Macon district attorney: ‘Liberty’ bills could permit religious-inspired child abuse

It's still early, but in the debate over “religious liberty” bills, David Cooke, the Democratic district attorney for the Macon Judicial Circuit, just fired a new and perhaps weighty shot. A few select paragraphs from his Sunday op-ed in the Macon Telegraph:

We shouldn’t let a cleverly named bill pass through the General Assembly when the results could allow a person to ignore Georgia’s child welfare laws by claiming “deeply held religious beliefs.” This is not a far-fetched idea. In fact, one Georgia couple already has tried to use religion to justify the murder of their 8-year-old son…

This is not just a hypothetical argument, either. In Utah, a federal judge relied on a law very similar to what is being proposed now in Georgia to rule that a member of a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon faith did not have to comply with an investigation of alleged child labor law violations because doing so would require him to disclose information about his religious sect, in violation of his beliefs.

Imagine all they ways a child could be harmed with this new law. Imagine all the creative ways lawyers could make it tougher for police and other law enforcement officers. Could parents legally withhold critically important medical care from a child, or justify physical or mental abuse if they claim their religion compels them to do so? Could a 12-year-old girl be forced into marriage pursuant to her parents’ religious beliefs?...

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.