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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 4:03pm

Clergy Speak Out On 'Religious Freedom' Bill Proposed In Ga.

Baptist clergy members in Georgia are picking sides over a bill that supporters say protects religious freedom.

In dueling press conferences held Wednesday, both sides spelled out their positions.

Reverend Timothy McDonald of First Iconium Baptist Church explained why he does not support the bill.

“HB 29 is not about religious freedom," he said. "It is about the right to discriminate against gays, against women, against children, against African-Americans. I don’t want that done in my name.”

J. Robert White, Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, pointed out that the proposed legislation is being misinterpreted by other groups.

"Those who claim that this bill will be used to discriminate against social groups in our culture are fear mongering and have not one single shred of evidence to back their claims," said White.

The bill's sponsor Rep. Sam Teasley is a Republican from Marietta. Teasley told reporters that he would not tweak the bill's language to specifically prevent corporations from using it. He says the bill mirrors a federal version.

Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon plans a similar bill. He says other lawmakers can propose specific anti-discrimination bills if they choose.

It's not clear how much support the bill has with General Assembly leaders. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has said he's not sure the bill is necessary.