Business group praises changes to Religious Freedom bill

other_state_govBy Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Language in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was modified in a House Judiciary B subcommittee in a manner to try to ensure it does not lead to what some people believe will be discriminatory actions by private businesses.

The Mississippi Business Journal reported the changes made to the legislation late Wednesday.

The Mississippi Economic Council praised the action of the House subcommittee for providing “both positive clarification ad focused direction.”

The legislation in Mississippi has received national attention after the Arizona Legislature passed a version of the bill that critics said would allow businesses to discriminate against people based on religious grounds, such as sexual orientation.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed that legislation Wednesday after the state came under intense national scrutiny.

In Mississippi, the legislation was changed by the House subcommittee so that it would pertain to actions by the government, not private entities. In other words, the government could not require someone to do something against his or her religious beliefs.

The language models federal law.

The bill still includes language to place “In God We Trust” in the state seal. The full House Judiciary B Committee discussed the bill Thursday morning, but took no action.

The bill could be amended further in the legislative process, including restoring the original language.

MEC Chief Executive Officer Blake Wilson told the Business Journal the bill as it was passed with no dissenting votes by the Senate earlier this session could have “unintended consequences.”

The MEC said its official position is that “as the state Chamber of Commerce for a state that has proven its hospitable and business-friendly approach, MEC opposes efforts that would intentionally or unintentionally prevent Mississippi businesses from implementing and enforcing non-discrimination policies impacting their customers and employees.”

MEC officials said the group had no position on the bill other than hoping it aligns with its official position on the issue.