Bill in legislature is actually not about religious liberties

Published 12:00 pm Monday, April 4, 2016

In my opinion, The Mississippi House and Senate have officially declared: “Mississippi is Closed for Business!” 

In move reminiscent of Gov. Barnett’s defiance of desegregation rulings in the name of religion, the majority in the Senate and House both voted to pass HB1523, which supporters conveniently chose to claim, was only about religion. 

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But, even by its title, nothing could be further from the truth. This bill expressly allows all Mississippi businesses, clubs, schools, churches and elected officials to legally discriminate and deny access or any services to any person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, unmarried and having sex, black, mixed marriage, mixed race, immigrant, or a different religion, etc.

There are some restrictions before discrimination is allowed: You must base your discrimination on either religious belief or a “moral conviction.” Discrimination is discrimination. It is wrong. Period.

This legislation does absolutely nothing to help Mississippians or improve our struggling public education, roads and bridges or health care. Priorities anyone? Is this really the best the leadership can draft while our schools and infrastructure are in such desperate need?

Please note that I disagree with, but respect, each individual’s right to be a bigot or discriminate with regard to whom they associate with. However, “moral convictions” are not the same as “religious beliefs.”

The bill title is intentionally deceptive. The bill expressly authorizes discrimination against Mississippi citizens as long as they have “moral convictions” about discriminating against a person or group. It also expressly allows the discrimination by individuals, businesses, churches and elected officials. I am pretty sure that everyone who discriminated before really believed that they were morally justified in their actions.

Disagree with the premise if you like, but please do not claim this bill is just about religious liberties. Please read the bill yourself, and, form your own opinion. Insert your name as the target of the bill and think how you would feel.

Lastly, remember, the state is literally wasting the time and effort this “easy” legislative session to formally declare that sexual relations are limited solely to a man and woman who are actually married. (I hope they don’t start enforcement on campuses or at the capitol).

With this bill, we simply continue to advance backwards. We must do better than legalizing hate while we are in 50th place!

Jay Hughes