Georgia Considering Religious Freedom Bill That Would Legalize Discrimination

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

When Georgia attempted to pass a similar bill in 2016, companies including Apple and Time Warner threatened boycotts.

Georgia state senators are supporting pushes to give religious Georgians stronger legal protections in a new "religious liberty" bill.

Senate Bill 221 would limit the ability for the government to pass laws that are deemed as infringing upon religious beliefs. Critics, including LGBT activism groups and large businesses, immediately denounced the piece of legislation because it could be used to discriminate.

“This is not about discrimination against anybody. It’s a protection,” lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention Mike Griffin said. “There are situations where we believe Christians are being targeted in some way. And it’s not just about Christians. It’s about all people of faith.”

The renewed effort to pass a religious liberty bill follows the recent inauguration of Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Former governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar religious liberty bill in 2016 after companies including Apple, Time Warner, and Walt Disney Co. threatened boycotts.

During his campaign last year, Kemp said he would only sign a religious rights bill if it was a "mirror image" of a 1993 federal religious freedom law. The latest bill uses the same language as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration act, but it also includes several modifications. One provision gives judges the ability to order governments to change laws deemed to infringe on religious beliefs.

“Here we go again,” said Jeff Graham of LGBT rights group Georgia Equality. “Extremist lawmakers seem prepared to put us in a negative national spotlight yet again, risking Georgia’s economic reputation and putting LGBT people in harm’s way.”

Kemp declined to comment on the issue after a press conference in Washington, D.C.

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