Having Killed RFRA, Georgia Republicans Are Now Launching a Direct Assault on Churches

First Georgia Republicans cut a deal with Democrats. They would kill Georgia’s RFRA legislation in exchange for Democrats supporting roughly a billion dollar tax increase.

Not content to deprive Christians of religious protection, Georgia Republicans have decided to go after churches and other non-profits directly. They’re going to do it via “definitions” in a new piece of legislation.

It is extremely common in churches around the country to educate voters on candidates. Black churches are more direct in their approach, but many churches have voter guides letting voters know candidates’ stances on abortion and how constitutional amendments might affect churches.

Likewise, secular and sectarian non-profits educate voters.

Georgia Republicans have decided that any attempt to educate voters about candidates and ballot initiatives will be subject to possibly unconstitutional regulation.

Georgia’s House of Representatives is set to vote on S.B. 127 today.

According to the legislation, any organization that engages in “election targeted issue advocacy” within 180 days of an election is subject to regulation by the state. What is “election targeted issue advocacy”? If any person or group writes about a candidate, uses the image of an elected official or candidate, or discusses a ballot initiative, the person or group doing that can be regulated.

Voter education, in other words, is going to be regulated by the State of Georgia. But there is also another wrinkle in this.

Outside groups that do engage in elections will be forced into a regime of restrictions on contributions and expenditures. The very same legislation restricting voter education will, by its own language “not include contributions or expenditures made by a political party or party caucus of the House of Representatives or the Senate in support of a party ticket or a group of named candidates.”

In other words, the legislation will restrict voter education efforts and free up incumbent protection schemes. It will come at the expense of not just campaign groups, but churches and non-profits seeking to educate their members on ballot measures and candidates.