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Religious Tolerance logo

Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

Part 9:
"Religious freedom bill SB 2681" (a.k.a.
"License to Discriminate" and
"Turn Away the Gays" bill).

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The acronym LGBT refers to the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender community

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2014-JAN-31: Mississippi Senate unanimously passed their "Religious Freedom bill:"

On 2014-JAN-31, the Mississippi Senate debated and passed the first draft of their RFRA bill by a vote of 48 to 0. That is, all the Senate Democrats voted with all the Republicans in favor of the bill. During debate, there was no mention that the bill would facilitate religiously-based discrimination against individuals in the LGBT community, and in other groups. 1

This bill is very similar to the bill that was narrowly passed by the Arizona Legislature. It was met with a firestorm of resistance from Arizona's LGBT community, sports groups, 83 corporations, religious and social liberals, civil rights groups, Chambers of Commerce, and tourism bureaus. It was vetoed by Arizona Governor Brewer on 2014-FEB-26.

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According to a petition to "kill" the Mississippi bill on the Change.org web site:

"SB 2681, Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), would require that 'state action shall not burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion' by compelling 'any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion.' The bill defines 'exercise of religion' to mean 'the ability to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.'

This means that a business could legally discriminate against LGBTQ people if it claims that such discrimination is motivated by their 'sincerely held religious belief.' This bill legitimizes discrimination and segregation in Mississippi state law." 2

The RFRA bill does protect freedom of religious belief. However, that is not needed because such beliefs are already protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- a much more powerful statement. Its main feature is that it protects people's actions based on their religious beliefs -- actions that may discriminate against, belittle, denigrate others in violation of the Golden Rule.

In reality, the version of the bill passed by the Senate is even broader than the Arizona bill. The Mississippi bill would also allow government departments and offices to discriminate against its own employees.

Christian Action Commission is a conservative Christian advocacy group affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Christian Action's director, Dr. Jimmy Porter, sent a letter to each member of the Mississippi Legislature urging them to pass bill SB 2681.

Porter's letter to the legislators said in part:

"As you may well know, the MS Senate passed bill SB 2681 that included the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act (MS RFRA). This bill had unanimous support coming from the Senate.

This bill as it passed the Senate protects the religious freedom of Mississippians and business owners from discrimination and intolerance. The bill is now in jeopardy in the MS House of Representatives where pressure from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lobby, the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, AT&T, and the MS Economic Council are working to kill the bill or to remove parts of the bill that will provide equal religious protection. Removing these provisions would provide a loophole so that if the ACLU and other like minded organizations sue a business owner, that person could not use RFRA as a religious liberty defense. ..."

"The intent of this bill is to provide guidance to Mississippi courts to balance religious rights with the interests of others. In doing so, the bill provides protection for the rights of conscience for all people, whatever their religion. The bill is not about discrimination or hate, it is about religious freedom. 3

"Furthermore, there is no biblical basis that one person is any better than any other. ... In fact, the Bible states 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus' and that 'God is not one to show partiality' (Gal 3:28, Acts 10:34). Furthermore, the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II, clearly prevents any discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations. Anyone who says this bill is about discrimination is not being honest, even deceptive, or they do not fully understand the intent of this bill. The days of denying the legality of a person's civil rights is over and should have never have happened in the first place." 3

Note that the federal Civil Rights Act does prevent discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, religion or national origin. However it does not provide protection for people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Public accommodations are companies that provide goods and services to the general public. Thus, as far as the federal government is concerned, any retail store can discriminate against any potential customer in the LGBT community for any reason whatsoever, as long as its management has sincere religious beliefs that call for such discrimination. The Mississippi RFRA bill preserves such discrimination.

Porter's quotations from the Bible are correct. However, they are not complete. He may be unaware of the many passages in the Bible that advocate discrimination against people of other tribes and religions, disabled persons, etc. Elsewhere on this web site are essays that describe passages in the Bible that discriminate against women and biblical passages that religious and social conservatives have interpreted as discriminating against lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

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On 2014-FEB-26, DeMiktric Biggs, writing for Mississippi Political Pulse , said that individual:

"Democrats across Mississippi are livid at the fact that Senate Bill 2681 [unanimously] passed the state senate nearly a month ago and everyone seems to have been taken by surprise at its impending ramifications. ..."

"Many progressive Democrats have been asking the question 'how could this have been allowed to happen' and have taken the Democratic senators and party leadership to task." 5

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Zack Ford, "Mississippi Scraps Discriminatory ‘Religious Freedom’ Provisions Following Backlash In Arizona," Think Progress, 2014-FEB-27, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  2. Delta Omega Lambda, "Kill the discriminatory SB 2681, Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act bill and prevent it from becoming law," Change.org, about 2014-FEB-27, at:
  3. "Mississippi Baptists working legislators to pass 'Turn the Gays Away' bill," Cottonmouth Blog, 2014-MAR-02, at: http://cottonmouthblog.blogspot.com/
  4. Ted Carter, "House subcommittee tosses discrimination elements from religious freedom bill," Mississippi Business Journal, 2014-FEB-26, at: http://msbusiness.com/
  5. DeMiktric Biggs, "Democrats Caught Off Guard by SB 2681," Mississippi Political Pulse, 2014-FEB-26, at: http://mspoliticalpulse.com/

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Copyright © 2014 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally posted: 2014-MAR-07
Latest update: 2016-NOV-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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