Pike County Times
The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. Click here to donate through PayPal. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor@pikecountytimes.com
Welcome to the Pike County Times.com Letters to the Editor Page.

These editorials reflect the opinions of their authors and don't necessarily reflect my personal opinions. Feel free to express your opinion with a letter to the editor to: editor@pikecountytimes.com.

Letter writing guidelines are as follows: I do not have a word limit. However, all editorials must be respectful even when hard points are made about any topic including local, state, or national politics.

If I have a problem with an editorial, I will let you know by email and it can either be resolved or not printed because I will proof your letter for grammatical errors, but I do not edit letters based on content. And last but not least, your editorial must be accompanied by your name and a county or city of residence.

Thought for the Week

"Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there's a tomorrow. Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there's only today. And the truth is, you never really know.” ― Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall
Harbin Explains Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 221 - RFRA)


Dear Editor,

Last week I introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 221) in the State Senate with nine of my colleagues as cosigners, seven of them Committee Chairmen.

This legislation exactly mirrors the 1993 Act by the same name that was introduced by Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

My legislation, enacting the same provisions as the ‘93 RFRA has two simple clauses that the state of Georgia would be required to abide by:

• Government may not substantially burden an individual’s Religious Freedom unless it has a compelling government interest (public safety, etc.) in doing so.

• If the Government has a compelling interest that requires it to substantially burden an individual’s Religious Freedom, it must do so in the least invasive way possible.

There are no hidden clauses, and the legislation itself is a mere 3 pages long. However, some loud voices have attempted to twist this legislation into something it is not. There have also been many questions about why this legislation is needed.

The simple fact is that in a series of Supreme Court cases it has been ruled that the government may interfere in a person’s religion if the interference is collateral damage of a broad government act and not aimed at that specific person. For instance, if Muslims were not specifically mentioned, traditional female dress for Orthodox Muslim women could be banned in a municipality if the excuse was made that the municipality was banning all face coverings.

After the ‘93 RFRA was passed by the US Congress to address this issue, the Court ruled again in 1997 that Federal RFRA only applied to the Federal Government, and that each state would have to rectify the situation on their own by enacting a State RFRA. So far 31 states from Florida to Texas to Illinois have done so.

One of the most notable examples of RFRA in action comes from our neighbors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In 2014, then 90-year-old veteran Arnold Abbot, sued the city over an ordinance related to his ministry. Mr. Abbot’s organization, Love Thy Neighbor, was created in the 90’s to help feed homeless men and women around Fort Lauderdale. The city passed a new ordinance to prevent people from feeding the homeless outside, seriously handcuffing Mr. Abbot’s ministry.

Because of Florida’s state Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Love Thy Neighbor won their lawsuit and the homeless men and women in Fort Lauderdale were able to receive the meals they desperately needed.

There has been some concern among those unfamiliar with the legislation that it might be used to discriminate, especially against the LGTBQIA community. I want to state categorically that I oppose discrimination of any sort. I would never support legislation that would do so. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not allow discrimination. In the 25 years since its passage, there has never been a single case of the Federal RFRA ever being used to discriminate against anyone.

On March 7 of 2018, in a landmark case, EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, the 6th Circuit ruled that nothing in 1993 RFRA allows or even attempts to allow discrimination. The language isn’t there. No one, the 6th Circuit wrote, can use RFRA as an excuse for discrimination, because RFRA protects no such thing.

Rather, this legislation would protect Georgians of every faith from having the government oppress their First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion. Rather than allowing one person to discriminate against another, this legislation stops the government from being able to discriminate against a person due to their religion.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an anti-discrimination bill.

Before we have a case like that of Mr. Abbott right here in Georgia, we need to act. Everyone deserves religious tolerance. And this legislation would ensure that the state of Georgia makes the American promise of freedom of religion open to all. This legislation is good for Georgia.

Senator Marty Harbin, District 16

Click here to read this legislation.

Graves Statement On Conference Committee And Democrat Opening Offer


Dear Editor,

“One week ago today, we reached a deal to open the government and begin border security negotiations. I was optimistic about our ability to strike a deal and restore confidence in the legislative process.

“In one week’s time, the committee has met once for routine opening remarks. In that meeting, all parties expressed an intent to engage with open minds and in good faith. However, it came to light afterward that Democrats had already written a bill with zero funding for the wall. A bill summary was finally released yesterday, but the 70+ pages of legislative text are still being kept secret from the public.

“We are two weeks away from the next government shutdown. The House adjourned until Tuesday. There are no meetings scheduled. Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi drew a hard line on wall funding, effectively ending negotiations. Democrats have fallen in line and reduced their wall funding position from $1.6 billion to zero. Is that negotiating in good faith?

“The country was led to believe this would be a real negotiation. It’s not too late to turn this around and get back on track. I urge Democrats to put forward a legitimate offer that includes wall funding. President Trump and Republicans put forward offers that attempted to meet in the middle. It’s time for Democrats to negotiate in good faith.”

