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God is alive and (in the) well at the General Assembly

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So far this legislative session, the members of the state General Assembly have spent much of their time doing God's work -- literally.

Among the election-year revelations that have received "yea" votes: a House bill to prohibit schools from forbidding teachers and students from wishing each other "Merry Christmas"; a House measure to allow county courthouses to display the Ten Commandments; and a Senate bill to permit public schools to teach the Bible as literature.

Waiting in the wings is legislation to authorize state-issued "In God We Trust" license plates and an ill-timed resolution by a few Senate Democrats to name a section of Flat Shoals Parkway for Earl Paulk, the Decatur "archbishop" accused of adultery.

Because of constitutional concerns, the "Merry Christmas" bill relied on wording that critics say is vague. Rep. Tom Bordeaux, D-Savannah, fretted that the bill could bar schools from telling students they can't wear shirts emblazoned with the "N-word."

That news rattled devout Decatur Democrat Randal Mangham: "I love Christmas, but I don't want to vote for a Trojan horse," he said.

Only two Republicans voted against the GOP-backed bill. "It's poorly worded and unnecessary," explained Rep. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, who a day later became the lone GOP naysayer for a bill to allow counties to display the Ten Commandments, so long as it's posted in the company of other historical documents, such as the Mayflower Compact.

But co-sponsor Terry England, R-Auburn, made it clear his focus wasn't so much on that Mayflower thingie.

"Our very laws are based on precepts outlined in the Ten Commandments," said England, whose bill shifts the cost of defending the inevitable lawsuits from individual counties to the state.

Finally, senators agreed a measure to allow public schools to teach elective courses on the Bible, such as "the parables of Jesus," in a "nondevotional manner."

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