First they said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) would open the door to child abusers. When it was pointed out that RFRA has been on the books for over 20 years in 19 states plus the federal government and not a single child abuser has successfully been able to use RFRA, they needed another plan.
Well, they’ve come up with one. And not only have they come up with a new one, several people tell me they are planning to roll this out nationally via a coordinated media hit job. In fact, I’m told, that within hours of Mike Bowers giving his testimony before the Georgia House Judiciary Committee, gay rights activists are already planting the story with friends in the national press to try to generate a pretended “viral” story of moral outrage that the KKK is coming back.
Georgia’s former Republican Attorney General Mike Bowers will tell the House Judiciary Committee that H.B. 218, Sam Teasley’s state RFRA law, could undo the Anti-Mask Act.
The Anti-Mask Act was found constitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1990. The law prohibits people, particularly, the KKK, from wearing masks.
Here is why Mike Bowers’ is just winging it on this.
H.B. 218 allows the state to violate the consciences of the religious if it finds there to be (1) a compelling interest and (2) the law is the least restrictive means to accomplish the goal.
The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Anti-Mask Act in State v. Miller, 260 Ga. 669 (1990). In that case, the Georgia Supreme Court declared, “Safeguarding the right of the people to exercise their civil rights and to be free from violence and intimidation is not only a compelling interest, it is the General Assembly’s affirmative constitutional duty.” 260 Ga. at 672 (emphasis added).
So not only does the law fit a compelling interest, but the Georgia Supreme Court raised the bar to an “affirmative constitutional duty.”
That sets a really, really high burden on Mike Bowers to assert that somehow RFRA would cause the Anti-Mask Act to be thrown out. I suppose a man creative enough to ignore the State v. Miller “compelling interest” language could be creative enough to claim there’d be a less restrictive means to unmask the Klan, but good luck making that to a court.
Here’s what’s actually happening though. Bowers is now on the payroll of Georgia Equality. He will make this statement and groups opposed to RFRA will rely on sympathetic journalists to turn it into a national story. Even though his argument does not pass legal muster, they will fan it out to the national press and turn the story from one of Georgia protecting religious liberty to one of Georgia re-enabling the Ku Klux Klan.
They cannot win on the law.
They cannot win on the facts.
So they will try their best to win on emotion and outrage. They have a willing media to help them.