Republican House members on Thursday took turns blasting the public affairs director for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board for comparing them to Hitler for failing to move so-called religious liberty legislation.
In an update written for the Christian Index last week, Mike Griffin, who is also the Baptists’ lobbyist at the Capitol, wrote : “We must not let the government do to us what Hitler did to the pastors and churches of his day. He got them to accept this protection from government action if they would agree to stay out of government. He basically said, you take care of the church and leave government to me. Pastors, this is happening before our eyes today.”
That language, a copy of which was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was later removed from the post, but not before it was passed around by lawmakers in the past 24 hours.
Rep. Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, said Griffin is comparing lawmakers to the “most despicable person ever to walk this Earth.”
“I’m ashamed this man is walking around this Capitol with a badge claiming he represents me and my faith,” Kelley said and demanded an apology.
Griffin, who was at the Capitol while lawmakers spoke, said there’s nothing to apologize for.
“All we were doing was making a historical reference,” Griffin said. “Look at the article and its context. It’s simply a call to pastors for their help a call for them not to be silent.”
It was not, he said, an “accusation against anybody or group of individuals.”
He later removed the language, he said, because “we don’t want to miscommunicate that to anyone.”
“Again, to show we’re not trying to divert attention away from the issue,” Griffin said. “We want the attention to stay on the issue. That was written as a call to action.”
Rep. Dominic Lariccia, R-Douglas, one of the most socially conservative members of the House, said he refused to mention out loud who Griffin compared them to.
“I’m going to mention Mike Griffin’s name,” Lariccia said. “I hope that my life says a lot more about who Jesus is to me then any words that I can publish or any words that come out of my mouth.”
Lawmakers and activists have been in a tug-of-war all year over legislation that supporters say protects religious Georgians right to practice their faith and that opponents say would legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
With just seven days left in the 2016 legislative session, tempers are starting to fray.