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Mississippi Governor Has Now Signed Not One But Two Anti-Gay ‘Religious Freedom’ Bills Into Law

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Governor Phil Bryant this afternoon signed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. The highly-controversial law will allow anyone to discriminate against anyone else in the name of religious liberty, and places the rights and desires of the faithful over those with no religious beliefs. In short, it is a license to discriminate and likely will land the state in court.

Bryant has now signed two anti-gay “religious freedom” bills into law: SB 2633 and SB 2681.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, SB 2681, had been sent back to committee after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill. The Mississippi bill was believed dead but lawmakers quickly changed the bill’s language and bill number and rammed it through the legislature in less than 24 hours, allowing the governor to sign it just as the legislative session closed.

The bill contains this troubling text:

“Laws ‘neutral’ toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise.”

“Government should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.”

The bill could allow a pharmacist to refuse to sell contraception to a particular person, and could allow a child to tell a fellow student perceived as being gay they are going to hell — and cite the law as their right to continuously bully and harass them. The bill could also be used by a corporation to refuse to pay for certain medical procedures via its health insurance program, like abortion or birth control, as in the Hobby Lobby case currently before the Supreme Court.

Standing by Governor Bryant’s side as the bill was signed was none other than the head of the certified anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, Tony Perkins. Perkins then invited Bryant on his radio show this afternoon.

Bryant proceeded to falsely state that his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act “mirrors” the federal government’s. It does not. Bryant’s characterization of his new law is false, faulty, and could easily lead to tremendous abuses.

Further, as Think Progress’ Zack Ford notes, the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act is different from other states’ RFRAs “because Mississippi law defines the word ‘person’ to include businesses, and thus it applies to corporations instead of just private citizens exercising their religious beliefs.”

And not only did Bryant sign the anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law today, but last year he signed another so-called “religious freedom” law — for students.

On March 14, 2013, Bryant signed SB 2633, the Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act into law. His press office claims the “measure protects students from being discriminated against in a public school for expressing their religious viewpoints or engaging in religious activities.”

In reality, of course, the bill will allow the bullying of any student perceived as LGBT, and will give the bully cover not just through the bible or other religious text, but now through the full force of the power of the state: the law.

“Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions,” the bill’s text reads.

In short, students may announce to their classmates that, for example, LGBT people are going to hell, and the school may not discipline the child, as he can claim “religious freedom.” A student could also verbally attack any student or teacher as a “sinner” for any one of a number of issues, and claim “religious freedom.” It is a get out of jail free card for Mississippi students.

Bryant has opened the door for extreme religious based anti-gay hate to become legitimized, and has ensured his state’s regressive policies and attitudes for decades to come. Religious freedom should never be a yoke to oppress one’s fellow citizens.

 

 

Image of Gov. Bryant via Twitter

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated SB 2633, the Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act, was signed this year. It was signed last year.

 

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ANALYSIS

Trump, Wanting to Change News Cycle, Appears to Confess to ‘Openly and Transparently’ Taking Classified Docs

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It’s been a tough month for Donald Trump.

After Republicans failed to produce the red wave he claimed he would have been responsible for if it happened, but could not be held responsible if it did not, then refused to take any responsibility, Trump has been held responsible by left and right wing pundits, and even some GOP politicians.

Trump then moved forward with his 2024 presidential campaign announcement, which was widely panned as “low energy” – so low that several guests trying to leave early appeared to be refused access to the exits.

Days later Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that because Trump announced he is running for President, a Special Counsel has been appointed to two of the DOJ’s investigations into Trump. (Some say that’s good news for Trump, some say bad.)

READ MORE: ‘Fraud’: Legal Expert Stunned After Trump Appears to Admit He Used DOJ to Interfere in Florida’s 2018 Election

And then a three-judge panel basically destroyed Trump’s attorney who was arguing the former president’s appeal in his case against the U.S. Government. Trump is arguing both that he declassified all the documents but also they are all his property.

That was all before last week.

Six days ago Donald Trump sat down with his invited guest, the antisemite and racist Kanye West, embattled after losing hundreds of millions in endorsements over his antisemitic remarks. That would have been bad enough, but West brought infamous white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes, along with (reportedly) Milo Yiannopoulos and Trump 2016 aide Karen Giorno, who was reportedly involved in a pay-for-pardon scheme.

