Bryant signs religious-practices bill



By Emily Wagster Pettus

Associated Press

JACKSON – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Thursday that supporters say will assure unfettered practice of religion without government interference but that opponents worry could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The bill, called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, will become law July 1. It also will add “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

An early version of the bill, considered weeks ago, was similar to one Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed after business groups said it could hurt that state’s economy. Supporters say the final Mississippi bill bears little resemblance to the failed Arizona measure.

Outside the state Capitol on Thursday, more than 75 gay-rights supporters protested against the bill. Jeff White of Waveland, a founder of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Center, said as someone who is gay and Jewish, he worries such a new law could make him more vulnerable to unfair treatment.

“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve actually considered moving out of Mississippi,” said White, 32. “It made me physically ill the past few days, realizing what they’re trying to do.”

Bryant signed the measure within hours of receiving it Thursday, during a private ceremony. The bill says government cannot put a substantial burden on the practice of religion. Though the bill is vaguely worded, supporters said an example of would be a zoning law to limit the location of a church, mosque or synagogue but not limiting the location of a secular business.

The small signing ceremony was attended by a few elected officials, lobbyists for the state’s influential Southern Baptist Convention and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council. The council, a conservative Washington-based group, has pushed states to enact laws that mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that President Bill Clinton signed in 1993.

Perkins said Mississippi becomes the 19th state to enact its own religious-practices law since 1996.

“Those who understand the importance and cherish the historic understanding of religious freedom are grateful for leaders who respond to fact and not fictitious claims of those who are trying to quarantine faith within the walls of our churches or homes,” Perkins said in a statement.

  • FrereJocques

    We’ll see how much this bill allows discrimination, probably sooner than later. Wonder how long it will take for a businessman somewhere to decide he doesn’t want to sell his products or services to someone he doesn’t like? And then watch him defend himself with this law.

    Interesting that few wanted to be in on the signing ceremony, and Guv’nor Philbert had to bring in out-of-state parties to witness it. Would be interesting to know just who the “few elected officials and lobbyists” were.

    Most of our elected officials are at least smart enough to know a turkey when they see one. They also know that the intelligentsia in this state don’t care for this legislation.

  • countrydawg

    For those who justify this garbage by saying “well, there’s a law like this one at the federal level,” why did the state legislature push this through?

    Here’s the text of the legislation. It basically gives religious people (read: Christians) blanket exemption from every law, rule, and regulation at any level of government in the state unless it involves “government interest of the highest magnitude that cannot otherwise be achieved without burdening the exerciser of religion.” But remember, it’s teh geys who want “special rights.”

    Let’s apply this law to other things. For example: a Catholic priest can go to MS, umm…diddle… a bunch of little boys, and claim a “sincerely held religious belief” makes it okay.

    “The leper came to Jesus to be healed but Jesus said ‘I don’t know, dude. You look a kinda gay to me.” Don’t worry about looking that up; it’s in the bible. Apparently.


    Should we paint a pink heart on our money so it doesn’t accidentally offend someone’s faith ?

    • barney fife

      Nooo! Don’t put pink on my greenbacks!

  • Thile

    I suppose I’m pleased that all those other problems–high unemployment, devastatingly poor public health, raising public education standards while providing no resources to reach said standards–have been dealt with and Philbert and the the GOP clown car can finally prioritize this.

    I see nowhere in the Constitution, nor any of the Founder’s arguments or papers, that they intended to allow BUSINESS to be conducted according to religious principles. Nor does it mention anywhere that personal religious beliefs trump the law, let alone that the 1st Amendment is somehow the superior right over all the others outlined.

    • Winston Smith

      THIS!! Government figured out a long time ago that pandering to moral outrage on both sides is a lot easier to do than solve complicated problems. And the end goal of most politicians is to get reelected, not fix whatever it is they’re in charge of.

    • TWBDB

      I’m intrigued by your last statement. In some ways, I suppose the 1st Amendment is the ruling mantra of US citizenship. The good thing about mantras in general is can really be applied to virtually every situation; the caveat to mantras, however, is the discussion doesn’t end there – – and that’s truly what the 1st Amendment is all about.

      At the core, the objections to gay people center around the belief we are not of good character: our choice as citizens then becomes, who in government do we trust to be the judge of good character ? And is the trait of poor character an inhibiting factor to the rights of citizenship ?


    Realizing any objection to this bill will be spun as another “attack on Christianity”, I tread into these waters lightly. I personally do not expect anyone to perform an act in conflict with their own religious convictions. In kind, I would expect someone with religious convictions which may run afoul of the duties of a particular public license to do business or a job for which they are applying to reveal these conflicts to the regulatory agency handing out the license or the perspective employer. I realize this unduly adds complexity to these two scenarios which shouldn’t even be there in the first place but this is the complexity, after all, bills of this nature invite.

  • 1941641

    It will be very interesting to see what’s in the future for this two-prong unconstitutional legislation.