If the government wants to curtail your freedom of speech, it must have a compelling governmental interest.
If the government wants to curtail your freedom of assembly, it must have a compelling governmental interest.
Bill Clinton and a majority of Democrats and Republicans in Washington agreed that if the government wanted to curtail religious freedom, the other right in the first amendment, it needed a compelling governmental interest as well.
In Georgia today, the Republican Party has decided that the religious freedom guarantee of the first amendment is not equal with the freedoms of speech and assembly. In fact, a group of people claiming to want equality believe the free exercise of religion is a lesser value than the others in the First Amendment.
Today, in Georgia, Republicans have decided to bail on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Instead, they will foist a billion dollar tax increase on citizens, but then tell them their religious liberty is not a major right worth defending. There was going to be a special meeting at 10 o’clock this morning to resurrect the religious liberty legislation.
I was told last night, however, that a deal has been cut. Republican Governor Nathan Deal and Speaker David Ralston will scuttle protecting religious liberty and, in exchange, will be able to get enough Democrats to help them raise taxes on Georgians.
Their decision is disappointing, but it has an upside.
The Republicans most opposed to protecting religious liberty, like Republicans Beth Beskin and Wendell Willard, support the tax increase. They also happen to represent districts within the core listening area of my radio show.
For the next year, I will get to point out repeatedly that these Republicans were perfectly happy to vote for a tax increase and stabbed religious voters in the back. Mike Jacobs, the Republican who actually caused RFRA to be scuttled, is going to be rewarded with a judicial appointment by Governor Deal.
I will get to remind voters in the run up to the statewide vote on Governor Deal’s education package that he rewarded the people who stabbed faith voters in the back.
I will get to remind voters that Wendell Willard, who is old and has run unopposed, that he voted for a billion dollar tax increase and rejected protecting religious liberty.
I will get to help voters in Mike Jacobs’ district make up their mind on a replacement in a special election.
I will get to remind voters that freshman Representative Beth Beskin raised their taxes and would not protect their religious freedom.
The rejection of RFRA is unfortunate. But I suspect the next year will pay dividends for conservatives. For the first time, they’ll have a voice in drive time on radio in Atlanta willing to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight the good fight exposing these Republicans.
And then, when we bring it back in 2016, they’ll go from the General Assembly into their primaries after a year of pointing out their tax increases and their sudden shifts in 2016 trying to cover their tracks.
They may have abandoned protecting religious liberty today, but doing so will ultimately help provide the tools conservatives need to shift the Georgia GOP toward the GOP and away from Democrats who just found religion in 2002 and suddenly declared themselves Republican.