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Georgia's 'heartbeat' bill debate moves Free Chapel into action with Life is Beautiful event
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The Rev. Jentezen Franklin, Free Chapel senior pastor. - photo by Erin Smith

Georgia’s abortion debate and its “heartbeat” bill are pushing Free Chapel to create a faith-based network against the practice in the state.

The new effort starts with a Life is Beautiful meeting at the mega-church’s home campus on McEver Road in Gainesville.

“It's kind of a response to a lot of the abortion stuff going on,” said Rich Rogers, director of strategic outreach at the church. “It's about protecting the life of the unborn.”

Life is Beautiful is set for 10 a.m. April 13. Music will be led by The Katinas, a Christian group, and the Free Chapel band. The Rev. Jentezen Franklin will speak before Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor, shares her story. The event will culminate with a butterfly release outside as a gesture of support for unborn children and their mothers.

“The idea isn't to just have an event, but to create a movement,” Rogers said.

The event started as a smaller gathering organized by the women’s ministry at the church, headed up by Franklin’s wife, Cherise. As decisions around the country were being made about abortion, the church realized the issue needed something bigger.

Rogers said the timing was perfect, as April is abortion recovery awareness month, so they began inviting churches — more than 500 — from across the state to join in the event.

“It's not a Free Chapel church event, it's a community event,” Rogers said. “It's not about people that come to Free Chapel, it's for the community and those that want to support the lives of the unborn and extend compassion to those women who have had an abortion.”

Life is Beautiful

What: Event in response to the abortion debate and decisions being made across the U.S.

When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 13

Where: Free Chapel, 3001 McEver Road, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: Online

Although the church reached out to politicians across the state — Republican and Democrat — Rogers said the organizers don’t see abortion as a political issue but as a humanitarian and biblical issue that shouldn’t divide the nation along political lines.

“It's one of those things where we have no intention to offend, but we're not backing down one inch from protecting and defending and standing up for the defenseless,” Rogers said. “If the church can't take a stand on that, where can we take a stand?”

Franklin hopes the event attracts churches and people from beyond Georgia. He’s asking leaders from across the United States to join him April 13, whether in person at the church or through the live-stream video feed, to support women who have had abortions while fighting against legislation expanding the pratice in other states.

“There’s a disturbing trend happening across the country where unborn children are increasingly treated like a burden to bear,” Franklin said in a press release. “Many of the nation’s so-called family-planning clinics have become, almost exclusively, storefront abortion providers, which provide no serious alternative to those who come to their clinics and especially for those who aren’t sure abortion is the right choice for them to begin with.

“Ending the life of the unborn has become too easy, too quick and all the way to the point of birth in the United States.”

Georgia legislators recently passed the “heartbeat” bill, which would prohibit abortion once a heartbeat is detected by a doctor. That typically happens around the six-week mark in a woman’s pregnancy. Right now, women in Georgia can get an abortion until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“We believe that people are entitled to their own opinion, their own vote and their own way of looking at things,” Rogers said. “We're not telling you who to vote for, we're not doing anything political like that at all.”

The Life is Beautiful event will focus on encouraging people to join the churches in the area to help offer alternative resources for women seeking abortion. Rogers said Free Chapel has a counseling center that can help, and it’s working closely with pregnancy centers in the area.

“We're not trying to offend anyone, but we're not backing down on our belief,” Rogers said. “We're there to defend the life of a helpless human being.”