Republicans in Georgia are about to pass a bill that would allow businesses and individuals to openly discriminate against others and even allow for domestic abuse against wives and children, all in the name of “religious freedom.”
Senate Bill 129, Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is one of many that are being rammed through states across the country by Republicans who are screaming that their religious freedom is in jeopardy; but Georgia’s bill is by far the worst.
The bill states that,”laws neutral toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise,” and the “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” without a “compelling governmental interest” and by the “least restrictive means of achieving that compelling governmental interest.” It also defines religious exercise as a “practice or observance of religion, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.”
That means that if I don’t want to serve a gay person at my restaurant because I believe being gay is an “abomination” then I don’t have to serve them. This isn’t just a possibility, it will happen if this bill makes it into law because the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Josh McKoon, wouldn’t allow any anti-discrimination amendments to be added to the bill.
If that isn’t bad enough, Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told The Daily Beast that conservative district attorneys in two Georgia counties oppose the bill because it would give child abusers and wife beaters a religious defense:
We have found cases where people used their religious views as an excuse to impede an investigation into child-endangerment and child-abuse charges. They were not ultimately successful, but they did slow down the investigations. [Source]
With this bill, that will become more of an issue. Think about it; the law defines religious exercise as anything that is practiced by their religion, so a man can say he abused his wife and children because the Bible says its allowed.
The Bible makes it clear that women are supposed to serve their husbands:
Ephesians 5:22-24: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
He just has to say that he was disciplining his unsubmissive wife. He was practicing his freedom of religion!
What about child abuse? That’s okay too:
Proverbs 23:13-14: Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish him with the rod and save him from death.
Proverbs 13:24: Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
So a child abuser could say that he was merely practicing his religion when he beat his kid and it’s alright because the new law says that the government can’t interfere with his religious practices.
These are the kinds of unintended consequences that result from Republicans trying to protect their right to discriminate. Because let’s be clear, the only reason these “religious freedom” bills are being put forth is because Republicans hate that gay marriage is becoming legal across the country.
This bill has nothing to do with protecting religious freedoms. Every single person in this country has a guaranteed right to religious freedom thanks to the First Amendment and for two hundred plus years that has been enough. Now suddenly, because our country is waking up and realizing that the LGBTQ community deserves equal rights, Republicans are bringing forward asinine, unnecessary bills.
The right-wing hates anyone who is not a rich, white, “Christian” male and every piece of legislation that they bring forward is meant to protect that person. Everyone else is unimportant. They hate women, they hate minorities and they don’t care about children. Everything that they do proves this, and yet people keep voting against their own self-interests and electing them to public office. It is baffling.
Let’s hope the Georgia House has more sense than their Senate, otherwise the entire state is going to be ground zero for hate and that is not something we need more of in the South.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.