HB 1523 doesn’t represent state properly

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, April 7, 2016

What a sad day for our state.

Our elected officials should be ashamed. Phil Bryant should be especially ashamed.

HB 1523, the so-called “Religious Freedom” bill, does not represent us. It is a disgraceful and hateful representation of the very religion that Gov. Bryant and Christians across the great state of Mississippi profess to follow. How wholly un-Christian, un-American, and unethical our elected officials have proven themselves this week.

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The very people who we have put in power to represent our interest are not hearing the voices of their constituents. Not only have the House, Senate and Bryant once again set us back several decades, they have also wasted taxpayer money because this bill can and will likely be overturned in the Supreme Court. Mississippians will have to pay to defend the governor’s support of intolerance.

This bill will have a lasting impact on our already weak economy. Large companies will take their business elsewhere, costing us precious jobs that are so desperately needed with the unemployment rate reaching 20 percent in some counties. Instead of focusing on education, infrastructure or job creation, they chose to waste their time on hate and judgment, thinly disguised as “religious freedom.”

Mississippi is better than this blatant and open discrimination. We’ve got to be. We cannot continue a legacy of being among the worst state in the nation in so many areas while being No. 1 in bigotry and discrimination. Education, teen pregnancy rates, obesity and health care? We are consistently at the bottom. We are, however, the top entry in almost every study that measures states on equality, or lack thereof. I often wonder if this is the future that most Mississippians want to ensure for their children. I cannot imagine that it is.

The amount of time and money that we have spent entrenching ourselves in the “Old South” could have been spent improving our roads. It could have been spent bringing jobs into Mississippi instead of turning them away. It definitely should have been spent on educating our children. They are the future of our state and a way for us to move past the type of intolerance we now face.

If I can find one positive in the bleak passage of HB 1523, it’s realizing that Mississippians can come together when we see something unjust. In the past 24 hours, I have heard so many of my friends and family members voicing their dissent — to their elected officials, to each other, and to the public.

Different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations and political parties are coming together to prove that not all Mississippians are beyond reason.

Many Christians on social media have quoted the song lyrics “They will know we are Christians by our love.” I think that this is what Bryant and our state legislature are missing. Seeing Mississippians voice their opposition to both this bill and discrimination in general loudly and clearly makes me proud of my state. It doesn’t make this bill passage any less puzzling, but it’s the silver lining that I choose to see.

Jessica Harwell is a Water Valley resident and can be reached at jessica.harwell@oxfordeagle.com.