Some Georgia Faith Leaders Oppose Religious Freedom Bill
(APN) ATLANTA — On Tuesday, January 13, 2015, several faith leaders held a press conference at the State Capitol to deliver a letter from over sixty faith leaders of diverse traditions, who oppose HB 29, the so-called “Religious Freedom Bill.”
Here is a link to their letter: http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Georgia-Faith-Leaders-Unite-Against-Discrimination.pdf
The speakers were Rev. James Lamkin, Pastor, Northside Drive Baptist Church; Rabbi Peter Berg, Senior Rabbi, The Temple Atlanta; Rev. William Flippin, Jr., Pastor, Emmanuel Lutheran Church; and Rev. David Lewicki, Co-Pastor, North Decatur Presbyterian Church.
HB 29, the Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression Act, was pre-filed by State Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) for the 2015-16 Georgia Legislative Session.
Religious leaders who signed the letter said they all support religious freedom, but that they oppose HB 29 for several reasons.
Some of the reasons cited were: it was unnecessary, unwanted, and not asked for by the faith community because religious freedom is already protected by the Constitution of the U.S. and the Constitution of Georgia.
They all anticipate that HB 29 would have unintended [or perhaps intended] consequences, such as possibly making legal in certain circumstances, discrimination that would otherwise be illegal in Georgia.
“If enacted, we believe this bill would give some the right to harm others, and to do so in the name of religion. It could have a broad range of harmful consequences from discrimination against gays and lesbians, to individuals claiming religious rights to ignore the laws we already have on the books,” Rabbi Berg said at the press conference.
In other states where similar legislation has been proposed, it has led to expensive litigation.
“There is a need to communicate… with all faiths, especially minority faiths in Georgia…before trying to legislate,” Rev. Lamkin said.
“This is an unnecessary, unneeded, and polarizing legislation which does nothing to advance the welfare of Georgians or the economy of our State,” State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) said.
A question was asked about Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran and his recent termination by Mayor Kasim Reed.
Cochran’s supporters believe there is a need to expand religious protection, and they are holding him up as being persecuted for his Christian beliefs.
Chief Cochran wrote a biblical self-help handbook that he passed out to his employees.
One part of Cochran’s book explains what he believes is uncleanness: whatever is opposite of purity, including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbiannism, pederasty, beastiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion.
It was reported the Mayor said he was fired for lack of judgement, including that he failed to get clearance from the Ethics Office prior to publishing his book. That would be an understatement.
“We have seen this over and over again where you create a firestorm in order to push a policy, a lot of mythology is promoted and you create false martyrs,” Sen. Orrock said.
“That is a specific personnel matter and a decision made by the Mayor… A few politicians and a few religious leaders are using this one single personnel matter… [and it] should not be used as an example of why the law in Georgia needs to be changed,” Rabbi Berg answered.