The image in the mirror

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2016

By Ray Mosby

“Mississippi Burning,” meet “Mississippi Shunning.”

One we can watch via Netflix or on cable channels; the other we can watch play out before our very eyes.

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Neither is pretty.

The first thing to say about the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,  passed by the Mississippi Legislature and sadly, tragically signed into law Tuesday by a governor who ignored pleas not to do so, is that it honestly has nothing to do with freedom of conscience — especially as that relates to religion — but rather has everything to do with discrimination.

Those who would maintain otherwise, those who would have their fellow men and women in this state to believe that this egregious piece of legislation is about allowing Mississippians to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of government persecution, have either not read it, or are simply misguided.

What this bill does is let haters hate without fear of consequence.

What this bill does is wink at the very worst devils of our nature and say, “go to it boys, we’ve got you covered.”

And no, this is neither as simple nor trite as addressing the issuance of a marriage license or the baking of a cake for a gay couple. This is not about a county clerk’s or a baker’s refusal to do so with “freedom of conscience.”

This bill, this now most unholy law is the state of Mississippi’s codifying discrimination beneath a shroud of religious belief and in the very name of holiness, itself. And if that is not sin a la government, then I don’t know what is.

Think this is just about gay marriage, folks? Well, you better think again.

Have you ever been divorced?

How about being divorced and seeking to get married again?

Ever had premarital sex? Has your daughter or granddaughter?

Are you, or do you have a friend or family member who is gay?

Are you, or do you have a friend or family member who is lesbian?

Have you ever had doubts about your sexuality? Has anybody you love ever harbored any?

Well, then step right up friends and neighbors, because come July 1, if either you or anybody you love fall into any of those categories, then any place of business, government entity or private nonprofit organization will be empowered by law to deny you virtually anything imaginable, simply by claiming that “religious beliefs” would make somebody uncomfortable in so doing.   

And remember now, those “religious beliefs” wouldn’t have to be genuine, honestly held ones, just ones that are claimed, even if for no better reason than sheer meanness or bigotry.

And by the way, no proof is needed. If anybody or any entity just “thinks” that you might fall into one of those categories listed above, then he, she or it will be legally empowered to: fire you, not hire you, not serve you a meal, deny you entry to a place of business, evict you, deny you housing and refuse you all manner of services and amenities.

And you will have absolutely no recourse, whatsoever.

Oh, and I almost forgot the bathroom business. Think that’s just about the transgender folks trying to get into one bathroom or another? I’m afraid not. If you are divorced or I think you might have fooled around either before or outside of wedlock once, I can deny you access to the bathroom in my newspaper — based on my “religious beliefs.”  Why, I only want the pure in heart, soul and mind to pee in my place.

Why, governor, why could you not do the right thing? For simple decency, why did you not veto this abomination?

A great many of us have spent decades working, trying to dispel the “Mississippi Burning” legacy and image of this state, trying to prove that we have moved past such feelings here, maintaining to one and all that we are better than that.

But now, in light of this evil we must stand in the wake of having enacted, I think we must instead take a look in the collective mirror and ask ourselves: Is this who we really are, after all?

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of The Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.