Friday, April 4, 2014

Mississippi Governor Signs Religious Freedom Bill

Phil Bryant is pictured. | AP Photo

by Brig Bagley

4 April 2014

Against hopeful expectations, Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi quickly signed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a private gathering. Among this group were a few officials, lobbyists for the Southern Baptists, and the president of the Family Research Council (a very anti marriage equality group). Mississippi becomes the 19th state to pass a religious freedom act that resembles the one signed into law in 1993 by Bill Clinton. 

Supporters of the act claim that it hardly resembles the act vetoed by Jan Brewer in Arizona a few weeks ago. But protesters fear that the new law, active July 1, 2014, will encourage new levels of discrimination against gays and lesbians. There is no explicit mention of LGBT people, but the supporters use the example of permitting wedding cake companies to refuse making a cake for gay weddings based on religious belief. No lawsuits could allow government to fine or punish such discrimination with this new law. 

To begin with, LGBT people already have no special protections in the state of Mississippi. To give anyone the right to discriminate for religious reasons would certainly give people more power to take advantage of LGBT citizens. And what constitutes as a religious reason? Any personal belief? A legitimate religious document? 

Religious freedom is a great thing. But allowing religion to rule everything that happens is religious oppression. A business or company, large or small, is not a person that has a right to exercise religion.

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