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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

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October 7-9, 2016

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

Georgia legislators filed three bills this month designed to privilege the state's Christian majority at the expense of the rest of its citizens.

HB 837 is the scariest bill, one of the misnamed "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts." It is meant to exempt religious citizens from generally applicable laws and effectively legalizes discrimination in the name of god. This bill would extend the Supreme Court's infamous Hobby Lobby decision.

HB 816 will require schools to have students broadcast messages before every school event: football games, assemblies, graduations, etc. The goal is to have those students pray and impose religion on every other student.

HB 757 tackles two nonexistent problems: (1) it says the state can't force clergy to perform weddings, and (2) it says the state can't force businesses to open on Saturday or Sunday. The goals are to discourage equal marriage and encourage church attendance. But most concerning, the bill would allow religious organizations to refuse to rent property to gay families, religious minorities, or anyone else of whom the religious organization disapproves.

For a fuller explanation of these bills, please click here It is imperative that you contact members of the House Judiciary Committee, who should be encouraged to let these bills die.

CONTACT

Contact members of the House Judiciary Committee or your representative today to voice your strong opposition to each of these "religious freedom" bills. Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.

I am writing as your constituent and a Georgia taxpayer. I oppose the many bills purporting to protect "religious freedom" currently before the House Judiciary Committee. All of these bills are designed to advance the religious interests of the majority over those who practice a minority religion or no religion at all.

HB 837 is a repackaged version of SB 129 from 2015. Both are so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" that apply a blanket exemption to all laws, rather than requiring the legislature to deliberate over the merits of a specific religious exemption. This bill would create a legal loophole for any person or corporation who wishes to discriminate in the name of religion. The Constitution already protects the free exercise of religion. The federal RFRA, which HB 837 applies to Georgia, has already damaged the rights of women to obtain contraceptive coverage. I would hate to see Georgia businesses use this law to discriminate against gay people, atheists and religious minorities, or any other minority group.

HB 816, the "Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act of 2016," fosters religious privilege by forcing public schools to allow students to promote their personal religious beliefs at school-sponsored events. The intent of the bill is to create forums where students in the religious majority can promote Christianity at athletic events, graduations, and during morning announcements.

HB 757 would allow religious organizations to refuse to rent property to gay families, religious minorities, or anyone else of whom the religious organization disapproves. This type of discrimination should not be legalized. The bill would also grant special status to those who worship on Saturdays and Sundays because they are traditionally "rest days" in the Jewish and Christian religions. This is a clear example of legislating Judeo-Christian privilege. To single out certain days for special status is discriminatory. Friday is the day of rest for many Muslims and for those of the Bahá'í Faith, while other minority religions observe rest days based on lunar cycles (Buddhists, Cherokees) or seasonal changes (Wiccans).

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