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Religious Tolerance logo

Proposed "License to Discriminate" laws
to give businesses freedom to discriminate

Part 11: Mississippi
2014-FEB/MAR: House Committee
revised RFRA bill
SB 2681.
Webmaster's note.
Governor signs bill into law.

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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-FEB-27: Did the House really clean up the "right to discriminate" bill SB 2681?

Ashton Pittman of Deep South Progressive wrote:

"The 'right to discriminate' remains intact in a proposed amended version of a Mississippi bill that some are calling the state's 'Turn Away the Gays' bill.

The House Judiciary B Civil Subcommittee’s amended version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does little to remove the problematic elements of the bill that had gay rights activists in full revolt ..."

"The bill, [a copy of which was] obtained by Deep South Progressive, still says that state action cannot 'compel any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion' and continues to define 'exercise of religion' to mean 'the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one's sincerely held religious belief.'

Those key parts of the bill, which LGBT activists feared would legitimize discrimination by businesses that claim 'sincerely held religious belief' as the motivating factor, remain unchanged. That’s contrary to previous reports that said the bill had been amended to only include the section that would add 'In God We Trust' to the Mississippi state seal.

Despite that, leaders of the state business community were declaring victory Wednesday night, saying that the bill addressed the concerns of the business community. The Mississippi Economic Council (MEC), said that SB 2681, as amended, 'provides both positive clarification and focused direction so that the amended bill addresses only actions by government, not private businesses or individuals'." 1

Pittman concludes:

"While that new language would preserve the rights of businesses to enact non-discrimination policies, it would not prevent them from also enacting discriminatory policies where a 'sincerely held religious belief' was present." 1

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2014-MAR-04: House Judiciary B Committee passed the updated version of SB 2681 bill:

Those who support the new version assert that it will improve religious freedom. Opponents believe that the vague wording of the bill still allows for religiously motivated discrimination against the LGBT community, unmarried people, divorced people, and other groups.

Representative Andy Gipson, (R) pointed out the differences between this bill and the bill that failed to proceed in Arizona. He explained that SB 2681 restricts the bill's scope to government activity. It excludes actions by private individuals. Gipson said these two factors differentiate it from the failed Arizona bill that never became law because of outrage from the LGBT community, many dozens of large businesses, chambers of commerce, tourist agencies, some faith groups and and sports groups.

Mississippi State University doctoral student L.B. Wilson was one of over a dozen students demonstrating against the bill at the Capitol. He contradicted Rep. Gipson's opinion. Wilson referred to the bill as "lazy legislation" that might be broadly interpreted in the future. He said:

"It opens that door wide enough that anyone with a genuinely held religious belief is permitted to discriminate on any grounds without worry that the state might intervene." 2

The bill proceeded to the full House for debate and vote.

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Webmaster's note of concern: (Bias alert)

If the interpretation of L.B. Wilson is correct, then this bill could result in some rather amazing unanticipated consequences.

There is apparently no mention of specific religions in the bill -- only the general concept of religious freedom. All religiously motivated practices -- positive, discriminatory, and even illegal -- might become permissible within the state because this bill would prohibit the state from intervening. Two examples:

  • Some deeply religious parents might deny their children medical attention in favor of fervent and sincere prayer. This action might result in the latter's death. The bill might provide immunity of government prosecution for the parents.

  • It might be possible for a person to claim that she or he is a sincere believer in Baal -- the supreme deity worshiped in ancient Canaan and Phoenicia. They might claim to have immunity from prosecution for some really scary religiously inspired activities.

According to the Got Questions? web site:

"Baal worship was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution in the temples. At times, appeasing Baal required human sacrifice, usually the firstborn of the one making the sacrifice (Jeremiah 19.5). The priests of Baal appealed to their god in rites of wild abandon which included loud, ecstatic cries and self-inflicted injury." 3

There appear to be no limits in the bill that would prevent it from being used to legitimize a very wide range of normally criminal behaviors based on Baal worship, or on many other ancient or modern religions.

Most of the more liberal -- and the least religious -- states in the U.S. have passed tough human rights legislation that forbids companies, retail stores etc. from discriminating against customers on the basis of the latter's skin color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. Some have added protection for transgender persons and transsexual.

But Mississippi seems to be going in the opposite direction. Bill SB 2681 prohibits the state from intervening when companies, retail stores etc. take discriminatory acton against customers on any grounds, as long as the discrimination is based on a sincerely held religious belief. Bill SB 2681 may be an excellent example of "anti-human rights" and anti-Golden Rule legislation.

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2014-MAR/APR: Bill SB 2681 passed by the Legislature. Governor Phil Bryant (R) signed bill into law:

The bill was debated simultaneously in the Senate and House on APR-01. 4 It was passed by a vote of 79 to 43 in the House. It was also passed in the Senate by a vote of 37 in favor, 14 opposed, and 1 absent. Apparently, most or all of the Democratic Senators woke up to the reality of the bill and attempted to defeat it.

Two days later, on APR-01, Governor Bryant signed the bill into law . He issued a statement saying:

"I am proud to sign the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act today, which will protect the individual religious freedom of Mississippians of all faiths from government interference."

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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. Ashton E. Pittman, " 'Right to Discriminate' remains in amended version of Mississippi's 'Religious Freedom Act," but business leaders applaud changes," Deep South Progressive, 2014-FEB-27, at:
  2. "Mississippi House committee advances 'religious freedom' bill," Gulflive/Mississippi Press, 2014-MAR-04, at:
  3. "Question: 'Who was Baal?'," Got Questions?, 2014, at:
  4. "Mississippi Senate Bill 2581," LegiScan, 2014-APR-03, at:

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Copyright © 2014 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally posted: 2014-MAR-07
Latest update: 2016-NOV-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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