On Tuesday Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law a sweeping bill that allows businesses, individuals, and organizations to cite religious or moral beliefs in order to discriminate. As the ACLU outlines, the new law is likely to have far-reaching implications for LGBT people as well as single mothers, who “could be turned away from social services like homeless shelters, denied medical care, or be fired from their jobs.” The specific beliefs “protected” include the views that marriage is between opposite-sex partners only; that sex should only occur within marriage; and that gender identification is based only on the sex a baby was assigned at birth. People with different religious beliefs on the same issues receive no such special treatment under the law.
Dr. Christopher Cockrell, a Meridian, Mississippi member of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, released the following statement:
“This is a very sad week for our state. People being turned away from shelters or denied medical care simply because of who they are is unjust and discriminatory, and it flies in the face of basic human decency. This is not a law that reflects the values of most Mississippians, including religious leaders, and it may open up a Pandora’s box for more discriminatory bills to come.
“Religious freedom should never be cited as an excuse to harm others. Targeting people who are already vulnerable for state-sanctioned discrimination can only be described as appalling.”