UPDATE: Lawmaker to Withdraw Proposed ‘Burqa Bill’
Update 11/17/16 3:57pm: Rep. Jason Spencer announced that he will withdraw House Bill 3, after facing backlash.
— Claire Simms (@Claire_FOX5) November 17, 2016
A newly proposed bill in the Georgia state legislature aims to prohibit anyone from wearing a face covering, including Muslim garments like burqas. While it doesn’t specify burqas or any other religious clothing — or any religion in general — it would effectively ban people from wearing any religious face covering in public or while driving.
The bill, House Bill 3, would make it a misdemeanor crime to wear any “mask, hood, or device” that hides the face and conceals the wearer’s identity, “upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner[.]” The bill says that “upon any public way or public property” also includes driving on “any public street, road, or highway.” So basically, no one would be able to cover their face for any reason, including religious ones, in any public area, and it would still be a crime to wear one in a private place, like a friend’s home, unless they gave written permission.
Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams spoke out against the bill, blaming it on President-elect Donald Trump‘s campaign messages. She said, “This offensive and bigoted legislation is a direct result of the rhetoric we heard during Donald Trump’s Islamophobic Presidential campaign.”
Rep. Jason Spencer, who introduced the bill, told Fox5 Atlanta that it is not his intention to prevent Muslim women from covering their faces as they walk down the street, but says that covering their face while driving is a distraction. Of course, that doesn’t explain the non-driving portions of the bill.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, attorney and executive director of Georgia’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, said “When you go to get a driver’s license, you already have to show your face. Muslim women already do that no problem, that makes the law unnecessary,” he said.
Spencer also said the bill is a response to terrorism, which seems like a very different explanation than driving being a distraction. He did, however, tell a local radio reporter that he would be willing to discuss the bill and that there may be room to negotiate its terms.