Rally for Kelvin Cochran boosts Georgia’s religious-liberty bill

An overflow crowd fills the Capitol Rotunda as fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran addresses supporters Tuesday. AJC Photo / Ben Gray

An overflow crowd fills the Capitol Rotunda as fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran addresses supporters Tuesday. AJC Photo / Ben Gray

An overflow crowd fills the Capitol Rotunda as fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran addresses supporters Tuesday. AJC Photo / Ben Gray

The rally for fired Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, which drew hundreds to the state Capitol Tuesday, was and wasn’t about Georgia’s proposed religious-liberty bill.

It wasn’t, because any legal action Cochran might pursue probably wouldn’t hinge on the kind of law that would be covered by the bill.

It was, because members of the racially and politically diverse crowd sense Cochran’s firing is but one more piece of evidence religious liberty is fraying at the edges.

“If they can stop us from talking about the Bible,” pastor Paul Morton said at Tuesday’s rally, “then the next step is they’ll take our Bible. And if they take our Bible, and hear you still talking about the Bible then they’ll try to penalize us. But I’m here to tell you, oh no, we’re not going out this way.”

Cochran’s firing has been likened to threats against the film “The Interview” and terrorists’ massacre of journalists at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. But Morton also made a more relevant comparison:

“People say we’re standing with Michael Brown, we’re standing with Eric Garner,” he said. “I think it’s time to stand for God.”

An analogy to those black men killed last year by police officers — and to the protest movements that grew out of grand jury decisions not to indict the officers — could, if it sticks, turn up pressure on legislators to act on House Bill 29. The bill would require courts to use the “strict scrutiny” standard for religious objections to generally applicable state and local laws.

Support for Cochran among the Georgia Baptist Convention, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Family Research Council suggests it may stick. Mayor Kasim Reed’s insistence Cochran was fired for his “judgment,” not his views, is no more likely to dampen their enthusiasm than Brown’s supporters were swayed by witnesses who denied there was a “hands up, don’t shoot” moment during the confrontation in Ferguson.

(An important aside: No matter why Cochran was fired, those who viciously attacked Reed by email or phone, especially if they did so in the name of Christ, should be ashamed of themselves.)

Nor are the bill’s supporters likely to be persuaded by its critics. They will not be turned by the claim legalized discrimination looms, when decades of experience with the law’s precepts have wrought no such results.

They will not buy the claim such a bill would be bad for business when the language of HB 29 already applies to governments in 28 states, many of which are thriving, and to the federal government nationwide. No serious person can believe Mercedes-Benz USA would have moved its headquarters to Charlotte, Dallas or Raleigh instead of Atlanta, for example, if their states didn’t have such a law and Georgia did.

They might ask themselves why, if the bill poses such a menace to Georgia, its critics aren’t also lobbying Congress to repeal the federal version of it.

In short, they are likely to see the reasons for supporting the bill have more durability than the reasons for opposing it.

Reader Comments 0

106 comments
Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Basically, the notion of debating and passing legislation for a problem that appears to exist only in a very few people's minds doesn't seem very conservative to me; quite the opposite.

Caius
Caius

Heads up guys, big decision coming from the Supreme Court in probably June.

DeBoer vs Snyder  #14-571 

"Jan 16 2015 Petition GRANTED.  The petitions for writs of certiorari in No. 14-556, No. 14-562, and No. 14-574 are granted. The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? A total of ninety minutes is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. A total of one hour is allotted for oral argument on Question 2. The parties are limited to filing briefs on the merits and presenting oral argument on the questions presented in their respective petitions. The briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, February 27, 2015. The briefs of respondents are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, March 27, 2015. The reply briefs are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, April 17, 2015."




Bernie31
Bernie31

Now... Now Kyle is that any way to treat Your Comrades in Arms?

Salt-n-Light
Salt-n-Light

LGBT bullies are like the Terrorists in France when they are confronted with ideas that don't fit their narrative. Only difference is the Terrorists want to kill you and LGBT bullies want to ruin your life and take away your livelihood. Where's that Tolerance I keep hearing about? LOL

sssinff
sssinff

Poor persecuted Christians.


They really can't catch a break in this country.

MarkVV
MarkVV

The proposed law is unnecessary, no compelling reasons being shown, and the only conceivable consequences are discriminatory and damaging to the business in the state. What else do the legislators need to decide?

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@MarkVV  Who is buying lunch and supper for them....is their major decisions....

Starik
Starik

@Jefferson1776 @MarkVV The General Assembly begins the day with a speech from a different preacher every day and we need more religion?

JamVet
JamVet

Fascist Christ, come to the rescue...

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

The GOP are some yard birds, much to do about nothing.

coj
coj

Exactly what religious "liberties" are being attacked that need defending? The right to discriminate due to your religious beliefs? The only religion clamoring for religious liberty is the dominant religion of the state of Georgia.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@coj Not long ago, a student at Sutton Middle School repeatedly sought permission to start a religious club at their school. Despite the fact that the school had multiple other student clubs operating on campus, the Principal at first denied the request. After the student’s parent noted that was not appropriate, the Principal allowed the club if the club paid rent and did not advertise on campus. This was a blatant denial of equal treatment granted to other clubs. As the club slowly grew despite the illegal restrictions, the Principal went so far as to dictate that if the student even mentioned the club to other students he would be punished. It was only after being served a lawsuit did the school end its blatant disregard for the student’s fundamental right to religious freedom.


http://www.peachpundit.com/2014/12/18/will-protecting-religious-freedom-damage-georgias-reputation-two-opposing-views/

Starik
Starik

@IReportYouWhine @coj So, the kids got their religious club. Should we pass laws to fix what isn't broken?  What unintended consequences might we encounter?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@IReportYouWhine @coj

I think a more objective account of this case than the one offered by representative Sam Teasley might be worth citing.

