The governor is expected to sign them. This is not an April Fools’ Day joke.
I told my friend, Carmen, that I want to cry, but I’m too angry right now. I’ve witnessed, and personally experienced, the significant harm caused when religion and government become bedfellows. As many of you may already know:
Mississippi is tied with an another southern state as being the worst place for women to live. It’s the worst state for children, or if you belong to a race other than white. It has the worst health problems in the nation, the highest poverty, and many other social ills. A study, covering a span of 30 years, showed Mississippi ranked #1 for being the most corrupt state—having the highest ratio of public workers censured for misuse of public funds and other charges. It’s also the most religious.
Late Wednesday, the Senate voted 31-17 to approve the bill, known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.” Based on “sincerely held religious beliefs”, the bill will allow individuals, businesses, government employees, nonprofits and other entities to discriminate against not only LGBT people, but also anyone who has sex outside of marriage, etc.
The bill will legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination. Anybody can cite their religious beliefs to justify their discriminatory behavior if sued by the victims of that discrimination. When they do, they are entitled not only to victory in court, but compensatory damages as well.
Protect Thy Neighbor, a project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, outlines potential consequences:
- a government clerk could refuse to issue a marriage license to a couple because one person had been previously divorced;
- a taxpayer-funded adoption agency could refuse to place a child with a happy and loving family because the parents lived together before they were married;
- a taxpayer-funded organization that provides shelter to kids who have suffered child abuse could turn away a pregnant teenager;
- a counseling group practice could refuse to see a mother and her teen who is experiencing severe depression because the woman is unmarried;
- a counselor could refuse to help an LGBT person who called a suicide hotline;
- a fertility clinic could refuse to treat a veteran and his partner because they are not married;
- a car rental agency could refuse to rent a car to a same-sex couple on their honeymoon.
During an interview, Governor Phil Bryant told WLOX TV in Biloxi that he didn’t think the legislation was discriminatory. He further stated: “I think it gives some people, as I appreciate it, the right to be able to say ‘That’s against my religious beliefs and I don’t need to carry out that particular task.”
Erik Fleming, a former Mississippi legislator who is now director of advocacy and policy for the state’s branch of the ACLU, stated: “It is very broad and very dangerous. It basically sanctions religious discrimination.”
Another shocking bill is known as “Mississippi Church Protection Act”, which also passed in the Senate on Wednesday. According to the bill, the purpose is:
TO AMEND SECTION 97-3-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT KILLING A PERSON WHILE ACTING AS A PARTICIPANT OF A CHURCH OR PLACE OF WORSHIP SECURITY TEAM IS JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
“The “Mississippi Church Protection Act” would allow churches to empower designated members of their congregation as part of a security team with a “shoot to kill” authority equivalent to a police officer but with less government oversight. The bill contains few restrictions regarding where one may act within this capacity, allowing a church’s volunteer security personnel to exercise this authority in public and private venues outside of the church.
It will legalize killing a person while acting as a participant of a church or place of worship security team, deeming the act a “justifiable homicide. By passing this bill, the state of Mississippi effectively recognizes churches as their own sovereign entities — mini-states that are tax-free and immune from their acts of violence carried out in their official duties.”
Larry T. Decker, executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, stated:
“Religious institutions are already exempt from taxation, financial transparency, and many civil rights laws. The Mississippi Church Protection Act would constitute an unprecedented and dangerous next step. Belonging to a church should not afford anyone the same rights and protections as law enforcement. This legislation emboldens extremists by creating a legal means for radical preachers to enlist their congregants into ‘God’s army.”
Published in the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, the Mississippi Police Chiefs Association says the bill would lower the bar for who can carry a concealed, loaded gun in public to include violent criminals, some severely mentally ill people, and chronic alcoholics.
According to the Police Chiefs Association:
- Mississippi currently prohibits some people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors from having concealed carry licenses. This bill would allow these people to carry concealed, loaded guns in public.
- Mississippi currently prohibits people who voluntarily committed themselves to mental institutions from having concealed carry licenses. This bill would allow these people to carry concealed, loaded guns in public.
- Mississippi currently prohibits people who chronically abuse alcohol from having concealed carry licenses. This bill would allow these people to carry concealed, loaded guns in public.
“By effectively dismantling Mississippi’s licensing system, this bill would block law enforcement who stop an armed suspect from confirming that he isn’t a violent criminal, severely mentally ill, or otherwise dangerous,” said Ken Winter, executive director of the Mississippi Police Chiefs Association. “This bill would put law enforcement officers and all Mississippians directly in harm’s way.”
The article continues:
“In the vast majority of states, including Mississippi, a person must generally acquire a license in order to legally carry a concealed handgun in public. These licenses ensure that certain core public safety standards are preserved when people carry concealed guns in public places, according to the Police Chiefs Association.
“HB 786 would effectively repeal this important public safety law and let people, including some violent criminals, legally carry concealed guns in public without a license,” Winter said. “Tucked into HB 786 is a provision that allows individuals to carry a concealed handgun without a license if the gun is carried in a sheath, belt holster, or shoulder holster, effectively allowing for dangerous people to carry loaded, hidden weapons in public.”
There’s so much beauty in Mississippi—in the South. Many, through no fault of their own, have been entangled in a political/religious web spun by authoritarian legislators/preachers, and the bamboozled primates who support them.
“How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.” ― Christopher Hitchens