Lawmaker rips ad critical of ‘religious liberty’ bill

The author of a “religious liberty” bill in the state House on Tuesday slammed the sponsors of an advertisement that claims his bill would allow child abusers to escape prosecution.

Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, sponsor of House Bill 29, called the newspaper ad from Better Georgia “disgusting,” “abhorrent” and “totally devoid of truth.”

Better Georgia, a liberal activist group, published the ad in the Marietta Daily Journal. A similar one ran in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, hometown newspaper to Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who plans to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.

McKoon had an equally strong reaction to the ad Monday.

The ad features one of the main criticisms of the bill: That some people would use it to cite religious beliefs to discriminate or otherwise flout Georgia law. Others fear the bill would allow businesses to refuse to serve gay couples or other groups with whom they disagree.

“This legislation would give criminals who abuse their children or spouses a new excuse and make it even more difficult for police officers to put abusers behind bars,” Better Georgia director Bryan Long told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But Teasley said that’s untrue. The bill restricts government’s ability to interfere with an individual’s personal religious beliefs unless there is a “compelling interest” to do so.

“And we can all agree there is a compelling government interest in preventing child abuse,” Teasley said.

Teasley called on his colleagues for support.

“I’m not asking for your sympathy,” he said. “I’m asking for your help. Join with me in the coming days and stand up to groups that are willing to lie and to smear to defend their own political agenda.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.