Conservatives speak for, against Religious Freedom Bill

- In back to back news conferences Tuesday, conservatives clashed at the state Capitol over whether state lawmakers should pass religious freedom legislation.

"We need to take a stand for religious freedom now.  Take it boldly.  Take it strongly," said J. Robert White, who serves as executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. 

The group supports passage of SB 129, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which they said will better protect people of faith in state legal proceedings.

Opponents have expressed concerns that the bill would legalize discrimination by allowing businesses to refuse services to gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgender people on religious grounds. 

"We have no desire to discriminate against anyone," White explained.  "The concern that I have is that the people of faith in Georgia are being discriminated against and that needs to stop."

Allen Fox, however, called the bill "divisive."  As the head of the newly-formed Georgia Republicans for the Future, he said by supporting RFRA, conservatives appear to support discrimination.

"Divisive religious exemption legislation hurts the brand of our Republican Party and distracts us from pressing issues that appeal to a more diverse population," said Fox. 

He believes the Republican Party should focus instead on growing its base to include Latinos, women and members of the LGBT community. 

The RFRA bill stalled in the House of Representatives in 2015 when some lawmakers amended it to add an anti-discrimination clause.  Sponsors could choose to pick up the bill where it left off last year. 

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