Sen. Harbin reports 3 commissioners against church’s car show: Oddo, Gibbons, Rousseau

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[The following is a letter from state Sen. Marty Harbin:]

Dear Members of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners,

I am speaking to you in my capacity as a Georgia State Senator representing the 16th district and also as a dedicated member of the Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia.

The matter I wish to address concerns the fundamental right to assemble, as enshrined in both the Georgia Constitution and the United States Constitution, and its implications for our church’s activities.

As you are aware, Paragraph IX of the Georgia Constitution and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protect the right of individuals to assemble peacefully and express their beliefs freely. These constitutional provisions are not mere words on paper; they are the bedrock of our republic and must be safeguarded at all costs.

It has come to my attention that the Flat Creek Baptist Church, a cherished institution in our community, has encountered obstacles in organizing a car and craft show — an event intended to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and foster community engagement.

The requirement imposed by the county for obtaining a permit for such an event represents a concerning overreach of authority and infringes upon our constitutional rights.

As a State Senator and a member of Flat Creek Baptist Church, I firmly believe that the right to share the Gospel and engage in peaceful assembly is sacrosanct and should not be subject to unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. The car and craft show organized by our church is an expression of our religious freedom and a means of reaching out to our community with messages of faith, hope, and love.

I urge the Fayette County Board of Commissioners to reconsider its stance on requiring permits for events organized by religious institutions such as ours. By doing so, you would not only uphold the principles of religious liberty and freedom of assembly but also demonstrate a commitment to respecting the diverse religious beliefs of our citizens.

In closing, I respectfully request that this issue be dropped, and that the county commissioners stand in support of our constitutional rights as guaranteed by both the Georgia and United States Constitutions.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I trust that you will give it the thoughtful consideration it deserves.

Sincerely,

Senator Marty Harbin

Since we are a government of, by, and for the people, it would be helpful for the County Commissioners to hear from their constituents. After all, they are elected officials representing “we the people.”

There are three commissioners who do not support an exemption for churches. They are Charles Oddo, Edward Gibbons, and Charles Rousseau. Please respectfully express your disappointment to them.

There are two commissioners who do support an exemption for churches. They are Lee Hearn and Eric Maxwell. Please express your gratitude to them.

The commissioners may by contacted by email or phone. If possible, consider attending their next meeting. They meet on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 5:00 p.m. The location is 140 Stonewall Ave. W., Suite 100 in Fayetteville.

Elected commissioners who stand AGAINST a religious examption for churches:

Charles W. Oddo, Vice Chairman, District 5 (At-Large) Term expires: 12/31/2024

140 Stonewall Ave. W., Suite 100

Fayetteville, GA 30214

Cell: 770.843.4034

Office: 770.305.5104

Email: COddo@fayettecountyga.gov

 

Edward Gibbons, District 3 (Peachtree City)

Term expires: 12/31/2026

140 Stonewall Ave. W., Suite 100

Fayetteville, GA 30214

Cell: 678.708.1262

Office: 770.305.5120

Email: EGibbons@fayettecountyga.gov

 

Charles D. Rousseau, District 4

Term expires: 12/31/2026

140 Stonewall Ave. W., Suite 100

Fayetteville, GA 30214

Cell: 470-217-2214

Office: 770-305-5121

Email: CRousseau@fayettecountyga.gov

 

Elected commissioners who FAVOR a church exemption:

Lee Hearn, District 2

Term expires: 12/31/2024

140 Stonewall Ave. W., Suite 100

Fayetteville, GA 30214

Cell: 770.401.0088

Office: 770.305.5122

Email: Lhearn@fayettecountyga.gov

 

Eric Maxwell, District 1

Term expires: 12/31/2024

140 Stonewall Ave. W., Suite 100

Fayetteville, GA 30214

Cell: 678.684.7094

Office: 770.305.5123

Email: Emaxwell@fayettecountyga.gov

7 COMMENTS

  1. I see both sides and think maybe coordinating with the county on this event would at least ensure that county services (police/fire/EMT) would be informed and not surprised if someone called 911.

  2. Large gatherings of people in our community create potential safety concerns, regardless of their sponsor. Our community leaders must know about planned events in advance so they can mitigate associated safety issues. Our commissioners would be remiss in their responsibilities if they allowed events to take place without the advance knowledge permitting provides. It is incumbent upon them to not forsake their responsibility per Senator Harbin’s fallacious request for a religious exemption to event permit requirements.

  3. There is a history to this issue that Sen. Harbin carefully avoided in his letter and that omission renders his appeal disingenuous.

    Rick Ross, an African-American musician, was required to gain a permit for a car show on his property last year. When the church scheduled a car show, some commissioners considered it unfair to give a pass to a predominantly white church after refusing the same to Mr. Ross. Thus, they voted to require the permit to be evenhanded and not discriminate against anyone.

    You may disagree with the commissioners’ reasoning, but by omitting this context, it infers a capricious nefariousness against this church that probably does not exist. I know that Christians love to claim victimization of persecution, but that is a stretch in this case.

  4. I would ask how ‘onerous’ the regulations for a permit would be and do other Georgia counties/cities impose similar regulation on churches or exempt them. Ultimately I guess it could become an issue for Fayette County voters.

  5. There are no justifications for religious body exemptions in a freedom from religion state. Why should there be exemptions or special concessions? I believe churches of all denominations and causes should give onto Ceasar what are Caesar’s and onto the Lord what are His. Churches are as free as you, a State Senator, allows us to be. Freedom of assembly is simply a misrepresentation of your issue for popularity’s sake. Meet Government requirements like everyone else. Surely God is up to it.