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14)
Member of the bipartisan Conference Committee to secure the border

Rural Georgia Poised for Postive Change Churing 2019 Legislative Session


Dear Editor,

Aside from my parents, the single greatest influence on who I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish is this: I am from rural Georgia.

I realize that I am fortunate to have been brought up where and how I was brought up, and my roots are still firmly planted in the red dirt of Terrell County, just as they have been for the past six decades. That is why I consider it a tremendous honor and responsibility to lead the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, or as our team calls it, Georgia’s Rural Center. It is also the reason why I am reaching out to all rural Georgians to join the Center, rural legislators and me in making this a historic year for rural people and the places they call home.

Hard work by Speaker Ralston, the Rural Development Council, the Georgia House of Representatives, the Georgia Senate and Governor Deal led to passage of HB951 during the last session. In addition to re-creating the Rural Development Council, the bill established Georgia’s Rural Center and tasked it with facilitating innovation and economic development in rural Georgia. The Center exists to reconnect rural and urban Georgia and reinvigorate once-vibrant places by re-creating proven, innovative business models and investing our state’s most valuable resource—human capital—where it’s needed most.

As the 2019 legislative session begins this week in Atlanta, Governor Kemp and rural legislators have pledged to work on behalf of rural Georgians. The staff of Georgia’s Rural Center and I are ready to tackle the challenges that face the people of Georgia’s small towns and rural communities. I urge you to join our team.

If you’ve spent a lifetime in rural Georgia like me, you have undoubtedly noticed how the place you call home has changed over the past few decades. While I hope all Georgians share my pride in and appreciation of the economic upsurge our urban areas have enjoyed during this time, we are wise to recognize the geographical extent of that success. Outside the state’s largest cities, the scene is a stark contrast.

Georgia's rural areas are faced with challenges distinct from other regions of this state: population loss, inadequate access to health care, disintegrating infrastructure, diminished opportunity for quality education, scarcity of employment opportunities, overall absence of economic growth, and sometimes, lack of cultural amenities.

Rural Center staff participated in all of the House Rural Development Council listening sessions across the state. We joined other rural leaders in sharing—not just about the challenges we see facing rural Georgia, but also potential solutions to those challenges.

As a result of these gatherings, the HRDC drafted a set of recommendations that will guide their efforts during the 2019 legislative session. Released in mid-December, the recommendations focus primarily on economic development, rural infrastructure and health care needs and reflect some of the most pressing obstacles to rural prosperity and innovation.

We anticipate that elected officials will work swiftly and precisely on the recommendations. Never in my recollection has there been such widely held support for rural people and places as there is in Georgia’s Capitol right now—from both political parties and a broad range of public officials. The time to make specific, meaningful and positive change for rural Georgia is now.

I encourage you to play your part by reading the HRDC’s legislative recommendations on our blog at www.ruralga.org/blog and keeping up with what is happening throughout the session on our Facebook page and blog. I urge you to contact your state representatives, Lt. Gov. Duncan and Gov. Kemp and share with them your thoughts on rural issues and the efforts being made by our elected officials.

As a proud product of rural Georgia, I am certain that with the right approach, we will not only rediscover the power and potential of the state’s less populated areas, but also redefine what it means to be rural in this state. It is time to reinvest in small towns and rural communities, and there’s no better opportunity than while lawmakers are in Atlanta over the next few months. I hope you will join us in this vital work today.

David Bridges Interim Director
Georgia’s Rural Center President
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

Join the Pine Mountain Trail Association


Dear Editor,

On Saturday night the PMTA had its annual pigout. It was only lightly attended, and I decided I'd start up a little one-man ( and all his friends) social media campaign to nudge up our membership. I have been a member since it started back in 1976; Ruth and I are very proud of it and our children always enjoyed hiking on it.

As most of you know, the Pine Mountain Trail is one of Middle Georgia's greatest assets. If you haven't been out on it lately, you should give it a try. It's great and provides a way for "flatland" scout troops and hikers form here and points south to get that Appalachian Trail experience without having to drive for hours to get up farther north.

Please consider joining, and, of course, forward this to any and all of your friends you think might enjoy and appreciate it. And post on Facebook.

Pine Mountain Trail Association - GA. "Service is the rent we pay for our space on Earth" www.pinemountaintrail.org/

Walker Chandler
Peachtree City

Local Ministry Has a Need and It Is You


Dear Editor, [Note from the Editor: I have chosen to leave this letter online for a while more.]

The Pike Outreach Transportation Ministry needs drivers. No CDL is required. No medical degree necessary.

If you can drive one day a week or one day every two weeks you will do. Most important is faithfulness because a dialysis patient can't wait. The van has a chair lift and instruction will be provided. The head of the program passed this need on and I am passing it on to you. Dedicated drivers are needed. Jesus will have your paycheck when you get home.

For more information, call Ann at 678-642-9800 and leave message with your name and phone number.

Steve Hicks