Thoughts on religious freedom bill

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tuesday, Governor Phil Bryant signed into law House Bill 1523 or also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”
According to the bill, the sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the beliefs that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage and that the terms male or female refer to an individual’s biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.
In section three of the bill, it states that the state government will not take discriminatory action against a religious organization that solemnizes or declines to solemnize any marriage or provide services related to the marriage based upon a religious belief or moral conviction.
The state government will also not take action against individuals who decide to hire, terminate or discipline an employee whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with their own, the bill states.
The bill also states the government will not take action against those whose refuse rental services, adoption or foster care services, the treatment, counseling or surgeries related to gender reassignment, services relating to a marriage inconsistent with religious beliefs or any person acting on behalf of the state government who has the authority to authorize or license marriages.
The act will take effect on July 1, 2016, the bill states.
“I am signing 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 release. “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. This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws. It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those that are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances. 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.”
Some business owners in Pearl River County said they are happy to see the government protecting their rights, but still would not refuse service.
“I hate that in this day and age there’s a need for us to be protected,” Adam Bennett, co-owner of April’s, said. “We wouldn’t refuse service to begin with and would never refuse service to anyone regardless.”
Jewel Pierce, owner of Angel’s Trumpet floral shop in Poplarville said, as a business owner, she wants religious freedom.
“Because I’m a Christian and I have Christian beliefs, I want to be able to tell everyone about God,” Pierce said. “If I want the opportunity to tell them about it then I wouldn’t refuse service. It doesn’t mean I won’t help people that don’t believe as I do.”
Dorothy Stravinsky, owner of Balloon Palace and Formal Wear Unlimited in Picayune, said she waits on everybody
“I can’t hold anybody’s religion, color or sex against them,” she said. “It may not be what God wants, but unless it harms my business or my people, then I can’t refuse service. God says there’s a lot of stuff he’s against, but when you own a business, you just can’t do that.”
To read HB 1523 in its entirety visit

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