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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals: Let Religious Liberty Stand


It’s rare to get good news from the courts these days, but in Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant (R) got exactly that. Before the ink had even dried on his Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, a group of liberal activists at the ACLU filed suit. In one of the more ironic parts of the case, the group went to court — not over what had happened under the law but what might happen if Christians could opt out of ceremonies or jobs that violated their faith. That speculation was enough for a lower court judge, Carlton Reeves, to block the measure from taking effect.

Fortunately, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals doesn’t base their judgements on speculation, but on facts. And yesterday, a panel unanimously overturned Reeves, arguing that the plaintiffs didn’t even have the standing necessary to sue. Governor Bryant, who was the picture of courage in passing the bill last year, felt vindicated. “As I have said all along, the legislation is not meant to discriminate against anyone, but simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely-held religious beliefs.”

Under H.B. 1523, no one is allowed to “discriminate” — not against same-sex couples and not against Christians. All the law does is ensure that the government can’t punish someone for their natural views on marriage or sexuality. There’s no fine print giving people the right to deny services, despite the Left’s bogus propaganda. If coexistence is the goal, then this law provides the path. Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kevin Theriot agrees with us that Mississippians shouldn’t have to live in fear of losing their careers or businesses simply for believing in natural marriage.

As Ryan Anderson explained, “When the government takes Americans to war, exceptions cover pacifists. When the government guarantees abortion, exceptions cover pro-lifers. These exemptions don’t amount to establishments of any religion, and neither do laws protecting dissenters after Obergefell.”

Unlike other cases, which have been about the law’s merits, this was about the group’s standing. In order to sue, the ACLU needed to establish an injury, and all the activists could come up with was that they felt “stigmatized” and insulted because of the law. FRC’s Travis Weber points out that, “Courts have been facing this type of tenuous, emotionally-based allegation of injury more and more in recent years, and they only bog down the judicial system with claims that were never meant to be brought in the first place. When such claims are allowed to proceed, and a law is struck down, the effect is that one more area of our democratic process is chiseled off and placed into the hands of activists who would happily destroy the process if that meant they could achieve their aims.”

Thanks to the Fifth Circuit, Mississippi’s law still stands. And, maybe just as importantly, liberals were held in check. Like the rest of America, these judges are probably tired of the Left trying to push agendas through the courts that they can’t pass legislatively!


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