Religious Freedom in Mississippi, Y’all!

Barb Wire

It’ll be tough to top 2017’s string of religious liberty successes — but the Supreme Court doesn’t mind trying. This morning, the justices got January off to a flying start when it rebooted one of the most significant state laws of the last five years: Mississippi’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. After a year and half of bottling up the law, the ACLU heard what the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals tried to tell them in June: they have no case.

Like most conservatives, Governor Phil Bryant (R) saw the writing on the wall for Christians after same-sex marriage was invented by the same court handing down this victory. He watched in shock as a county clerk was hauled off to jail for refusing to sign marriage licenses; his heart went out to family-owned bakeries that were closed by the government’s steep fines; he witnessed the pressure on religious groups and schools to cave on their teachings. And despite Big Business bullies, a media misinformation campaign, and liberal scaremongers, Governor Bryant took a stand. The ink was barely dry on Governor Bryant’s signature that April when liberals forced him to defend his state’s decision to protect religious liberty after Obergefell. In the face of some of the stiffest pressure of his career, he fought for the rights of his state to live and work according to their faith.

Months later, that stand is paying off — and a law that should have gone into effect more than a year ago is back in force. While other judges may have taken the ACLU’s bait, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kevin Theriot celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to leave the statute untouched.

“Good laws like Mississippi’s protect freedom and harm no one,” he said. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to take up these baseless challenges, which misrepresented the law’s sole purpose of ensuring that Mississippians don’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union. Those who haven’t been… harmed by this law shouldn’t be allowed to restrict freedom for others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one.”

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Theriot was referring to one of the more ironic parts of the suit, which is that liberals 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. Together with a handful of plaintiffs, they recruited a same-sex couple to suggest that the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act treats them like “second-class citizens.”

No one is quite sure how, since they never applied for the marriage license they’re sure someone in Mississippi would deny them! Besides, the law is clear: “Nothing in this act shall be construed to prevent the state government from providing…any benefit or service authorized under state law.” 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 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 lights the way!

For Governor Bryant, who’s never shied away from a fight, this won’t be the last. With more than $93 million in the ACLU’s post-Obama war chest, we can expect liberals to pull out all the stops to put protections like these on ice. Already, reporters have been careful to say the Supreme Court ended the “first” challenge to Mississippi’s law, a hint that the storm is far from over. “People who are refused service once the law is in place may be more likely to be judged to have legal standing to sue,” Reuters argues. But if they’re waiting for a Christian to refuse service, they’ll be waiting a long time. That’s not the intent of believers — or the purpose of the law. Thank goodness for justices who see through every liberal arguing otherwise!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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