Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” Into Law

Bryant signed the measure within hours of receiving it, during a private ceremony. | AP Photo
Bryant signed the measure within hours of receiving it, during a private ceremony. | AP Photo

Mississippi’s governor signed into law Thursday a measure that allows individuals and organizations to sue the government over laws that they feel thwart their ability to practice religion.

“I am proud to sign the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which will protect the individual religious freedom of Mississippians of all faiths from government interference,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement.

Civil rights groups and advocates of the gay community had opposed the measure and believe that when it takes effect in July it could lead to increased discrimination of gays and lesbians.

“While I commend his desire to take decisive action to protect the First Amendment rights of Mississippians, this bill – a gross distortion of the American promise of religious freedom – will do far more to hurt that cause in the long run,” said Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Alliance in a statement. “Sadly, I fear that the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an attempt to codify discrimination.”

This year, several other states considered joining the 18 that already have religious freedom laws. Each has been criticized because it could pave the way for businesses to legally refuse to serve gays and lesbians. The law passed in Mississippi is similar to what Arizona has on its books — and had sought to expand as part of a controversial proposal that was recently vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.

The thrust of Senate Bill 2681 says no law should impose a “substantial burden” on someone’s “exercise of religion” unless there is a “compelling interest” and a lack of less burdensome alternatives.

The bill was amended several times in recent weeks as gay rights supporters lobbied lawmakers and brought in stars, including former ‘N Sync singer Lance Bass, to boost their cause. The second half of the bill adds the phrase “In God we trust” to the state seal, which features an eagle with a shield.

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SOURCE: Paresh Dave
The Los Angeles Times

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