HB 1123 - Religious freedom; protection against governmental intrusion

First Reader Summary

A BILL to amend Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to state government, so as to provide for protection of the religious freedom of the people of the State of Georgia against governmental intrusion; and for other purposes.

Williams, Jeffrey L (83rd) Byrd, Roger C (170th) Tillman, Eugene C (173rd)
Irvin, Robert A (45th) Wiles, John J (34th) Culbreth, Ronnie (132nd)
Status Summary HC: Judy SC: LA: 01/16/98 H - Read 2nd Time
Page Numbers - 1/ 2/ 3
Code Sections - 50-32-1/ 50-32-2/ 50-32-3/ 50-32-4
House Action Senate
1/15/98 Read 1st Time
1/16/98 Read 2nd Time

HB 1123                                            LC 26 0485 
                        A BILL TO BE ENTITLED 
                               AN ACT 
  1- 1  To amend Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, 
  1- 2  relating to state government, so as to provide for 
  1- 3  protection of the religious freedom of the people of the 
  1- 4  State of Georgia against governmental intrusion; to provide 
  1- 5  for legislative intent; to provide for definitions; to 
  1- 6  provide for an effective date and for applicability; to 
  1- 7  repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes. 
  1- 9                           SECTION 1. 
  1-10  Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating 
  1-11  to state government, is amended by adding to the end thereof 
  1-12  a new Chapter 32 to read as follows: 
  1-13    50-32-1. 
  1-14    (a) The General Assembly finds that: 
  1-15      (1) The framers of the United States Constitution, 
  1-16      recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable 
  1-17      right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to 
  1-18      the United States Constitution; 
  1-19      (2) Laws seemingly neutral toward religion may burden 
  1-20      religious exercise as surely as laws intended to 
  1-21      interfere with religious exercise; and 
  1-22      (3) Governments should not substantially burden 
  1-23      religious exercise without compelling justification. 
  1-24    (b) The purposes of this chapter are: 
  1-25      (1) To restore the compelling interest test as set forth 
  1-26      in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin 
  1-27      v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its 
  1-28      application in all cases where free exercise of religion 
  1-29      is substantially burdened; and 
  2- 1      (2) To provide a claim or defense to persons whose 
  2- 2      religious exercise is substantially burdened by 
  2- 3      government. 
  2- 4    50-32-2. 
  2- 5    (a) Neither the state nor any of its political 
  2- 6    subdivisions shall substantially burden a person's 
  2- 7    exercise of religion even if the burden results from a 
  2- 8    rule of general applicability, except as provided in 
  2- 9    subsection (b) of this Code section. 
  2-10    (b) The state or any of its political subdivisions may 
  2-11    substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only 
  2-12    if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the 
  2-13    person: 
  2-14      (1) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental 
  2-15      interest; and 
  2-16      (2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that 
  2-17      compelling governmental interest. 
  2-18    (c) A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in 
  2-19    violation of this Code section may assert that violation 
  2-20    as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain 
  2-21    appropriate relief against a government.  Standing to 
  2-22    assert a claim or defense under this Code section shall be 
  2-23    governed by the general rules of standing. 
  2-24    50-32-3. 
  2-25    As used in this chapter, the term: 
  2-26      (1) 'Demonstrates' means meets the burdens of going 
  2-27      forward with the evidence and of persuasion. 
  2-28      (2) 'Exercise of religion' means the exercise of 
  2-29      religion under the First Amendment to the United States 
  2-30      Constitution. 
  2-31    50-32-4. 
  2-32    Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to affect, 
  2-33    interpret, or in any way address that portion of the First 
  2-34    Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting 
  2-35    laws respecting the establishment of religion which shall 
  2-36    be referred to in this Code section as the 'establishment 
  2-37    clause'.  Granting government funding, benefits, or 
  2-38    exemptions, to the extent permissible under the 
  2-39    establishment clause, shall not constitute a violation of 
  2-40    this chapter.  As used in this Code section, the term 
  3- 1    'granting,' used with respect to government funding, 
  3- 2    benefits, or exemptions, does not include the denial of 
  3- 3    government funding, benefits, or exemptions." 
  3- 4                           SECTION 2. 
  3- 5  This Act shall become effective on July 1, 1998.  This Act 
  3- 6  shall apply to state law and the implementation of that law, 
  3- 7  whether statutory or otherwise and whether adopted before or 
  3- 8  after the effective date of this Act.  Nothing in this Act 
  3- 9  shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any 
  3-10  religious belief. 
  3-11                           SECTION 3. 
  3-12  All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are 
  3-13  repealed. 

Clerk of the House
Robert E. Rivers, Jr., Clerk
Last Updated on 04/20/98