Since Wednesday the media has exploded with calls for Trump to denounce white supremacism and white supremacists. He has refused.

READ MORE: Republican Senator Denounces Trump’s Dinner With ‘Racist Antisemites’ – Critics Say His Claim ‘This Is Not the GOP’ Is False

Multiple advisers have urged Trump to denounce Fuentes, who has a long history of promoting white supremacism, but he has been “rejecting” their advice, The Guardian reports, “over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said.”

Desperate to change the media narrative, late Monday afternoon Trump appeared to confess to stealing thousands of items (some counts say 13,000) including 300 documents with “Classified” and “Top Secret” headers.

“This fully weaponized monster, Jack Smith,” Trump said of the special counsel investigating him, “shouldn’t be let anywhere near the political persecution of ‘President Donald J. Trump.’ I did nothing wrong on January 6th, and nothing wrong with the Democrats’ fix on the Document Hoax, that is, unless the six previous Presidents did something wrong also,” Trump claimed on his Truth Social platform.

That’s when – in a departure from his previous suggestions that the classified documents, which he also claims to have declassified, may have been planted – Trump appeared to confess to the crime.

“When will you invade Bill and Hillary’s home in search of the 33,000 emails she deleted AFTER receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Congress? When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?”

It’s the, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” that has set off many.

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, one of the first to notice Trump’s statement, wrote: “Imagine Trump’s lawyers may not love the final line of his latest Truth Social post. ‘When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?'”

Some are suggesting the part, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” appears akin to a confession.

Top national security attorney Brad Moss responded to Dawsey’s tweet, writing, “He has the right to remain silent. Anything he says can and will be used against him. He has the right to an attorney. If he can’t afford one, one will be appointed for him by the courts.”

Journalist Touré commented: “In which Trump admits to taking documents, charges other former POTUSs with also taking documents (without evidence), and says he took the documents in a way that’s somehow better than the way that those other stealing POTUSs did. Same ol Trump.”

 

Image: Shirley Preston / Shutterstock

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COMMENTARY

Franklin Graham’s Ugly Lie Ahead of Senate Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will put the Respect for Marriage Act on the Senate floor late Monday afternoon. It is expected to pass, thanks to about a dozen Republicans who are expected to vote to protect, at least at the federal level, the marriages of same-sex and interracial couples.

Franklin Graham, who unlike his famous father has devoted a great deal of his time to attacking LGBTQ Americans, posted an ugly lie on Facebook to stir up his base of 10 million followers.

The Respect for Marriage Act merely states the federal government is required to recognize any marriage that was legal in any state it was entered into. An amendment to the bill goes a long way in codifying the right to anti-LGBTQ discrimination by faith-based organizations, but LGBTQ activists see it as a win to protect marriages after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called for cases that would help him overturn several laws, including the right to intimate contact and the right to marriage for same-sex couples.

READ MORE: 37 Senators Just Voted Against a Bill Protecting Same-Sex and Interracial Marriages. All Were Republicans.

The bill also ensures states, even if they ban marriage equality, will recognize any legal marriage that happened before any possible ban or that happened in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

“It is very disappointing that these 12 Republican senators would side with the Democrats and ultra-liberal Senator Chuck Schumer to put the vast majority of Americans who believe in and support marriage between a man and a woman in jeopardy,” Graham wrote in an obvious and ugly lie on Facebook over the weekend.

He then listed the Senators’ names, and add links to their contact information on their government websites.

Graham’s false claim that somehow anyone who believes in or supports marriage between a man and a woman would be put “in jeopardy” by this bill is a dangerous falsehood.

READ MORE: 35 States Still Have Same-Sex Marriage Bans on the Books – Dems Say Same-Sex Marriage Bill Has Enough Votes to Pass

Graham didn’t stop there.

“The deceptively-named Respect for Marriage Act that Senator Schumer is trying to push through is just a smokescreen to give more protections to same-sex marriage—and it doesn’t protect the religious liberties of those who support traditional marriage. In fact, it would make individuals, churches, academic institutions, and organizations who stand with marriage between a man and a woman in danger of persecution and legal attacks because of their convictions,” Graham added, which, again is false.