Unfortunately, I can't find any record of this case at all from news.google.com, and I have to wonder if there's more than a little exaggeration involved, if not a whole-cloth invention.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@IReportYouWhine @Visual_Cortex @coj

Few specifics offered here--it really sounds like some constituent(s) emailed the legislator about it, and I wouldn't be real surprised if he never bothered to get the school's side of the story.

and maybe if you're going to offer another example, you could have a cite for that? where was this HS football game? What kind of prayer? etc.

PudHead
PudHead

Why do people feel like they need to protest for anything? Better yet does the mayor owe any of us an explanation for how he does his job? If you don't like him vote him out next round. Where do all these protesters work, how do they get the time off? Hey boss some guy got fired so I am going to protest, so I am taking the day off, yeah right….

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Excellent argument, Kyle. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

The least the authors and supporters of the bill should do is to show the compelling need to pass such a bill.

Don't Tread
Don't Tread

@MarkVV  How about the Constitution - that same one the government ignores whenever it sees fit?  Does that count as "compelling need"?

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

From Jay's blog: " former president of the Southern Baptist Convention raised the issue of gay marriage in his sermon, warning legislators that they were going to have to choose between religious liberty and what he called “erotic liberty” and urging them to take the side of religious liberty."


At least to the people of Georgia, "religious liberty" means anti-gay. 


No matter what the supporters now say, it is perceived (by both sides) as a way to suppress gay advances.   The bill is vague enough to be interpreted this way.  


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude "The bill is vague enough to be interpreted this way. "

Except that it really isn't. There's nothing in the bill that leaves any room for legally sanctioned discrimination to take place.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude And as I have pointed out repeatedly, precedent shows that such an action would not hold up in court.

This "so-and-so can claim such-and-such" construction ignores two big realities. First: So-and-so can claim such-and-such without RFRA or any other law. Second: The kinds of such-and-such y'all keep bringing up have always been shot down by courts.

TGT88
TGT88

What is most sad is that such legislation is even necessary. If not for the ridiculous (and perverse) legal conclusion that people have the "right" to "marry" someone of the same-sex, this legislation, most likely, would not be necessary.


In other words, if SCOTUS rules that definition of marriage is a matter left to the states, this legislation will not be necessary--at least in GA. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TGT88 "In other words, if SCOTUS rules that definition of marriage is a matter left to the states, this legislation will not be necessary--at least in GA."

Actually, this bill has nothing to do with gay marriage.

TGT88
TGT88

@Kyle_Wingfield @TGT88 So, if s.s. "marriage" is forced on GA by the courts, this bill does nothing to protect the baker, florist, photographer, etc. who wish not to be forced to participate in something they deem sinful?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TGT88 Nope. The photographer in that famous case out in New Mexico (Elane Photography) tried to claim New Mexico's RFRA justified denying service to a same-sex couple. It went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and no court agreed.

Don't Tread
Don't Tread

@TGT88 @Kyle_Wingfield It should give such protection.  No one should be forced to do anything they don't want to do.  If you're gay and a particular photographer doesn't want to photograph your wedding, find another photographer who will.

Starik
Starik

I'm opposed. I remember compulsory school prayer in the public schools. This bill encourages the people who believe their religion is the only true religion and everybody should be made to join. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Starik "I remember compulsory school prayer in the public schools."

You clearly haven't read the bill if you think the two issues are related.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Kyle: " It won't be for lack of time that anything passes or fails."


Every year, there are a bunch of bills edited/updated at the last moment that do not get a chance to pass. 

See last year's debate on medical marijuana that got left in the bin because of last minute changes.  The Governor at least got some items moving on this in the past couple of months. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude "Every year, there are a bunch of bills edited/updated at the last moment that do not get a chance to pass."


That's a completely different matter. If legislators wait until the last minute on the last day to negotiate something, and then can't agree on a solution on time, that has nothing to do with whether they dealt with something else two weeks earlier.

More often than not, issues are left until the end to deal with because of the added pressure a deadline creates, not because they couldn't get to the issue before then.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Hey we moved up to 48th in unemployment


Lets get right on the Religious Liberty thing shall we. Folks in georgia just aren't able to worship freely currently


Something must be done !!!! What a joke



Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The Mississippi legislature has passed legislation that would allow people to use their religion to justify discrimination.


Mississippi does not currently have any state or local nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community, but a business could use this legislation to justify discrimination against anybody not protected by federal law.


http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/04/02/3421938/mississippi-religious-discrimination/


Indiana, Mississippi, and on and on.


Of course Kyle assures us this wont happen it the great forward thinking state of Georgia.


HA !

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar You keep bringing up bills that are substantively different. Is it fear or intellectual dishonesty that makes you refuse to engage on the actual matter at hand?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar By "baby step," of course, you mean "passing the exact same thing U.S. House Democrats passed on a voice vote, which U.S. Senate Democrats passed 97-3, and which Bill Clinton signed."

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar Yes I do


Which was a big mistake and pandering of the highest order as well. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Yes, HL's employees will now have to choose from one of the other 16 forms of contraception the company still subsidizes, or else pay for one of the four it doesn't subsidize with their own money. Quelle horror.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar One of the four other women can get as part of their insurance. In effect taxing these women unfairly because of thie employers extreme religious beliefs which is based on junk Science. 


All part of the war on women. And now you understand why we try to keep you guys away from Science at all times. 


According to the Food and Drug Administration, all four of the contraceptive methods Hobby Lobby objects to—Plan B, Ella, and two intrauterine devices—do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus, which the owners of Hobby Lobby consider abortion. Instead, these methods prevent fertilization.


http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/supreme-court-hobby-lobby-decision