Controversial billboard targets religious freedom bill

ATLANTA -- A controversial "billboard on wheels" is going up at the Gold Dome on Wednesday. Some people say what's on it is outrageous. Those behind the ad feel the message expresses their outrage over the religious freedom bill.

Bryan Long, executive director of Better Georgia, says the rolling billboard will loop the State Capitol for eight hours on Wednesday. His organization is behind the advertisement.

It's the same ad that ran in newspapers across the state on Tuesday, citing House Bill 29 as a potential legal loophole to protect criminals acting in the name of religion. The ad reads, "Don't give abusers one more chance."

"Georgians would be able to use religion as an excuse to opt out of some laws including child abuse, domestic violence and discrimination laws," Long said.

"I am infuriated by those claims. They are so false," said Virginia Galloway of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which supports the bill. "It's intended to protect people of faith, and to guard their rights when the government interferes with their rights."


Rep. Sam Teasley of Marietta backs the bill and is mentioned on the billboard. He calls the ad "disgusting and abhorrent…. totally devoid of truth."

"It is unimaginable that a person could mount a successful defense in a court of law using religion as their justification for domestic violence," he said.

Teasley explained that the language of the bill, which he says has been in federal code for over 20 years and is the law in over 30 states, would require government to demonstrate that there is a compelling state interest if it is going to burden a person's free exercise of religion.

"How is that controversial? And, considering their claim, it is obvious to everyone objectively considering the issue that there is a compelling government interest in punishing those who perpetrate violence on others," Teasley said.

Long argues that with federal protection already long in place, the state law is unnecessary,.

"Religious freedom is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans. It's already protected by the U.S. constitution," he said.

The billboard will loop around the Gold Dome on the same day a group of Baptist ministers is scheduled to show opposition to the proposed bill.

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