Contact: Mike Griffin, Georgia Right to Life, 770-339-6880
NORCROSS, Ga., April 7, 2015 — Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) Co-Executive Director Genevieve Wilson today expressed disappointment in the failure of the Georgia General Assembly to pass SB129, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill designed to prevent state and local laws from infringing on the exercise of religion in Georgia. The bill passed the Georgia Senate and was tabled in committee in the Georgia House.
“It is quite troubling that Georgia’s elected officials did not consider this bill worthy of their support,” Wilson said, “Freedom to express Christian beliefs is the foundation of GRTL’s mission and is critical to the future of Georgia and this nation.”
SB129, originally introduced in the Senate by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus) and others, aimed to protect religious expression from substantial “burden” by state and local government action, except when in conflict with a “compelling governmental interest” and only when that action is the least restrictive way to achieve the interest.
This bill closely paralleled laws enacted by 21 other states applying the “compelling interest” standard to religious freedom, providing a legal leg to stand on for those who claim a law or statute has burdened the exercise of their sincerely-held religious beliefs.
These other states’ religious freedom restoration acts, along with Georgia’s proposed act, came into being to protect religious liberty at the state level after the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 the national RFRA (signed into law by President Clinton in 1993) cannot be applied to the actions of state governments.
Protection of religious exercise has come to the forefront of public consciousness since arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby sued the federal government in 2013, claiming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) violated the business owners’ religious exercise by forcing them to provide employee insurance that included coverage for emergency contraceptives which cause an abortion.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that the national RFRA prevents federal government action such as the ACA from burdening the religious exercise of Hobby Lobby’s owners (and others) in this way; SB 129 would have added this sort of religious liberty protection to state law.
“While disappointed in this bill’s failure to pass, GRTL will continue to work hard to see good legislation such as this enacted to protect our citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights, foremost of which is the paramount right to life,” Wilson said.
Georgia Right to Life promotes respect and effective legal protection for all innocent human life from earliest biological beginning through natural death. GRTL is one of a number of organizations that have adopted Personhood as the most effective strategy for securing this protection in the 21st century.