A federal judge appointed by President Obama has struck down a Mississippi law – hours before it was set to take effect Friday – that would have protected the religious freedom of clerks and businesses that refuse to participate in same-sex marriages.
In his 60-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves stated that the law, known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” or H.B. 1523, is unconstitutional and would “diminish the rights of LGBT citizens.”
“The state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” Reeves said, according to CNN.
“HB 1523 does not advance the interest the State says it does,” he continued. “Under the guise of providing additional protection for religious exercise, it creates a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s not rationally related to a legitimate end.”
Reeves also wrote: “Religious freedom was one of the building blocks of this great nation, and after the nation was torn apart, the guarantee of equal protection under law was used to stitch it back together. But HB 1523 does not honor that tradition of religion freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi’s citizens. It must be enjoined.”
State attorneys plan to appeal Reeves’ ruling, according to the Associated Press.
Reeve’s decision comes less than two years after he struck down the state’s statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
In a statement to the press, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he’s “disappointed” and anticipates “an aggressive appeal.”
“Like I said when I signed House Bill 1523, the law simply provides religious accommodations granted by many other states and federal law,” Bryant said. “I am disappointed Judge Reeves did not recognize that reality. I look forward to an aggressive appeal.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also vehemently objected to Reeves’ decision.
“While Judge Reeves issued his decree under the cloak of darkness last night, the judge’s religious animus against the people of Mississippi is clear as day,” said Perkins, according to Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger. “Under this judge’s reasoning, any narrowly tailored conscience or religious freedom protections against government persecution would be invalid.”
Reeves’ reputation for anti-faith rulings
As WND reported, Judge Carlton Reeves, who was nominated by Obama in 2010, once punished a school district for allowing a voluntary prayer at an optional awards ceremony.
Judge Reeves has established a reputation for going for the jugular when an issue of faith is at play.
He first ruled that a Mississippi school student’s rights were violated because she was offended by a prayer at a public school event.
Then he reached off campus, fining the school $7,500, for allowing a pastor to prayer at an optional awards ceremony.
The judge determined that Rankin County schools must work harder to excise Christian faith from its students’ education, and he threatened the district with a $10,000 fine if it happens again.
It was the ruling by Reeves regarding the school that later created a stir in Mississippi.
His decision resulted in the school’s band being benched from a halftime show at a football game, because as part of their musical presentation, they included the melody from “How Great Thou Art.” Columnist Todd Starnes at Fox News said the judge may issue an order, but the people may not necessarily bend to his whim.
He reported the people decided “a message had to be sent to the likes of Judge Reeves.”
“And what they did – would become known as the musical shot heard around the world. During halftime of Friday night’s game – a lone voice began to sing the forbidden song. ‘Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,’ the singer sang. Brittany Mann was there and she witnessed the entire moment of defiance,” Starnes wrote.
“We were just sitting there and then one by one people started to stand,” she told Starnes. “At first, it started out as a hum but the sound got louder and louder.”
Soon “hundreds” were singing.
“At that moment I was so proud of my town – coming together and taking a stand for something we believe in,” she told Starnes. “It breaks my heart o see where our country is going – getting farther and farther away from the Christian beliefs that our country was founded on.”
Documentation of hate against Christians
WND previously has documented the Big List of cases where there have been government rulings that removed religious rights from Christians.
Missouri State University, for example, dismissed a student from a counseling program for expressing opposition to counseling same-sex duos.
In Texas, David and Edie Delmore, who own a bakery, were approached by Ben Valencia and Luis Marmolejo about a cake for a “gay wedding.” They declined, referring the potential customers to other bakers. Subsequently, they claim their home has been vandalized and their son has been threatened with rape by a broken beer bottle.
One business even was attacked for answering a hypothetical question on the issue.
Family owned Memories Pizza in Indiana came into the crosshairs of homosexuals when an owner was interviewed by a local TV station in the aftermath of the adoption of the state’s religious freedom law. Responding to a reporter’s question, the owner said that while her restaurant serves “gays,” her Christian faith wouldn’t allow her to cater a “gay wedding.” The restaurant immediately became a focal point of outrage toward the law, with threats of death and destruction, causing the owners to shut down their business.