Gov. Phil Bryant has announced he will sign Mississippi‘s highly-controversial and nationally condemned bill that is being called a license to discriminate against LGBT people, women, and minorities. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was rammed through the state senate last night by Republicans after it had been returned to a committee several weeks ago. Many had believed the bill was dead.
The bill, SB 2681, “protects” people of faith from having to bend to laws or other government policies that they claim violate their deeply-held religious beliefs. A pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for HIV medication or contraception. A teacher could refuse to teach children of a same-sex couple. A DMV worker could refuse to administer a driving test to a person who is transgender. A waitress could refuse service to a gay man or lesbian. In the extreme, a man could refuse to take direction at his job from a female supervisor.
The bill could allow any religion — regardless of how mainstream or far from the mainstream — to establish a foothold in Mississippi, as no particular religion may be “protected.” Observers of all religions, including Sharia law, Satanism, and other non-Christianist religions, will also have the right to act, or not act, based on their deeply-held religious beliefs.
“From its inception,” Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality told The New Civil Rights Movement yesterday by telephone, the goal of the bill has been “to create a license to discriminate under the guise of protecting religious freedom.”
The law will go into effect July 1.
Reuters reported the governor’s intent to sign the legislation.
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