Pushback on Liberty Plaza, as 'religious liberty' fight goes national

For weeks, there have been marches and demonstrations at the state Capitol by forces in favor of the "religious liberty" push. Today, the opponents push back.

Georgia Equality is staging a lunchtime rally at next-door Liberty Plaza to protest what it calls the "license to discriminate" legislation, and expects hundreds to flock downtown to join in.

Backers of the legislation often cite support from religious Jews who object to automatic, routine autopsies on their congregants. Other rabbis have criticized the legislation, but Heller comes from a different and more observant strain of Judaism, and his presence at Tuesday's rally is a sign of that pushback.

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Georgia’s debate on this issue is going national. In his morning note, Erick Erickson of Redstate.com continues to point his people in the direction of House Speaker David Ralston:

David Ralston and the gay rights groups have clearly forgotten about Hobby Lobby. If you are in Georgia, you must call your state representative and demand a vote on S.B. 129 without amendment. Whether you are in Georgia or not, you need to remember Hobby Lobby and understand why Georgia needs to pass S.B. 129.

And last night, state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the author of S.B. 129, made a cameo appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which led with the topic:

The legislation, Stewart said, is intended for Christians “whose damnation conveniently hinges only on the gay marriage boutonnière business.”

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More on the same topic: On Monday, we posted on Dr. Eric Marsh, a California health department official whose Georgia job offer was rescinded after videos surfaced in which he condemned both homosexuality and evolution.

Marsh was part of a lengthy video built around a March 3 rally in the state Capitol for the religious liberty legislation, and an interview with state Sen. Josh McKoon, the author of S.B. 129.

But Bryan Long of Better Georgia, a Democratic-backed group in alliance with Georgia Equality on the issue, points out that some editing occurred along the way. Specifically, when a connection was drawn between the legislation and gay rights.

First, religious liberty supporters erased this fellow from the Capitol rally:

In case you missed it, here's what he said:

“I don’t talk around certain things. I know that the LGBT is putting pressure on some of these representatives. How can they put pressure on you when they don’t even know what gender they are?”

Long also said that this portion of McKoon’s interview was chopped from a version of the video that was originally posted over the weekend:

Said McKoon:

"I think what you see is the attempt to say that my faith tradition is superior to yours. Because -- maybe it's because what your religious faith teaches about sexuality. You know, a lot of this is based around the fact that very mainline religious denominations believe that the proper role of sexuality is within a traditional marriage and that's what the basis of a family is.

It's an integral part of someone's religious faith. And if someone finds that offensive in our country, they have every right to find it offensive, they have every right to speak out against it if they think it's offensive. What they don't have the right to do is to aggregate the power of government to drive people of faith that hold those beliefs away from the public square. It’s totally wrong. It’s anti-American."

Think this is getting into the weeds? You’re right. But much of what your seeing is about building evidence for the court case to come, should S.B. 129 take wings. Documenting legislative intent is what it's all about.

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John Garst of Rosetta Stone Communications posted this on Facebook last night:

Rosetta Stone Communications will be in the field tonight - polling on three bills being considered by the Georgia Legislature. We will test support levels for the transportation bill (HB170), the cannabis oil bill (HB1) and the raccoon trapping bill (HB160).

We’ve just got to see the crosstabs on that.

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After Georgia GOP Reps. Barry Loudermilk and Jody Hice came under attack from the establishment, the right is responding with a pat on the back.

Heritage Action for America, one of the outside groups that has given House GOP leaders fits in recent years, paid for robocalls to the districts of the conservatives targeted by the establishment-tied American Action Network in the Department of Homeland Security funding fight. The list includes Hice and Loudermilk. While AAN announced it spent $400,000 for TV and web ads, Heritage Action would not reveal the amount it spent.

Here's the script for the Loudermilk one. Pressing one connects constituents with the member's office:

"I’m Mike Needham, CEO of Heritage Action.

"Your congressman, BARRY LOUDERMILK, is under attack by the Republican Establishment.

"Why? Because he stood firm against Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty.

"Last year the entire Republican Party campaigned to stop Obama’s amnesty, but when they felt pressure from Obama and the democrats -- party leaders turned their back and their pro-amnesty allies launched attack ads on conservatives who stood firm.

"That’s right: The Republican Establishment attacked BARRY LOUDERMILK with negative ads because he stood on principle, stood for conservative values and stood up to Obama.

"PRESS ONE now to thank Rep. LOUDERMILK for standing up to Obama."

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Scott announced the birth, as one does, on Facebook.

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, is bringing out the big guns for a huge fundraiser in honor of his 75th birthday. The celebration will be March 28, and our AJC colleague Jennifer Brett has the details here.

If you're 35 or younger, you can get into the cheap seats for $25. If you want VIP access to see the Indigo Girls or Dionne Warwick up close, your political action committee can chip in $5,000.

Among the stars scheduled to be there: Dulé Hill, a.k.a. Charlie Young from The West Wing. Cue political nerd swooning.

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Earlier this week, we posted on a science fiction writer who took on Georgia’s gun culture. That vein may be in need of more mining. The following press release rolled in from Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on Monday – edited only slightly for length:

Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. announces a conviction by guilty plea in the murder case against the man accused of gunning down a Chattahoochee Hills Police Lieutenant. During plea proceedings Friday, 49-year-old Robert M. Cook pleaded guilty as indicted to charges of Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer, Possession of a Machine Gun and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony in connection with the shooting death of Lieutenant Michael Vogt, 56….

Defendant Cook was facing the death penalty, but after extensive discussions with the victim’s family and the Chattahoochee Hills Police Department, the State determined it was appropriate to allow the defendant to plead guilty to a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole because of the defendant’s mental condition. Defendant Cook suffers from bipolar disorder and on the day of the shooting was under the influence of six different medications.

That's right: Mental condition, six kinds of medication, a machine gun, and a dead police officer.

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