The Supreme Court is refusing to hear challenges to a Mississippi law that allows businesses and government employees to deny services to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.

Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523) allows state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

The law allows discrimination against same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

The law promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.

In fact, in Mississippi, women can now be fired for wearing pants, or having premarital sex, under the sweeping new “religious freedom” law designed to allow discrimination against LGBT people.

Reporting on the Supreme Court’s decision, The Hill notes:

LGBT rights groups called the law the “worst in the nation” and the Supreme Court’s decision a “missed opportunity.”

In a statement, Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said:

The Court’s inaction today means that LGBTQ Mississippians will continue to face harassment and discrimination.

HB 1523 fails to honor the tradition of religious freedom in America — instead, it allows people to use religion as a license to discriminate. The LGBTQ community remains in harm’s way every single day that this law is in effect, and we are committed to working with our legal partners to strike this draconian measure once and for all.

NBC reports that the battle against the draconian law may not be over, noting:

A new round of challenges is expected from residents who have been denied service, and the issue could come back to the Supreme Court’s doorstep.

Gay rights groups promised to continue their efforts against the deplorable legislation. Promising to keep fighting for justice, Beth Littrell of Lambda Legal declared:

We will keep fighting in Mississippi until we overturn this harmful law, and in any state where anti-gay legislators pass laws to roll back LGBT civil rights. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision today leaves LGBT people in Mississippi in the crosshairs of hate and humiliation, delaying justice and equality.

Ultimately, the legislation is expressly designed to make it possible for Christian extremists in Mississippi to demean and disadvantage members of the LGBT population and others they do not like under the guise of religious freedom.

Bottom line: the legislation is yet another example of the mean-spirited, anti-gay hatred and bigotry so often expressed by conservative Christians, and serves only to demonstrate once again the moral and intellectual poverty of Christian conservatives in Mississippi, and across the country.

Supreme Court Allows Draconian ‘Religious Freedom’ Law To Stand (Image via Pixabay)
Supreme Court Allows Draconian ‘Religious Freedom’ Law To Stand (Image via Pixabay)

In Mississippi, a draconian “religious freedom” bill is signed into law.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has signed a sweeping “religious freedom” bill into law that promotes discrimination against same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

The law promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.

The “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (House Bill 1523) will allow state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

Under the new law, women could be fired for wearing pants, or having premarital sex.

Ben Needham, director of southern LGBT advocacy group Project One America, described the legislation as “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date” to be considered in the United States.

The legislation is expressly designed to make it possible for Christian extremists to demean and disadvantage members of the LGBT population under the guise of religious freedom. The legislation is yet another example of the anti-gay hatred and bigotry so often expressed by conservative Christians.

In a pathetic attempt to justify the draconian new law, Governor Bryant issued the following statement via Twitter:

I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning. This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This bill doe snot limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws. It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances.The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived.

Governor Bryant is dishonest. The legislation has nothing to do with religious freedom, and nothing to do with protecting the religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals. It is instead a law that endorses bigotry and hatred in the name of Christianity, and gives conservative Christians permission to harass and discriminate against those they hate.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the new Mississippi law, which it said is set to take effect in July. Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said:

This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi and for the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are.

Many legal observers expect that the anti-gay “religious freedom” bill signed into law and legalizing discrimination against the LGBT community and others will be struck down by the courts.

Ultimately the legislation is but another mean spirited gesture that serves only to demonstrate the moral and intellectual poverty of Christian conservatives in Mississippi.

Bottom line: This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi, and a sad day for the United States.

(Image via Pixabay)
(Image via Pixabay)

License to hate: In Mississippi, women could be fired for wearing pants, or having premarital sex, if a sweeping “religious freedom” bill designed to allow discrimination against LGBT people is signed into law.

The Mississippi Senate voted 31-17 on Wednesday night to pass a religious freedom bill that critics call the worst and most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the United States.

The “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” House Bill 1523 would allow state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

HB 1523 protects individuals, religious organizations, and businesses who choose to discriminate based on their sincerely held religious objections to same-sex marriage. It would also protect those who object to transgender people. The bill says that those who decide to discriminate and harass individuals would not face government retribution or legal consequences if they were acting based on “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

The bill would protect individuals, religious organizations, and certain businesses who refused to provide services, goods, wedding products, medical treatment, housing, or employment to LGBT people based on their “sincerely held” religious objections to same-sex marriage or transgender people. The bill even covers those who provide marriage licenses counseling services, foster care, and adoption services – even those who are government funded.

