Attention Georgians: Oppose HR 1345 – The “Faith-based” Amendment
The Georgia House of Representatives will consider House Resolution 1345 – the “Faith-based Initiative” which amends the Georgia Constitution to end the separation between church and state thereby allowing taxpayer funds to be given to churches and other faith groups to provide many of the services currently provided by the state. These “Faith-based” organizations would be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or questioning. This issue is being pushed by Governor Sonny Perdue since it would be on the 2006 ballot at the same time he is up for re-election and is strongly supported by the radical right. The change would also allow for school vouchers.
PLEASE CONTACT YOUR HOUSE MEMBER NOW ASKING FOR A NO VOTE ON HR 1345.
What's At Stake:
The Coalition to Protect Georgia s Bill of Rights consists of 28 religious, education, civil rights, and social service groups who have joined together in opposition to amending the Georgia constitutional provision governing religious freedom. Georgia has had a state provision governing church and state since 1777, when it was written and promoted by a Baptist minister named Silas Mercer. It has served us well for 228 years. We should not abandon the protections that have helped religion flourish in Georgia for all of these years.
The Coalition opposes the amendment for the following reasons:
The amendment actually REPEALS our current constitutional provision. It abdicates all of the State’s power to define religious liberty to the federal courts.
The amendment would open the door to SCHOOL VOUCHERS because it would allow state money to go to religious schools.
Religious houses of worship that would provide these taxpayer-funded services must be accountable to the public.
The amendment is unnecessary. The Georgia Supreme Court said in its January 17, 2006, decision in Taetle vs. Atlanta Independent School System that the state may not fund religious activities, but ”?that is not to say that a political subdivision of the state cannot enter into an arms-length, commercial agreement with a sectarian institution to accomplish a non-sectarian purpose.”
Religious organizations are exempt in their private hiring from portions of the civil rights act and thus can hire and fire based upon a person's religious beliefs. Disturbingly, there are many, including the Bush Administration, who advocate that religious organizations can engage in discrimination while using taxpayer dollars. Georgia's current constitution protects against this.
The money threatens the voluntariness of religious activities and the autonomy of houses of worship.
Our provision has no connection to anti-Catholic animus. Our amendment first appeared in 1777, one hundred-plus years before the so-called Blaine amendments were passed. Furthermore, the current language of our provision differs from the language of the Blaine amendments.
Funding of pervasively sectarian programs is unworkable. Who will decide which religion is better than the others? How will Georgia afford to provide the constitutionally required secular alternative services to each religious service? Will the state discriminate against or fund minority religions such as Scientology, Islam, and Wicca?