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“Religious Freedom” Law Runs Into a Buzzsaw

A “Religious Freedom” act in Georgia is running into opposition from an unexpected source: Michael Bowers. Law Geeks will recognize the name as the Georgia Attorney General who successfully defended the Georgia sodomy statue in Bowers v Hardwick which set back the law for two decades until it was overruled in Lawrence v Texas.

Bowers, who was AG for 16 years and stepped down in 1997, penned a scathing legal analysis of the religious freedom act proposed in Georgia. He says the reach of laws like thisa are limitless and calls them “nothing but an excuse to discriminate.” You can read the full analysis here but his bottom line is worth quoting –

“This legislation is not about gay marriage, or contraception, or even so-called ‘religious freedom. It is more important than all of these, because it ultimately involves the rule of law. Regardless of whether one agrees with a particular policy, or if it offends one’s religious sensibilities, the proposed RFRA is bad for all Georgians of good faith, or for that matter of any faith whatsoever. It is not just bad public policy; it is ill-conceived, unnecessary, mean-spirited, and deserving of a swift death in the General Assembly.”

Well, how do you really feel, Mr. Bowers? What makes this even more interesting is that Bowers was also involved in a notorious case when he revoked an offer of employment to a woman when he discovered that she was a lesbian. She sued and he won! When asked what happened to the old Michael Bowers, he said I’ve changed. I’m not the same person I was 30 years ago.”

Check out this video of his feisty news conference.
Of course, the supporters of the bill reacted predictably, dismissing his arguments and launching a personal attack. For example, one commentator said “I used to admire and respect Michael Bowers, Georgia’s Attorney General from 1981 to 1997, but his recent intervention in the debate over the religious freedom bills ought to embarrass him.” I guess you can admire people only when they agree with you.

Update: the bill was hurriedly passed out of committee when an opponent had to leave the room for a bathroom break.

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March 4, 2015   Comments Off