Georgia backs freedom of conscience Bill

Senators in the US state of Georgia have approved a Bill to give better protection for freedom of conscience.

Last week, the state’s Senate backed the Bill known as the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act” by 37 votes to 15.

The legislation would stop the state Government encroaching upon a person’s religious beliefs unless it could prove it had a compelling interest.

Strengthen rights

Senator Josh McKoon, who introduced the Bill based on similar federal legislation introduced 20 years ago, said it would strengthen rights for people of all faiths.

Senate Majority Leader, Republican Bill Cowsert said the proposal strikes the “right balance” and is not a “vehicle for discrimination”.

The Bill will now move to the Georgia House of Representatives before heading to the Governor to be signed into law.

Contravene religious beliefs

Earlier this month, politicians in North Carolina approved legislation allowing officials to decline to carry out duties relating to gay marriage.

Marriage was redefined in the state last October, and by November at least six judges had stepped down from their positions saying that conducting same-sex wedding ceremonies would contravene their religious beliefs.

The North Carolina Senate has now approved a Bill that prevents legal action being taken against listed public officials who refuse to perform marriage ceremonies on the basis of “sincerely held religious objections”.

Conscience clause

The Bill’s co-sponsor, Republican Senator Buck Newton, said: “People should not have to choose between their faith and their jobs.”

In Northern Ireland, DUP MLA Paul Givan is presently reviewing responses to his consultation on introducing a conscience clause in the Province.

He is hoping to amend equality law in order to provide reasonable accommodation for people with deeply-held religious beliefs.

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