correct to discriminate against. This is simply unacceptable.

As a result, activists and citizens involved in politics for the first time March 19 gathered for a rally at the capitol in support of this legislation. Speakers included Bishop Wellington Boone; Dr. Don Hattaway, president of the Georgia Baptist Convention; Dr. Vanessa Battle; Bishop Garland Hunt; and many others. We have vowed to remain vigilant and the rally was only a launching point for a statewide campaign to educate voters, which will include a statewide bus tour, rallies across Georgia, a summit this summer, a march to the capitol and many other events. Our resolve is set in concrete.

Julianne Thompson is co-founder of the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders and co-chair of Atlanta Tea Party. She also serves as president of the Georgia Republican Assembly.


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