Is the religious freedom bill fundamentally necessary?

Photo by Patrick Saunders

Photo by Patrick Saunders

Cochran firing really doesn’t muddy the water!

By: Gary S. Cox

In a recent conversation with a friend who by any definition is an “activists” catholic (working within the framework of the Catholic Church to influence change), we discussed whether or not the federal, state, county or city government in anyway prohibited him from practicing his faith? The answer was a resounding “No!”

He feels comfortable wearing ashes on his forehead in public on Ash Wednesday; he participates in, and volunteers to feed the homeless on a weekly basis. My friend, along with me, sits on several service committees for our parish. As a practicing catholic, he doesn’t see the basic tenants of his faith being “challenged” by government, nor do I.

While one example, one friend and one conversation is not evidence government and religion do not clash, we all know on occasion they do. That is what the civil courts are for – to serve as a meditator when the practice of one’s religion and government forces come in conflict with each other. Additionally, the Georgia Constitution, in the first section, under the “Georgia Bill of Rights” is the “freedom of Conscience” clause which grants, “. . . the natural right to worship God, each according to the dictates of one’s own conscience … without interference.” The fact is the right to practice one’s religion is set in stone in the Georgia Constitution. Thus, it seems reasonable this section of the Georgia Bill of Rights is an argument against the need for a Religious Freedom Bill.

Secondly, any reasonable and self-thinking individual can’t help but wonder about the motives of those who are pushing for this legislation? There have been no state-wide hearings to gather examples of cases where individuals could not practice their faith – only committee work. The fears of the LBGTQ community and other minority groups who perceive the legislation as a ruse to allow possible discriminatory practices in the workplace, based on religious beliefs, is a well-founded and legitimate concern.

Then, enter the case of Chief Kelvin Cochran. While not delving into the “messiness” of the case or how it was handled, it is obvious in the press that ex-chief Cochran has become the poster child for the alleged “need” for the proposed legislation. His supporters rally to his aid. Does his case warrant passage of new legislation? NO!

Chief Cochran is claiming he has been discriminated on the basis of his religious beliefs by the city of Atlanta. He has filled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, presumably as a prelude to a law suit. But, again, he is utilizing those governmental “remedies” already in place to resolve his differences with the city.

Time will tell if his grievances are justified as the legal process plays out. However, the ex-Chief’s case, his personal circumstances and how he is following up on his rights to assert a discrimination claim are already provided for in both legal structure and case law. His case is not an argument for the need of a Religious Freedom bill but the exact opposite! His case, as it winds its way through the legal system, is proof there is no need for additional legislation for him to have a resolution to his concerns as to whether or not he was fired for his religious beliefs.



  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Your “activist” Roman Catholic friend must not be familiar with The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 6:1,”(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”
    My acquaintances who know and observe Scripture wash their faces immediately after the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday.