Did Georgia Become the First State to Ban Muslim Culture?

Georgia state representative Jason Spencer withdrew a bill banning head and face coverings two days after he filed it.

  • Published 7 November 2016

Claim

Georgia recently became the first U.S. state to "ban Muslim culture."
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Rating

What's True

Back in November 2016, a Georgia state representative filed a bill that would have made it a misdemeanor to wear hoods or masks in public, with no religious exemption.

What's False

The bill was withdrawn two days after it was filed, and the state has taken no other action to "ban Muslim culture."

Origin

In March 2017, the web site usanewspost.us published an article misleadingly headlined “GEORGIA BECOMES FIRST STATE TO BAN MUSLIM CULTURE IN HISTORIC MOVE TO RESTORE WESTERN VALUES!!!” The headline was both factually inaccurate, solely referencing an outdated, four-month old news item.

Back on 15 November 2016, Georgia lawmaker Jason Spencer introduced a short-lived piece of legislation that would outlaw wearing hoods or head coverings in public, a bill critics said was intended to target Muslim women who wear head coverings (known as hijabs) or full-face coverings (called niqabs).

The text of House Bill 3 would have made the wearing of head coverings in public and while operating a vehicle a misdemeanor crime:

A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he or she wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so. For purposes of this subsection, the phrase ‘upon any public way or property’ includes but is not limited to operating a motor vehicle upon any public street, road, or highway.

We were unable immediately reach Spencer, but he told WSB-TV Atlanta reporter Aaron Diamant that the law was meant to target Muslims:

This bill is simply a response to constituents that do have concerns of the rise of Islamic terrorism, and we in the State of Georgia do not want our laws used against us.

But Spencer pulled the bill the shortly after he filed it, outlining his reasons for doing so in a statement that said:

While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created. My objective was to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety. However, further consideration dictates that other solutions will need to be considered. In conclusion, anti-masking statutes have been upheld as constitutional (State v Miller, 1990), and HB 3 would withstand legal scrutiny, but not political scrutiny.

The case Spencer cited, State v. Miller, upheld the Anti-Mask Act. The law was meant to prevent members of the Ku Klux Klan from intimidating or committing crimes against minority groups with impunity by making it illegal for them to wear Klan garb and terrorize people.

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