Religious Freedom Wins in Mississippi

News: Government
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  April 6, 2016   

Governor signs far-reaching religious liberty bill into law

You are not signed in as a Premium user; you are viewing the free version of this program. Premium users have access to full-length programs with limited commercials and receive a 10% discount in the store! Sign up for only one day for the low cost of $1.99. Click the button below.

JACKSON, Miss. ( - Mississippi now has the most comprehensive religious freedom bill in the United States.

At the state capital yesterday Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523 (HB 1523), called the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.

It outlines three beliefs or moral convictions that people might hold — not that they should or must hold them. Namely, that "Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman," that "Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage," and "... Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth."

It declares the state can't take any "discriminatory action" against a person or religious organization refusing to solemnize or acknowledge any marriage that violates their solemnly held belief, or refusing to provide "services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage." The law specifically mentions florists, cake-makers, photographers, disk-jockeys, and others who may refuse their services to same-sex couples.

Religious organizations are assured they are able to hire, terminate, or discipline an employee according to its beliefs without interference by the state. reported a story in Massachusetts where a man was fired from his job at Catholic school because had a same-sex civil marriage. A similar thing happened in the Archdiocese of Chicago where music directors from different parishes were fired because they married their same-sex partners.

It allows business owners and organizations to make sex-specific standards regarding employee dress, grooming, access to restrooms, and locker rooms based on a person’s anatomy and genetics at the time of their birth.

Critics are bashing the legislation, calling it discrimination. A spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center responded, "This newly enacted law – like the Draconian anti-LGBT laws in other states – uses the guise of 'religious freedom' to justify discrimination, mistreatment and bigotry. It's the same sort of rationale used by white supremacists in earlier eras to justify slavery and Jim Crow."

New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has banned all official travel to Mississippi, expressing HB 1523 as "sad" and "hateful." He maintains he won't set foot in the state until the law is repealed. Cuomo did the same thing last week when North Carolina passed a law mandating people can only use public restrooms corresponding to their gender at birth. Officials in Vermont have also banned all official travel to Mississippi.

Governor Bryant defended the bill, saying it prevents "government from interfering with people of faith who are exercising their religious beliefs in matters of marriage."

In a press release Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson declared, "The Diocese of Jackson supported and would continue to support a religious exemption on behalf of the mission of the Catholic church with regard to education and social services. We would like to continue to provide these services while remaining faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The diocese had no involvement in the other portions of the bill that addressed business and government operations. The church will continue to work to protect its First Amendment right to worship, to educate and to serve in the public domain while respecting the dignity of all citizens."

The law is expected to take effect on July 1, 2016.


Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.

We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines

Loading Comments