As NCRM has previously reported, all the religious protections that people of faith currently enjoy would be unchanged – if not strengthened – contrary to numerous false claims of far right extremists and religious extremists, like Graham.

The bill and its accompanying amendment do such a good job of protecting religious liberties that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, has issued a statement supporting it.

READ MORE: Watch: Chasten Buttigieg Says Tucker Carlson Is Focusing on ‘Hate’ After Host’s Latest Anti-Gay Attack on His Husband

Despite decades of demonization by the right, same-sex marriage has become extremely popular, and not one of the false claims Graham and the religious right made before Obergefell has come true.

Same-sex marriage enjoys a favorability rating of 70% (per Gallup), and 61% of Americans say legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society (Pew).

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is the original sponsor of the bill, and Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, an original co-sponsor, is taking the lead for the Democrats.

A joint press release that also includes Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), states an amendment to the bill, which Republicans fought for, ensures no religious rights will be impacted.

The amendment, their statement says, “Protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or Federal law, including but not limited to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and prevents this bill from being used to diminish or repeal any such protection.”

Why Graham is telling his flock something greatly different is par for the course.

“The bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals and ministries and is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act,’” Graham said two weeks ago in an egregiously false statement.

“Its sponsors remarkably claim it protects religious freedom. It does not. This disastrous bill sends a message to America that if you don’t agree with the left’s definition of marriage, you are a bigot,” Graham added, again, falsely.

Should the Respect for Marriage Act pass it heads back to the House for a final vote, as the House’s version is slightly different. President Biden has promised to sign it into law.

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News

Republican Senator Denounces Trump’s Dinner With ‘Racist Antisemites’ – Critics Say His Claim ‘This Is Not the GOP’ Is False

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U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has become the first sitting Senator to denounce Donald Trump‘s dinner last week with, among other extremists, antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes and Kanye West. But while some are relieved an elected Republican has finally denounced what they say should have been done lone ago, critics are informing the Louisiana Republican that he’s wrong to say, “This is not the Republican Party.”

“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party,” Senator Cassidy wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon.

Shortly thereafter U.S. Senator Susan Collins also denounced Trump’s dinner with Fuentes, as Axios reports. Fuentes was a guest of antisemite Kanye West, who has also made racist remarks going back nearly a decade.

READ MORE: Trump’s Dinner With Kanye Also Included a Former Aide Accused in Pay-for-Pardon Play, and White Supremacist Fuentes

“I condemn white supremacy and anti-semitism. The president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes,” Collins told NBC News’ Frank Thorp V and Sahil Kapur.

“Spokespeople for nearly two dozen House and Senate Republicans,” Axios adds, “including party leaders, co-chairs of caucuses and task forces focused on Judaism or antisemitism and sponsors of legislation to combat antisemitic hate crimes — did not respond to requests for comment.”

Nearly all House and Senate Republicans are not the only ones refusing to denounce the dinner or Trump’s antisemitic, racist, or white supremacist guests. Despite his advisors’ urgings, Donald Trump has spoken several times to defend himself and paint himself as a victim — not once to denounce his guests’ extremist and vile beliefs.

Some on the left are thanking Sen. Cassidy for speaking up, while many critics are correcting his proposition that the GOP is not the embodiment of today’s far right, including antisemites and white supremacists.

READ MORE: Kellyanne Conway, Who Trump Reportedly Told He Understood He Had Lost to Biden, Testifying Before J6 Committee

“Notable and praiseworthy to see an actually elected Republican lawmaker condemn Trump by name for meeting with antisemites. Of course, whenever someone says ‘there is no place for X in our party,’ it generally means there is! But naming and condemning the thing obviously matters,” wrote The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg.

“Actually embracing ‘racist antisemites for dinner’ is 100% percent today’s GOP. But still good to see a Republican denounce it–although Sen Cassidy has long been a Trump critic,” wrote SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah.

The Dispatch’s senior editor David French, a former Republican who used to write for the right wing National Review, called Cassidy’s statement “Exactly right,” and added: “Thank you.”

“Took almost a week for ONE lone Republican Senator to openly say this,” pollster Natalie Jackson noted. “This is why I continue to say Trump has a chokehold on the party, even if some indicators wane.”

Brianna Wu, the co-founder the progressive political action committee Rebellion PAC, tweeted: “Spoiler. This is definitely the Republican Party.”

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