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Proposed "License to Discriminate" laws
to give businesses freedom to discriminate

Part 11:
2014-MAR/APR: Details about SB 2681, the
Mississippi religious freedom bill:
Reactions.

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The acronym LGBT refers to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender community

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Details of the bill, as signed into law:

The bill was sponsored by 19 state Senators. 1

The bill's summary states:

"An Act To Enact The Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act; To Provide That State Action Shall Not Substantially Burden A Person's Right To The Exercise Of Religion; To Prescribe The Contents Of The Great Seal Of The State Of Mississippi; To Provide That State Agencies Shall Continue To Use Stationery And Other Supplies Having The Great Seal As It Existed As Of July 1, 2014, Until Supplies Of Such Items Are Depleted; And For Related Purposes." 1

Some of the sections in the text of the bill:

  • Section 1.1: This act shall be known and may be cited as the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

  • Section 1.2c: Government should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.

  • Section 1.3: The purposes of this section are as follows:

    (a)  To restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner,374 U.S. 398 (1963), and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and

        (b)  To provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.

  • Section 1.5b: Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

              (i)  Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

              (ii)  Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

  • Section 1.8: Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.

  • Section 5: This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2014. 2

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Reactions to the passage of the bill by conservative and liberal groups:

  • Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, travelled to Mississippi to be present at the bill's signing. He released a statement saying:

    "I was honored to attend today's signing of Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act and have the opportunity to personally thank Governor Bryant, and the legislators who have stood up to protect religious liberty as 18 other states have already done. This law prevents the government from discriminating against religion.

    Unfortunately, too often in today's political world, courage is in short supply. Those who understand the importance and cherish the historic understanding of religious freedom are grateful for leaders who respond to fact and not fictitious claims of those who are trying to quarantine faith within the walls of our churches or homes. Some things are worth standing and contending for, and at the top of that list is our First Freedom, the freedom of religion.

    We applaud Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn, Senator Phillip Gandy, and Rep. Andy Gipson for their leadership in defending religious freedom and for refusing to cower to egregious misrepresentations of a fair and reasonable religious liberty measure." 3

    He also said in his daily e-blast:

    "This is a victory for the First Amendment and the right to live and work according to one's conscience. This commonsense measure was a no-brainer for freedom, and like the federal [Religious Freedom Restoration Act], it simply bars government discrimination against religious exercise. The legislature gave strong approval to a bill that declares that individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce."

    "I commend Mississippi legislators for reading the bill and consulting the facts and not yielding to the wild distortions of the frenzied opposition of anti-religious liberty activists who caused other elected officials to retreat in recent weeks." 4

  • Comment by "Think Progress:"

    As their name implies, this is a progressive group that promotes LGBT equality. Zack Ford, writing for the group, said that Mississippi:

    "... state law already defines a “person” to include “all public and private corporations.” Thus, if [Governor] Bryant were to sign Mississippi’s bill into law, it would grant all businesses in the state a license to discriminate based on religious grounds.

  • Mississippi does not currently have any state or local nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community, but a business could use this legislation to justify discrimination against anybody not protected by federal law. Public accommodations that are supposed to provide equal access to all citizens could attempt to refuse service to divorcees, people who’ve had children outside of wedlock, or anyone else who might give rise to a religious objection. And if any town or city in Mississippi voted to extend protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, businesses could claim that those protections violate their religious beliefs and insist on discriminating against LGBT people." 5

    Steve Bettwy posted his personal comment to the above article. He wrote:

    "Wait till the first Mississippi Muslim refuses to serve an unaccompanied single woman due to his sincerely held religious beliefs." 5

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    This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Mississippi Senate Bill 2581," LegiScan, 2014-APR-03, at: http://legiscan.com/
  2. "Senate Bill 2681," Text, Mississippi Legislature, 2014-APR, at: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/
  3. "FRC's Tony Perkins Attends Signing of Mississippi's Religious Freedom Bill, Praises Governor's Leadership," Family Research Council, 2014-APR-03, at: http://www.frc.org/
  4. Zack Ford, "Mississippi Scraps Discriminatory ‘Religious Freedom’ Provisions Following Backlash In Arizona," Think Progress, 2014-FEB-27, at: http://thinkprogress.org/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally posted: 2014-MAR-07
Latest update: 2014-APR-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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