Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a law that has the potential to change the atmosphere in an increasingly pro-LGBT era.
The sweeping law codifies three things: it defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, that sex should only take place in such a union, and that gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.
Aided by the Alliance Defending Freedom legal team, this law focuses on protecting Christians with sincerely held beliefs. This Mississippian law is the country’s first law specifically aimed at protecting Christians who believe marriage is a heterosexual union.
This Law Isn’t New
HB 1523, referred to as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, has received the attention from both conservative and liberal populations; albeit, the reactions that follow couldn’t be more dissimilar.
However, this isn’t the first time this topic or even this law has made the press. This law almost passed in April 2016, but was blocked in July of that year by District Judge Carlton Reeves – who argued that the law was unconstitutional. However, because on June 15, 2017, a three-judge panel of 5th Circuit lifted the injunction, this law actually might see the light of day.
Events Leading to the Creation of the Bill
While Mississippi has been labeled “the most hateful state” since its governor signed this bill, it should be no surprise that Christians were fighting for legal protection. Multiple legal cases have surfaced over the past few years in which steadfast Christians sought help from the justice system to protect their right to religious freedom.
In 2013, Colorado cake baker Jack Phillips made headlines when he refused to bake a cake for a gay couple. Phillips was not alone. In 2013, the owners of Oregon bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, lost a legal battle and were forced to pay up to $150K to the couple.
Since then, teachers and state workers alike have lost jobs over their beliefs regarding marriage.
The issue of discriminating against Christians has been a major point of contention for the past few years. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns, took to the courts and sued then-President Barack Obama because they too felt their religious beliefs were threatened. There is no denying this law was a long time coming.
What Does the Law Protect Against?
While liberals say this is “the worst law in America”, this law protects those with genuinely held religious beliefs. Simply put, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act prevents the state from impeding on the constitutional right of individuals to hold their own religious beliefs. Christians may not be forced by the government to act against their conscience in the following situations:
• Religious-based organizations (seminaries, convents, schools, social services) may implement policies influenced by religious beliefs. This includes religious adoption agencies that hold the right to place children only with a married heterosexual couple.
• Wedding vendors (florists, bakers, videographers, caterers, photographers) may refuse service to a homosexual couple on the grounds of sincerely held religious beliefs
• State clerks do not have to administer licenses to gay couples (Think back to the Arkansan county clerk who resigned over this issue).
• Therapists and doctors (including surgeons) may opt out of any sex reassignment therapies and/or surgeries. (Emergent care, however, must still be given.)
• As for bathroom policies, any private business and school may create their own bathroom and /or locker room policies.
Almost immediately, liberal groups and news outlets took a stance, labeling this bill as the “most discriminatory […] law in the country – was rooted in hate.” However, the bill is not meant to be discriminatory. In fact, its goal is the opposite: it prevents discrimination of Christians with traditional views of marriage
HB 1523 does not say that gay couples cannot adopt children; it says that a Christian adoption agency cannot be forced to act against their conscience and place children into their care. A gay couple will still be free to seek adoption in any other agency.
Admittedly, this act does raise questions. What is discrimination and where are the boundaries? Anti-discrimination laws should never violate the rights of another because then that would also be discrimination.
The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act does not exist to stamp out the dreams of gay couples. This law exists solely to protect Christians, and in today’s society, that is something to celebrate.
~ 1776 Christian