Supporters look down on the Standing for Religious Freedom Rally at the state Capitol Tuesday January 13, 2015. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

‘Religious liberty’ bill filed in Georgia

A “religious liberty” bill has been filed in the Georgia Senate, the opening of what could be yet another explosive debate on whether the state should allow Georgians to cite their faith-based beliefs against government interference.

Senate Bill 233, sponsored by state Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, was signed by about half of the chamber’s GOP majority.

In one short sentence, it says that Georgia should apply in similar fashion the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Formally approved 1993, the law requires the government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion.

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Republicans in the Senate, however, have for at least the last two years backed “religious liberty” legislation to prevent discrimination against faith-based organizations including those opposed to same-sex marriage. Opponents to such measures say that history concerns them.

Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a much broader “religious liberty” measure last year, saying it would damage the state’s reputation of tolerance and inclusion.

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