Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Mississippi religious-objections bill draws protests, including one from a rural weekly editor

The Republican-led Mississippi House sent GOP Gov. Phil Bryant a bill "that proponents say protects religious freedom but opponents say sanctions discrimination against gay people and others," Geoff Pender reports for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. (Ledger photo by Justin Sellers: Protesters Monday at the Governor's Mansion)

"House Bill 1523 would allow business and government workers to deny services based on religious beliefs," Pender writes. "Ten states have passed or are considering bills in response to last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide. North Carolina's governor and Legislature recently approved a similar law. In Georgia, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday vetoed one passed by the Legislature after protests from businesses."

Today Bryant signed the bill, which allows clerks "to deny marriage licenses to gay couples because of their religious beliefs and not face any repercussions," Pender writes. It also allows "private businesses and faith-based organizations to refuse services based on those same beliefs without retribution." Republican lawmakers pointed to a poll that said two-thirds of Mississippians agree with the bill, but Democratic leaders say it legalizes discrimination.

Groups opposed to the bill urged businesses to pressure Bryant to kill it, Jimmie Gates and Pender report for the Jackson paper. "The Human Rights Campaign, ACLU of Mississippi and LGBT equality advocates blasted the bill as hateful legislation Monday during a news conference outside the state Capitol. On Monday evening, hundreds of people surrounded the Governor's Mansion to protest the bill."

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin "said several corporations, including GE, Levi, Tyson Foods, MGM Resorts, Hyatt Hotels, Nissan, Toyota have spoken against the bill," Gates and Pender write. "Mississippi Human Rights Campaign director Rob Hill said Monday he also hopes Continental Tire Co., which is scheduled to build a mega-plant in Hinds County, will pressure the governor to veto the bill. ... The Mississippi Manufacturers Association representatives said Monday it is opposed to the bill."

Ray Mosby
Ray Mosby, editor and publisher of The Deer Creek Pilot, wrote in a column, "The first thing to say about the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act . . . is that it honestly has nothing to do with freedom of conscience—especially as that relates to religion—but rather has everything to do with discrimination."

"Those who would maintain otherwise, those who would have their fellow men and women in this state to believe that this egregious piece of legislation is about allowing Mississippians to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of government persecution, have either not read it, or are simply misguided," Mosby writes. "What this bill does is let haters hate without fear of consequence. What this bill does is wink at the very worst devils of our nature and say, 'go to it boys, we’ve got you covered.'... This is not about a county clerk’s or a baker’s refusals to do so with 'freedom of conscience.' This bill, this soon to be most unholy law is the state of Mississippi’s codifying discrimination beneath a shroud of religious belief and in the very name of holiness, itself. And if that is not sin a la government, then I don’t know what is."

No comments: