The Georgia state legislature is debating the passage of a bill which states that the government cannot “substantially burden religious exercise without having a compelling justification.” And the bill is being strongly opposed by a group warning that the bill will have dangerous consequences. The group has run two-page newspaper ads, and has used a mobile billboard around the capitol building to try and get their message across – one of direct opposition to religious freedom in the state of Georgia.
Bryan Long, the executive director of Better Georgia, has stated that “people are starting to understand that [the] bill is a Pandora’s box, [and] even some Republican lawmakers are second guessing it.” The group is using an incident where defendants tried using their religious beliefs as a defense in the use of corporal punishment. That case served as the basis for the mobile billboard, and it is being pointed to as the thing that sparked the whole debate on the legislation.
Religious freedom is fundamental in the United States, and no Government body – from the Federal Government to the local City Council – may infringe upon that right. The Founding Fathers saw fit to place it at the top of the Rights guaranteed by the Government, and so it found its place in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That Right has defined what America is, not only internally as a nation, but also as a demonstration of what Freedom is to the rest of the world.
But recently, groups across the country have repeatedly attacked that fundamental Freedom as they seek to remove religion completely from American life. The case in Georgia is an extreme example of the ends people will go to in their fight against religion in the U.S. This is not a fight against Freedom of Religion, but yet another attempt to make America free from religion. The use of the case involving corporal punishment is grasping at straws. No law in the United States will allow for the basic human rights of citizens to be infringed upon because of Religious Freedom.
The Right to Religious Freedom ends at the fundamental human rights of another person, and the legislation in Georgia will respect that distinction. When a Government body passes a law in favor of Religious Freedom, they still have a responsibility to preserve those other rights of the people that elected that body.