UPDATES                SENATE REPORT                                
           UPDATES                SENATE REPORT                                

SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed the Senate 37-15, but it still awaits action in the House as the session comes to an end.

The bill language has been drafted to reflect the language of the federal RFRA, which has a time-tested success record of over 20 years for protecting the religious liberty interests of citizens whose religious rights have been burdened.  As seen in the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, even laws that appear to be neutral toward religion can burden First Amendment religious free exercise rights.

When considering the actual history of RFRA principles, the courts have applied the RFRA standards of strict scrutiny and the compelling governmental interest balancing test for 50 years. These are the key elements of the Georgia RFRA language in SB 129. It is important that the bill language reflect the original federal RFRA so that Georgians can have the same protection for religious freedom in Georgia's courts as we have in federal courts.


Docu-drama Warns of Threats to America’s Religious Liberties
Question and Answer Session to Follow the Movie

BRUNSWICK, GA - Northside Baptist Church, an official EchoLight Cinemas partner location, will present the award-winning film “One Generation Away” on Sunday, July 5th, at 6 p.m. Winner of 5 Dove Awards and awarded Best Documentary in the 2015 Christian Worldview Film Festival, this timely movie reveals how quickly freedoms can disappear if Americans do not remain vigilant to defend them.

“One Generation Away” is a joint production between Echolight Studios and American Family Studios. Exploring both sides of the religious freedom debate, “One Generation Away” focuses on seven cases of religious freedom disputes throughout the United States: the Mt. Soledad Veteran’s Memorial in San Diego, wedding service providers in Oregon and Washington, Hobby Lobby, chaplaincy in the military, as well as two education cases with a collegiate counseling program, and high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas.

“This is a must-see film for every family for 'such a time as this,' when our religious liberties are being threatened," stated Associate Pastor Scott McVey at Northside Baptist Church. "The public is invited to attend free of charge. Our church is honored to be the Brunswick premiere location for 'One Generation Away.' Pastor Craig Hartzog and I are delighted that the movie director, Ken Carpenter, will join us that evening as well as Sen. William Ligon and Rep. Jeff Jones for a Question and Answer session after the movie. Rep. Atwood will also attend if his schedule permits as he will be out of the country for about three weeks."


ATLANTA (May 29, 2015)  |  Sen. William Ligon (R - Brunswick) requested and received state funding through the Department of Natural Resources for the Noyes Cut feasibility study.

With the support of DNR Commissioner Mark Williams, the DNR Board approved $525,000 for the Noyes Cut study which will be matched with federal funding up to $625,000. The study will determine the feasibility of closing the canal and ways to restore the estuarine conditions critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems in the Satilla River estuary. 

Noyes Cut, an auxiliary channel for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1932. However, through the years, water currents have increased its dimensions from its original 50 feet width to 300 feet along with further deepening of the channel. The expanded cut has altered flows of the watershed, blocking access for migratory fish, crabs and shrimp. The inland reaches of Dover Creek and Umbrella Creek go dry at low tide, and siltation is also a problem for commercial fishermen.

“The Noyes Cut is no longer useful to Georgia, and is causing navigational problems for citizens,” said Sen. Ligon. “My hope for this study approved by the Department of Natural Resources is to find a way to close off this canal in a way that is healthy and beneficial for the Satilla watershed.”

Area fishermen have advocated for the closing of Noyes Cut for many years, and this is the first step toward that goal.
"I am very grateful that EchoLight and Northside Baptist Church are partnering together to bring this film to our area," stated Sen. William Ligon. "We worked hard in our Georgia Senate to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), but there is much more work ahead in the House of Representatives next year. This film will help illuminate the many reasons why RFRA must pass in Georgia and why everyone who cares about protecting our liberties should be engaged in this issue."

For more information about “One Generation Away,” watch the trailer at www.onegenerationawaymovie.com. Tickets are not necessary to attend because the event is free, but for directions or further local information, call the church office at 265-3063. Northside Baptist is located at 935 Chapel Crossing Road in Brunswick. Information on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can be obtained by contacting Sen. Ligon's press office at 242-2434 or pressoffice@senatorligon.com.

ATLANTA (June 1, 2015)  |  Sen. William Ligon (R - Brunswick), a member of the Senate's Higher Education Budget Committee, was able to obtain funding in the budget for a planning grant for the beginning phase of Altamaha Technical College in Camden County.

“Over the past several years, community leaders of Camden County have been working to attract state funding for a technical college that will support the local defense industry and provide a reliable source of highly skilled workers for technical fields,” said Sen. Ligon. “This new college will be an invaluable resource for Camden County and surrounding areas.”

The Trident Refit Facility relies on a highly skilled civilian workforce to maintain the naval submarines at Kings Bay. However, currently there is no program in Camden that offers the training needed for either engineers or welders, two skill sets needed at the Trident Refit Facility.

Altamaha Technical College received a five year technical college bond from the state of Georgia to fulfill needs in Camden County and the Trident Refit Facility for trained and skilled workers. The $1.1 million bond came from the FY 2016 General Budget and will cover the costs of planning and design of the school.

The community of Camden County has also contributed to the project. The Gross family donated land to be used for the technical college’s campus. After planning and design of the college have been completed, the school must make a new budget request to go toward building and architectural funds.

The ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday both violates the principle of federalism and strikes at the heart of deeply held religious beliefs of millions of Americans. Such judicial activism over the expressed will of the people in over 30 states fails to honor the basic framework of our constitutional Republic, the consent of the governed and federalism, that shared power between the states and the national government. It is indeed unfortunate that five judges mock millions of Americans, including the 76 percent of Georgians who passed a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as the union of only one man and one woman. Now, every state in the union must allow same-sex marriage, and, as a result, the protections supposedly guaranteed by the First Amendment are more tenuous.

As the 2012 National Republican Platform emphasized, an activist judiciary is "a serious threat to our country's constitutional order," explaining that any "court-ordered redefinition of marriage" is "an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values."

Ever since the Court began to interpret the U.S. Constitution according to its "evolving standards " and decouple it from the truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence, particularly the Laws of Nature and Nature's God, the Court has abandoned the moral compass that served to build the framework of liberty for our nation.
Though the Court did acknowledge the right of religious organizations and persons to continue to hold true to sincere convictions about the sacred nature of marriage and the protection afforded to them under the First Amendment, we already know that other states are prosecuting people who refuse to perform same-sex marriages or bake wedding cakes or provide floral arrangements for same-sex weddings. It will not be long before similar challenges will reach Christian schools and churches. In fact, during oral arguments, the Solicitor General for the United States admitted that even the tax-exempt status of religious colleges and universities could come into question if their policies opposed same-sex marriage.

In the immediate future, however, state officials will need to determine how we protect the religious rights of government employees who in good conscience cannot perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. We will need to consider how to protect our business people, who have sincerely-held religious beliefs about marriage, from being targeted by same-sex marriage advocates trying to bully them into providing wedding services. We need to consider what type of message on the topic of marriage is packaged within the curriculum that is taught in our public school system. We need to find ways to protect college and university students from being kicked-out of their chosen field of study, such as counseling, because of their sincerely-held religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality. These are very real and immediate concerns that must be addressed during the next legislative session.
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