Mississippi’s faith-based communities were given a legal victory on Tuesday when the state’s new religious freedom bill passed.
Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature on HB 1523 provides legal cover to individuals who refuse to provide services when their religious principles are jeopardized.
“I have signed HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning,” Bryant said in a statement released Tuesday. “This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
The governor went on to say the bill does not limit constitutionally protected rights of any citizen under federal or state laws. The legislation takes effect July 1.
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Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel for the religious rights organization Alliance Defending Freedom, cheered the bill’s passage.
“We commend the governor for signing into law protections for schools, churches, businesses, and public employees so that they won’t face government discrimination. After all, you’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind. What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out those beliefs, and the Constitution protects that freedom,” Fiedorek said.
The ACLU did not share Fiedorek’s joy, saying on Twitter that HB 1523 “just made discrimination a part of state law.”
Some companies that denounced the law include MGM Resorts International, Nissan, Toyota, Tyson Foods, AT&T, IBM and Levi Strauss & Co., CNN reported Tuesday.
Mississippi’s business community merely needs to look at North Carolina to gauge the kind of economic consequences that are likely to follow. The Tar Heel State passed the North Carolina Public Facilities and Security Act on March 23 and was immediately threatened with financial repercussions.
North Carolina’s law prohibits local governments from passing ‘anti-discrimination’ ordinances and requires transgender people to use the public restrooms that align with their biological gender, WND reported Jan. 31.
PayPal, which vowed to cancel plans to open a facility in the state, followed through on its threat Tuesday.
“Becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable,” PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said in a statement, CNN Money reported. “The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.”
Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing religious liberties, says otherwise.
“Those who criticize this law probably have either failed to read and understand it, or they intentionally misrepresent it,” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement released Tuesday.
Liberty Counsel has volunteered to defend the state’s law at no charge since N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has refused to issue a defense.
“I think the attorney general is a national embarrassment, quite frankly,” Staver told WND on Jan. 31. “Does Mr. Cooper really, honestly, want to open up women’s public bathrooms and showers to men and put the privacy of women and young girls at risk? Is that really what he wants?”
The nonprofit organization called the bill a “commonsense law” that protects the privacy and safety of women and girls in a statement released Tuesday.
“Bathroom bills that allow men to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms are nonsense. A biological man should use the men’s restroom. How simple can that concept be?” Staver said. “The North Carolina law did not address employment in the private sector. The relationship between private employers and employees remains free of local government interference, and remains regulated by the state. If private companies want to provide additional policies, they are free to do so. People should read the law and stop the histrionics.”
The decision by Mississippi’s governor to proudly sign HB 1523 into law stands in stark contrast to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who vetoed a similar bill March 28 in response to LGBT activists and their corporate allies.
The Free Exercise Protection Act was shot down by the Republican governor after Disney, Marvel, and the National Football League all threatened to do business elsewhere if the bill became law.
“I have examined the protections this bill seeks to provide to religious organizations and people of faith I can find no examples that any of the things this bill seeks to protect us against have ever occurred in Georgia,” Deal said March 28. “I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”
Deal’s veto came despite the wishes of Republican majorities in both the Georgia House and Senate.