Commentary: Your urgent action is needed as the legislative session closes


Georgia Baptists have been monitoring up to 54 bills since this legislative cycle began in 2023. Now that we have made it past crossover day (the 28th day of the session) we are focusing on at least 19 bills. Our primary focus has been pro-life, religious liberty, gambling, child protection and alcohol bills.

As it comes down to the final two days of the legislative session, we are focused the most on supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and opposing sports betting legislation.

At the time of writing this article, the RFRA has been approved by the Senate but has not had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee in order to make to the floor for a vote. Here is a list of those members.

This bill is VERY important because it provides people of faith the same protections from state and local government actions that they now have from federal government actions.

Here is a short video of the RFRA portion of a presentation at the 2024 Georgia Baptist Pastors Day by Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. You see, RFRA restores the original intent of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

We must stand up for religious freedom in our country, if for no other reasons than missions and evangelism. RFRA restores the original intent of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This original intent is an encouragement for churches to press on for evangelism and missions. Our stand for religious freedom is a part of our responsibility as American citizens to keep promoting the Gospel in the public square!

Please continue praying intentionally and contacting your state House member now to urge him or her to voice their support for RFRA to their colleagues and to vote for it if it comes to the floor of the House for a vote.

Also, at the time of writing this article, sports betting is in the process of making its way to the House floor for a vote by the 40th day. Both the enabling legislation and the constitutional amendment (requiring a vote by the citizens) are presently in the House Higher Education Committee and are expected to be voted on in the committee on Wednesday afternoon, March 27.

If these bills are approved, they will be available to go to the floor of the House for a vote. The constitutional amendment will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass both chambers and to be put on the ballot in November. 

Now is the time to let your State House Representative know that you want them to vote no on both of these bills if they make it to the floor! See the last Public Affairs Facebook video (3/12/2024).

There is no good reason for allowing the expansion of government-supported gambling to be put to a vote.

As Rep. Todd Jones said two years ago in a press conference, it is intellectually dishonest to talk about the benefits of gambling without talking about the detriments. Notably, Rep. Jones was the co-author of the mental health legislation that was passed in 2022.

Sports betting is some of the most dangerous and addictive gambling in our nation today. If Georgia allows this to become legalized in our state, we can expect an exponential increase in gambling addiction.

Data has shown that 1/3 of gambling addicts will possibly attempt suicide. Research has also shown that 10 to 15% of those people who attempt suicide are successful. We also have information that has shown that if Georgia were to expand gambling such as casino gambling or sports betting we could see as much as a 110% increase in gambling addiction.

There’s no doubt that this kind of legislation has many more negatives than positives. Across the United States, especially in Tennessee and Kentucky, there have been spikes in phone calls to addiction help lines.

While I know that we have sports betting already taking place in our state illegally, legalizing this form of gambling is like putting gasoline on a fire rather than water. It’s just going to make it worse! The facts of the negative impact gambling has on our society prove that it is not a risk that is worth taking!

Again, please continue praying intentionally and contacting your state House member now to urge him or her to voice their opposition to sports betting.

Please realize that Georgia Baptist represents the largest faith organization in our state. If we engage the legislature with our convictions, we can make the biggest difference for the cause of Christian public policy.

Now is the time, the finish line is coming!


Mike Griffin is the Public Affairs Representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.