Mississippi Lawmakers Pass Important Religious Freedom Bill

By:  Dave Bohon
04/03/2014
       
Mississippi Lawmakers Pass Important Religious Freedom Bill

The Mississippi legislature has given final passage to a bill that will protect citizens against state intrusion into their right to religious expression.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has indicated that he will sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 2681), which is similar to a measure vetoed earlier this year by Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Among other things, the bill will ensure that Mississippi business owners, such as photographers and wedding cake bakers, can refuse to serve homosexuals if they feel that doing so would violate their religious beliefs and moral convictions. “State action or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” reads the bill, the only exception being a compelling government interest to the contrary.

The bill defines free religious expression as the ability of one “to act or the refusal 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.”

The bill, introduced by Republican State Senator Phillip Gandy, who is also a Baptist pastor, passed in the House by a 79-43 vote and in the Senate 37-14. Opponents of the bill portrayed it as potentially discriminatory to homosexuals, a charge Gandy denied, telling OneNewsNow.com that “either they haven't read the bill or … they're just trying to frighten people, and there are some people who do that really well. When they don't have a good argument, they attack — and certainly we've seen a lot of that.”

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