Ben Needham, director of southern LGBT advocacy group Project One America described the legislation as “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date” to be considered in the United States.

The legislation is expressly designed to make it possible for Christian extremists to demean and disadvantage members of the LGBT population under the guise of religious freedom. The legislation is yet another example of the anti-gay hatred and bigotry so often expressed by conservative Christians.

Governor Phil Bryant hasn’t confirmed if he will sign the anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bill into law, but in the past he did suggest that he supported the legislation.

Many legal observers expect that if signed into law, the anti-gay “religious freedom” bill legalizing discrimination against the LGBT community and others will be struck down by the courts.

Ultimately the legislation is but another expensive exercise in futility, a mean spirited gesture that serves only to demonstrate the irrational and ugly anti-LGBT bigotry of Christian conservatives in Mississippi.

(Image via Pixabay)
(Image via Pixabay)

Mississippi law allows discrimination against same-sex couples and others.

Mississippi’s Republican governor is fighting to preserve a state law allowing merchants and government employees to deny services to same-sex couples and others based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

Governor Phil Bryant is asking a federal appeals court to uphold a state law letting merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.

CBS reports U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves previously blocked the “religious objections” or “religious freedom” law, ruling that it unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In blocking the law last July, Judge Reeves wrote that the law was unconstitutional because “the state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” and declared it “was the state’s attempt to put LGBT citizens back in their place” after the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling.

As a result of that ruling, Governor Bryant is now taking the unusual move of using private attorneys to appeal, because the state’s Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood declined to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Earlier this year Bryant signed the sweeping “religious freedom” bill into law. The draconian law allows sincerely held religious beliefs to be used as a justification for discrimination against same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

The law, championed and signed by Bryant, sought to protect three beliefs: Marriage is only between a man and a woman; sex should only take place in such a marriage; and a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

The law promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.

The “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (House Bill 1523)  allows state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

Under the law, women could be fired for wearing pants, or having premarital sex.

Ben Needham, director of southern LGBT advocacy group Project One America, described the legislation as “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date” to be considered in the United States.

In reality, the legislation is expressly designed to make it possible for Christian extremists to demean and disadvantage members of the LGBT population and others under the guise of religious freedom. The legislation is yet another example of the anti-gay hatred and bigotry so often expressed by conservative Christians.

Bottom line: Mississippi’s “religious freedom” law has nothing to do with religious freedom. Instead, the law endorses religious based bigotry and hatred, and is yet another reminder why fair and decent people should never vote Republican.

Governor Phil Bryant (Image via YouTube)
Governor Phil Bryant (Image via YouTube)

Standing up for justice Michelle Obama slams Mississippi’s new “religious freedom” law.

First lady Michelle Obama denounced the state’s recently-passed “religious freedom” law while delivering the commencement address at Jackson State University in Mississippi Saturday.

Speaking at the commencement address Obama said:

We see it right here in Mississippi — just two weeks ago -– how swiftly progress can hurtle backward. How easy it is to single out a small group and marginalize them because of who they are or who they love.

The first lady continued:

So we’ve got to stand side by side with all our neighbors –- straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu immigrant, Native American — because the march for civil rights isn’t just about African Americans, it’s about all Americans. It’s about making things more just, more equal, more free for all our kids and grandkids. That’s the story you all have the opportunity to write. That’s what this historic university has prepared you to do.

During her speech Obama also encouraged graduates to vote:

If we fail to exercise our fundamental right to vote, then I guarantee that so much of the progress we’ve fought for will be under threat. Congress will still be gridlocked. Statehouses will continue to roll back voting rights and write discrimination into the law.

Earlier this month Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a sweeping “religious freedom” bill into law that promotes discrimination against same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

The “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (House Bill 1523) will allow state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.

(Image via Screen Grab)
(Image via Screen Grab)

Leading creationist Eric Hovind argues that if evolution is true, it wasn’t wrong for Josh Duggar to sexually assault little girls, “because what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules just doesn’t really matter.”

