Mississippi gives green light to faith-based discrimination

Mississippi gives green light to faith-based discrimination April 6, 2016

Last week Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal vetoed Georgia House Bill 757, which would have given faith-based organisations the option to deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Though major businesses including Delta Air Lines, Marvel Studios, the NFL, The Walt Disney Company and CNN’s parent company, Time Warner Inc, expressed their displeasure with the bill, Deal told reporters that pressure from the business community had no bearing on his decision.
Yeah, right.
Deal’s weasel words were:

I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives.

But in Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant, above, had no qualms yesterday when he signed into law a similar piece of odious legislation.
The bonehead, who claims that “Christianity shapes his worldview“,  said he signed the HB 1523:

To protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organisations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government.

The ACLU of Mississippi promptly responded, tweeting that Bryant:

Just made discrimination a part of state law.

Another tweet, incorporating the hashtag “#ShameOnPhil, read:

Welcome to Mississippi, the hospitality state that says you’re okay only if you’re straight and married!

The law says it protects from discrimination anyone who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, that sexual relations are reserved solely for marriage, and that the terms male and female pertain only to a person’s genetics and anatomy at birth.
Under the law, religious organisations will be able to deny LGBT people marriage, adoption and foster care services; fire or refuse to employ them; and decline to rent or sell them property. Medical professionals will be permitted to refuse to participate in treatments, counseling and surgery related to “sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning”.
Among those who could deny wedding services under HB 1523 are:
• DJs
• Photographers and videographers
• Poets
• Wedding planners
• Printers and publishers
• Florists
• Dressmakers
• Cake or pastry artists

• Venue rental companies
• Limousine and car rental companies
• Jewelry sales and service firms
• Religious organisations
The legislation, which comes into effect on July 1, also addresses the matter of government officials granting marriage licenses and performing ceremonies, an issue thrust into the spotlight last year when Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, spent five days in jail for refusing to give same-sex couples marriage licenses.
Mississippi’s law will allow clerks and their deputies to be provided a process for recusing themselves from licencing marriages, and judges, magistrates, justices of the peace and their deputies will be given a similar process for recusing themselves from performing marriages, based on their religious beliefs.
The state Senate passed the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act last Wednesday in a 32-17 vote and sent it to Bryant.
Many turned out to protest against the new legislation.
Many turned out to protest against the new legislation.
The state’s businesses, which were relatively quiet as the bill navigated the state Legislature, are now decrying it as discriminatory, joining a chorus of watchdog groups – including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign and Southern Poverty Law Center, which staged a protest at the Governor’s mansion – that have denounced it.
Included among corporations denouncing the legislation were MGM Resorts International, Nissan, Toyota, Tyson Foods, AT&T, IBM and Levi Strauss & Co.
The Mississippi Economic Council, which declined to take a position until its lawyers had reviewed the bill, updated its policy on Friday and announced its opposition to the bill over the weekend. The council has 11,000 members and represents about 1,200 dues-paying companies, said the group’s president and CEO, Blake Wilson.
Its new policy reads:

As the State Chamber of Commerce for a state that has proven its hospitable and business-friendly approach, MEC opposes efforts that would intentionally or unintentionally prevent Mississippi businesses from implementing and enforcing non-discrimination policies or that would limit diversity and inclusion impacting their customers and employees.

Watchdog groups have decried the legislation as discriminatory against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and some analysts say the discrimination does not end with LGBT people. It could easily be applied to unwed mothers or people living together out of wedlock, they say.
In effect, they say, many forms of discrimination that weren’t outlawed will now be codified in Mississippi law.
One disturbing element, according to Atlanta lawyer and legal analyst Page Pate, is the section allowing religious organisations to deny housing to unmarried couples, which, in his opinion, conflicts with federal housing laws.
But he is most concerned with the section of the law that allows schools and businesses:

To engage in a wide range of discriminatory conduct in the workplace as long as they can make an argument that it is tied to a ‘moral conviction’ about traditional gender identity and stereotypes.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation highlighted Mississippians who would be affected and said that under the bill’s provisions, members of the LGBT community could be denied counseling from suicide hotlines or be forced into “conversion therapy”, a practice that some states have outlawed. Also, the law could permit private companies to fire women for wearing pants, GLAAD said.
Some faith groups and leaders in Mississippi also oppose the law. Said Rabbi Stephen Wylen with the Beth Israel Congregation, in Jackson:

On a philosophical and religious level, I’m deeply disappointed that religion is being used as an excuse to validate prejudice and persecution. And even more than that, as an American, I am profoundly upset by what I consider to be a perversion of the First Amendment, which amounts to a reversal of the First Amendment.

But outfits like the American Family Association and the Family Research Council are cock-a-hoop. Both cast the legislation as a win for religious freedom and applauded the governor’s decision, which the AFA dubbed a “brave” move that showed lawmakers would not bend to the will of:

Gay activists and state business organizations who are hostile to Christianity.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins added:

Big business and Hollywood have engaged in economic blackmail in Mississippi just like they have in Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas to try to force government discrimination of those who support natural marriage.
However, unlike Indiana and Georgia, leaders in Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas have chosen to defend the fundamental freedom of their citizens to believe and live according to those beliefs, rather than capitulate to the economic threats of big business and entertainment.

William Perkins, editor of The Baptist Record, the news journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, also supports the law.

