Former Attorney General: “Religious Freedom” Bills Excuse Discrimination

Michael Bowers

Former Georgia attorney general Michael Bowers says he is bothered by two bills that others argue protect religious freedom. The two bills are roughly identical, and are modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). They are supposed to prevent “government overreach” that would harm religious Americans.  But critics of the bills say that that the constitute a license to exclude in the name of religious freedom, particularly members of the LGBT community, because the proposed laws could allow for discriminatory acts such as business owners who deny service to same-sex couple by citing their faith.

Michael Bowers, in an analysis he released on Tuesday, said that the bills are "mean spirited" and can create an excuse to discriminate. He added that the legislation could be used to justify breaking laws on vaccination, school curriculum or corporal punishment.

“The bills, in my judgement, are nothing but an excuse to discriminate,” he said. “The opportunity to use this as a religious excuse [to discriminate] is so broad, it’s almost impossible to limit. I think that has the potential to be a disaster.”

Bowers wrote the report at the request of an LGBT organization named Georgia Equality.

He went on the elaborate in a statement released later:

“This legislation is not about gay marriage, or contraception, or even so-called ‘religious freedom,’” he wrote. “It is more important than all of these, because it ultimately involves the rule of law. Regardless of whether one agrees with a particular policy, or if it offends one’s religious sensibilities, the proposed RFRA is bad for all Georgians of good faith, or for that matter any faith whatsoever. It is not just bad public policy; it is ill-conceived, unnecessary, mean-spirited, and deserving of a swift death in the General Assembly.”

“The obvious unstated purpose of the proposed RFRA is to authorize discrimination against disfavored groups … the bill enacts an excuse to discriminate in the broadest sense.”

Bowers’ position was something of a surprise, because, as Attorney General, he repeatedly defended Georgia’s Anti-Gay “sodomy laws”. As Attorney General, Bowers revoked a job offer after finding out the woman was a lesbian, and successfully defended the state's sodomy law after a man arrested for having sex with another man challenged it.

State-level religious liberty bills have become popular among Republicans throughout the country. Almost none have been passed into law, though though many have been introduced.

Photo Credits: Daily Report Online

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