Writing on his blog Creation Today, leading creationist Eric Hovind, son of imprisoned creationist theme park operator Kent Hovind, defended Duggar’s heinous acts by making an absurd argument involving evolution.

Hovind, expressing the twisted moral logic of many creationists, writes:

If evolution is true, then there is no absolute right and wrong. If evolution is true Josh should not have admitted his faults over a decade ago because what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules just doesn’t really matter. If evolution is true there is no ultimate Judge on the bench who will hold every man, woman, and child responsible for their actions. And if evolution is true you will not give an account for every idle word you speak.

Hovind’s argument, if it can be called an argument at all, is an embarrassing obscenity.

Josh Duggar, the oldest son of “19 Kids and Counting” Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, sexually assaulted four of his underage sisters plus an additional underage female victim. To deny the humanity of Duggar’s victims in a petty attempt to make some juvenile and facile argument about evolution is obscene.

Hovind continues to make light of the damage Duggar has done to his victims on his Facebook page. Hovind writes:

A good punishment for Josh Duggar?

Since Josh molested girls, which could damage their trust of men, which could damage their future marriage, which could damage their future family, we should make Josh Duggar work the rest of his life to help families stay together and help them recognize how twisted the world is and how God offers instruction on how to live righteously! He should be forced to push faith, family and freedom in the public showing the Christian worldview has the answers.

We should force him to get a job at the Family Research Counsel (sic) who’s (sic) mission is “to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”

That would be a great punishment!

Before being forced to resign earlier this week after news of his crimes were leaked to the media, Duggar was a policy director at the Family Research Council, an anti-gay Christian extremist organization which has been classified as a hate group for making false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science with the intention to denigrate LGBT people.

Hovind’s jocular attitude towards the sexual assault of little girls is morally repugnant. The fact that Hovind would make light of such heinous acts reveals a profound poverty of both intellect and character.

For Hovind, and Christians like him, morality is dependent upon some imaginary God, some “ultimate Judge on the bench who will hold every man, woman, and child responsible for their actions.”

For Hovind, without a God to judge, everything is permissible, including the sexual assault of little girls.

Amanda Marcotte, writing for AlterNet, has given what has come to be a classic response to such intellectually challenged and imbecilic notions. Marcotte writes:

Atheist are routinely asked how people will know not to rape and murder without religion telling them not to do it, especially a religion that backs up the orders with threats of hell. Believers, listen to me carefully when I say this: When you use this argument, you terrify atheists. We hear you saying that the only thing standing between you and Ted Bundy is a flimsy belief in a supernatural being made up by pre-literate people trying to figure out where the rain came from. This is not very reassuring if you’re trying to argue from a position of moral superiority.

Or, as Detective Rust Cohle from Season One of HBO’s “True Detective” so eloquently states:

If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then brother that person is a piece of shit.

Bottom line: Evolution is true; morality is not dependent upon some imaginary god; and sexual assault is always wrong.

Eric-Speaking-Event_09-630x310

In a disturbing but not surprising segment on Fox News panelists all seemed to agree that an atheist would make a poor president because an atheist does not fear God and the possibility of eternal damnation.

Raw Story reports Catholic priest and Fox News contributor Father Jonathan Morris claimed that atheists were not suitable candidates for president because it was “hard to trust” someone who did not believe that God would punish them.

Father Morris made his ignorant comments bashing atheists while appearing on Sunday’s edition of Fox & Friends. Morris explained:

It’s a belief in God, it’s a belief that there are eternal consequences for your actions. And I think that a leader that doesn’t have that — a set of core beliefs that help him to make justice an important part of his life and his decisions because he knows that there are eternal consequences, well, it’s somebody that it’s hard to trust.

Fox News host Peter Johnson Jr. asked if voters should “judge” people based on their faith:

For example, if someone running for president is an atheist. Are they qualified to be the president?

Father Morris replied by noting “faith is not the most important thing …but yes, it certainly makes a difference who that person is.”

Tucker carlson seemed to sum up the feelings of the panel by concluding:

People who don’t believe in God don’t recognize a higher authority.

In fact, the entire panel seemed in agreement that an atheist would necessarily be a bad president because they lacked faith in God, faith in a “higher authority.” The implication of the discussion was that those who do not believe in a god (atheists) are not trustworthy, and thus not suitable to be president. In other words, the discussion was a thinly veiled expression of atheophobia, the fear or hatred of those who identify as atheists.

