Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) this week signed into law the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act (HB 1523), a much more robust religious freedom protection bill than that which Georgia’s governor said he would veto last week. The Mississippi law comes on the heels of North Carolina’s adoption of legislation aimed at ensuring individuals adhere to their legally recognized gender in the use of restrooms and similar private spaces.
“I applaud Gov. Bryant and the Mississippi legislature for crafting this shield against potential government attacks on people of faith for their beliefs in marriage and the very basic concept of a male and a female gender in our society,” said NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry Johnson. “Gov. Bryant and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory have shown resolve for the good of their states’ citizens in the face of intense bullying from Washington, big business, and Hollywood elites.”
Signed by Gov. Bryant on Tuesday, HB 1523 prevents state government agents from taking discriminatory action against an individual, religious organization, or other closely held entity on the basis of their sincerely-held religious beliefs and moral convictions.
After signing the bill, Gov. Bryant noted that the 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.”
Furthermore, he noted, the bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of the state under federal or state laws.
“The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived,” the governor concluded.
In stark contrast, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) last week announced that he would veto the Free Exercise Protection Act (HB 757), a religious freedom bill that passed both chambers of the Georgia legislature but had attracted vitriol from the Left and incited threats of economic sanctions from major corporations, including AMC Networks, Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, Intel, the NFL, and Time Warner. In its final form, the bill would have defended pastors from being forced to solemnize marriages they could not countenance and would have provided a shield for churches, religious schools, and their “integrated auxiliaries” from being coerced into violating their faith with their property or employment practices. A significant retreat from earlier versions of the bill, this legislation would not have covered faith-based family businesses or even some of the same religious ministries being forced all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by the federal government in the Little Sisters of the Poor case.
Many faith and conservative leaders, including NRB’s President & CEO, felt betrayed by Gov. Deal and the appearance of “cultural cronyism.” More on this can be found in last week’s Freedom Today article “Deal Against Georgia Religious Freedom Bill.”
By NRB Staff
Published: April 7, 2016