What the LGBT political machine sees as discrimination, we see as protection of rights as old as the United States itself, and that is the right to worship as we please and not have a grandmother florist crushed by her state government for her Christian faith, or to have a young couple supporting their five children from a mom and pop bakery shop likewise have their bank accounts seized by the government for their religious beliefs.

Hat tip: Mark Palmer, who posted a comment here.

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  • L.Long

    Give me that old time religion!!! From the 14th century where we could burn witches!!! Got to love the xtian Soryy-Ass Laws!!!

  • Barty

    OK – then start a movement to deny the pious jobs.
    Job interview questions at Delta Airlines…
    Interviewer. Do you hold any religious beliefs?
    Interviewee. Yes I am a christian.
    Interviewer. Thank you for coming today. Next candidate please.

  • Daz


    “From the 14th century where we could burn witches”

    On a note of pedantry (’cause I keep seeing everything barbaric mistakenly assigned to the 14th century, which was quite bad enough without us giving it an even worse reputation), the major episodes of witch-burning in Europe and North America took place during the reformation and the thirty-years war and after. Roughly 1450–1750. (1597 was a particularly “good” year: at least 400 trials in Scotland, leading to around 200 executions.)
    As to the OP. Far too many religious types seem to have the idea that being told they’re not allowed to discriminate for reasons of race, religion, sexuality, gender and so on is, in itself, a form of religious discrimination. Selfish brats, they want all their own way and if they don’t get it they stamp and scream about how it’s so unfair.

  • Smokey

    I’m starting to think that the phrase “sincerely held religious beliefs” indicates a fundamentalist Christian that wants to undo the Enlightenment and send us back to the dark ages. Or just an idiot.
    That phrase honestly also makes me want to punch someone in the face. I feel anger, wanting to do violence to other people. Right now, nothing raises my hackles faster than the phrase “sincerely held religious beliefs”.
    And then I think “People vote these people into power. A majority of voters yearn for the dark ages of religious tyranny.”
    It’s high time that the “end times” announced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses happened. Humans don’t deserve to live on this planet any more.

  • harrynutsak

    When we finally start arresting these criminal malfeasors in Congress and every state legislature for constantly creating illegal laws that are criminal the moment they are made, then we shall see a great lessening in stupid laws made by stupid people for stupid and disgusting reasons.
    And sterilizing religious people certainly seems called for here, as they cannot help but abuse their children from the moment of conception, filling the planet with idiots who think some magic fucktard in the sky will back them up on every bit of bullshit they come up with.
    Mississippi is one of the worst states in the USA, filled with pathological racist religious idiots who think their shit doesn’t stink. This bullshit law is just something they do every fucking day for giggles.

  • Laura Roberts

    I’d boycott Mississippi, but I’ve no reason to go there anyway.
    The silver lining to all this is that it gives religious organizations effective ways to chase people away. A key reason many young people cite for no longer affiliating with any religion is precisely this pernicious influence over public policy.
    @Barty: great thought, bad example. Delta Airlines is (or at least used to be) religious. In fact, I avoid Delta partly because on one of my last flights with them there was a Bible quote on the Delta napkin that accompanied my drink. Poor service and prices are other reasons, of course.

  • 1859

    I thought the American constitution was written – amongst other reasons – to separate the state from institutional religion? And here we have law-makers in Mississippi using religion to frame laws? Laws should be based on the simple principles of fairness, justice and equality, not on superstitious notions of what ought to be because that’s what one particular old book says. This Mississippi law is so stupid I hope it seriously backfires and enrages the American people so much that they henceforth forbid religious bigots to hold public office.

  • 1859

    Here are a few quotes from the Constitution ;
    Article Six of the United States Constitution also specifies that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
    In other words when you hold any public office you can believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster if you want – no one is allowed to bar you from the job for this reason. But look what’s happening here – someone has got into public office and is using their religion to disqualify American Citizens of their ”inalienable right to pursue happiness’. One American is denying other Americans of their civil rights. This can’t be allowed to stand.
    First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
    This First Amendment was, of course, to allow people to freely follow their religion without persecution. Yes, people are ‘free to exercise’ their religion but this surely does not mean they are allowed to use their religion to discriminate and thereby downgrade and deny the rights of other American citizens? This cannot stand.
    I hope the backlash is severe.

  • Broga

    @Smokey: “Humans don’t deserve to live on this planet any more.”
    That is my opinion too. We are the most destructive pest on the planet. Much of our cruelty and lust to slaughter is fuelled by religion.

  • Laura Roberts

    Just a reminder: any law based on religious doctrine is sharia law. Probably worth remembering if you run across a bozo who actually approves of these laws.

  • nogbad666

    Just a couple of observations:
    1. Does this mean that Mormons in Mississippi would be able to deny services, housing, etc. to black people, as, according to their “sincerely held religious beliefs” they believe black people to be inferior? Could we see signs at the entrance to Marriott hotels (Mormon owned) in Mississippi saying “No Blacks”?
    2. This must also mean that any atheist-owned businesses would be able to deny services to Christians. I really wonder what would happen if THAT came about??? I’m almost tempted to go there, set up a business and try it. Can you imagine a sandwich shop in downtown Tupelo with a big sign in the window saying “We Don’t Serve Christians” ? Wow, that would be something to see! Any atheist Mississippians reading this like to give it a shot? I’ll contribute some start-up funding.