Perhaps more alarming than the open bigotry and hostility towards atheists is the fact that the consensus on the panel seemed to be that people are immoral and untrustworthy if they are atheists and thus do not fear the punishment of a god.

Amanda Marcotte, writing for AlterNet, has given what has come to be a classic response to  such intellectually challenged and imbecilic notions. Marcotte writes:

Atheist are routinely asked how people will know not to rape and murder without religion telling them not to do it, especially a religion that backs up the orders with threats of hell. Believers, listen to me carefully when I say this: When you use this argument, you terrify atheists. We hear you saying that the only thing standing between you and Ted Bundy is a flimsy belief in a supernatural being made up by pre-literate people trying to figure out where the rain came from. This is not very reassuring if you’re trying to argue from a position of moral superiority.

Or, as Detective Rust Cohle from Season One of HBO’s “True Detective” so eloquently states:

If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then brother that person is a piece of shit.

Bottom line: Atheists do not need a fear of God to be moral or trustworthy. Atheists do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because they cower in fear of some imaginary God. The enlightened individual understands that being a good person is its own reward – no God required.

Morality is doing right regardless of what you are told, whereas religion is doing what you are told regardless of what is right.

(H/T Raw Story)

(Screen Grab)
(Screen Grab)

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued an official welcome this week to Operation Save America, honoring a group of Christian terrorists vehemently opposed to reproductive freedom for women.

This week Operation Save America (aka Operation Rescue) launched an aggressive, week-long siege against reproductive health clinics and abortion care providers in southern Louisiana. Hundreds of the anti-choice extremists have been descending on New Orleans this week to stage protests around the city.

The siege is expected to run through Saturday, July 26, but already dozens of the Operation Rescue protesters are threatening doctors’ private residences, and scaring neighbors in the process with their megaphones and disturbingly explicit signage.

In a press release Melissa Flournoy, the Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said the protests are motivated in part by the construction of a new Planned Parenthood facility in the city that will offer a full range of reproductive health services.

In a most egregious example of the obnoxious and threatening tactics of these Christian terrorists, members of the extremist group showed up at a First Unitarian Universalist Church as the congregation was holding a moment of silence for a member of the church who had died the week before. The Rev. Deanna Vandiver describes the invasion:

Into that sacred silence, a voice began to speak, and it began to speak about ‘abominations.’ The protesters were shouting that the church was not a true faith. Literally in our most tender and vulnerable space, religious terrorism began.

On her Facebook page Rev. Vandiver wrote:

Beloved, we have a lot of different opinions in this country about family planning. I believe, however, that there is a moral consensus about religious terrorism. NO ONE should invade the sanctuary of another’s faith to terrorize people as they worship. I call on everyone of every faith tradition and no faith tradition to stand with on the side of love and resist the evil of the week of hate being visited upon the city of New Orleans.

On Monday the mayor’s office tried to downplay the significance of honoring the anti-woman Christian extremists terrorizing his community:

It is routine for the City to provide standard proclamations to visiting non-profits, faith-based organizations and conventions that request them.

A petition at Change.org is gathering signatures asking Landrieu to rescind his welcome to the group. The following is an excerpt from that petition:

These individuals, and their supporters, have descended upon New Orleans to threaten, harass, and target the women of this city, and the doctors that believe in freedom of choice and health care for all. They have disrupted neighborhoods, intimidated clinic patients, and harassed innocent residents of this city. Their message is one of violence and hatred.

Regardless of personal ideologies, most Americans agree that harassing women and threatening doctors is extreme behavior that should not be welcomed by the mayor’s office. The certificates signed by you gives them a legitimacy that they do not deserve.

Mayor Landrieu made a mistake. He should issue an apology, and rescind his official welcome to Operation Save America. To do otherwise is to endorse Christian terrorism.

UPDATE:

A proclamation from Mayor Mitch Landrieu commending Operation Save America for its service to New Orleans was issued this past weekend “in error,” city officials said Tuesday afternoon following reports that the group interrupted an Uptown church service on Sunday.

Image of Certificate honoring and welcoming Operation Save America to New Orleans – signed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
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