‘Religious liberty’ measure passes Georgia Senate

‘Religious liberty” legislation easily passed the Georgia Senate on Thursday, keeping the measure alive with only 13 days left in the legislative session.

Senate Bill 129 is one of two at the Capitol — the other is House Bill 218 — that supporters say would prevent government intrusion on faith-based beliefs. It is based on federal legislation that Congress passed in 1993 and carries President Bill Clinton’s signature. It asserts that government has to show a compelling interest for why its policy should override an individual’s religious freedom.

The proposal has been at the center of one of the fiercest debates at the Capitol this year, with supporters casting it as a new line of defense to protect people of any religion from interference. Opponents warn it’s a discriminatory end run on the First Amendment that could allow business owners to cite religious beliefs to deny people service.

The bill had stalled until earlier this week, when the Senate’s GOP leaders signaled a compromise pass it with changes to make it hew to the federal language already on the books.

The 37-15 vote sends the bill to the House, where HB 218 is currently stalled in committee.

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