Oh, for the love of God and humanity: RFRA is back!
Like a bad penny or a reboot of Night Court, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) came back to the Georgia State Senate last week, reintroduced as SB 180. This is a partisan attempt to revive legislation that would lead to discrimination against religious minorities and LGBTQ people, legislation that has been repeatedly rejected for nearly a decade.
Let’s hope the return of RFRA is not a more ominous sign—like a swarm of locusts devouring crops or a new migration of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus—not a return to a season of suffering for Georgia’s citizens.
I pray the leadership in all branches of our state government will recognize SB 180 as a potential distraction from the real work that must be done to protect all Georgians from harm and to help all Georgians flourish in 2023.
But I know that hope and prayers are not sufficient. Ridding our state of RFRA again will require effort.
In 2015 and 2016, we gathered a large, bipartisan coalition of clergy and people of many faiths; we were joined by business people and college students, community activists and leaders, parents and voters from across Georgia to protest RFRA; we raised our voices, quoted our scripture and teachings from our faith traditions. After a period of discernment, Governor Nathan Deal was persuaded to veto the discriminatory law that had worked its way through the legislature to his desk for signature.
Tomorrow morning, a group of us will reconvene in the Capitol building for a clergy press conference. While I have complete faith in our ability to make our case against hate and discrimination, I’m less certain we’ll be greeted by an executive official willing to listen. Perhaps standing together will buoy our hope and lift our prayers.
When I first heard about RFRA’s reappearance, I sent an impassioned plea to my State Senator urging him to oppose SB 180, which promises to do nothing to advance religious freedom and poses potential harm to our state’s citizens, economy and reputation. His immediate reply of absolute agreement—an amen to my prayer for responsible leadership—and expression of gratitude for my letter strengthen my resolve against this RFRA redux.