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Employment Discrimination Blog

Friday, February 28, 2014

Georgia Government Considers Preservation of Religious Freedom Act

Georgia House Bill 1023 echoes the sentiments of a bill recently passed by Arizona government that allows businesses, individuals and other entities the right to discriminate against gay people.

The bill essentially gives people and businesses the power to act on their own personal prejudices without incurring any consequences. It exempts them from any government action or legal proceeding that "directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person's exercise of religion."

Due to the broadness of the language therein, the passing of this bill could result in a variety of negative after-effects, as it would permit those who discriminate with a way to escape any legal repercussions for their actions if they can somehow relate the situation to religion.

"The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act," was introduced last week in the Georgia House. Both the house (HB 1023) and Senate version, SB 377, would affirm the “right to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious tenet or belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or a central part or requirement of the person’s religious tenets or beliefs. Where those beliefs conflict with local, state or federal law, the government would have to prove that the law is meant to pursue a “a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Georgia state law doesn't include a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the city of Atlanta does have regulations which would be affected by this bill, as LGBT rights activists fear the proposed bill could essentially overwrite the existing ordinances.

The possible consequences the passing of this bill may inflict on the rights of individuals in Georgia and elsewhere scares associations like The Anti-Defamation League. Among their concerns: "it would allow law enforcement to refuse assignments that they find religiously offensive such as assisting or guarding a religious institution of a different faith, a pharmacy that sells prescription contraception, a liquor store, a butcher shop selling pork or beef,  or a casino"

Another concern: "It would allow public hospital employees including physicians, nurses, or administrators to refuse to assist patients, even on an emergency basis, or process any paper work that they find to be religiously offensive such as in-vitro fertilization, blood transfusions or psychiatric care."

Lastly, "It would allow any public employee adhering to an extremist religion, including Nation of Islam, Christian Identity, or Odinism to refuse providing service to an Asian, White, Black, Jewish or Hispanic person."


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