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Mississippi

Ariz. controversy prompts changes to proposed Miss. religious freedom bill

Thursday, February 27, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi House panel is proposing changes that might neutralize concerns about whether a religious freedom bill could lead to discrimination against gay people or other groups.

MississippiThe House Judiciary B Committee on Thursday discussed Senate Bill 2681, the “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

A subcommittee proposes removing parts of the bill that would allow people to refuse service to others based on religious beliefs. If the full committee accepts the changes, the bill would say state government cannot infringe on religious practices.

The original version of the Mississippi bill is similar to a measure that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Wednesday after critics said it could lead to discrimination.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi opposes the original Mississippi bill, saying it would allow discrimination against people based on race, sexual identity, religion and national origin. ACLU attorneys were evaluating the proposed changes.

The House committee has until Tuesday to vote on whether to advance the bill to the full House. Committee Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, asked members – particularly those who are attorneys – to study the proposed changes before he decides whether to bring the bill up for a vote.

“We do believe there are more questions, more research and study to be done on this,” Gipson said. “And we want to be sure that … whatever we do is a well-reasoned approach.”

The Mississippi Economic Council issued a statement Thursday praising the proposed changes in the bill but not taking a stance on whether it should pass.

“As the state chamber of commerce for a state that has proven its hospitable and business-friendly approach, MEC opposes efforts that would intentionally or unintentionally prevent Mississippi businesses from implementing and enforcing non-discrimination policies impacting their customers and empl oyees,” the council’s statement said.

Similar religious-freedom bills were filed this year in several states, including Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee. A bill was withdrawn Wednesday in Ohio, and similar measures are stalled in Idaho and Kansas.

When the Mississippi Senate debated and passed its bill Jan. 31, there was no mention of whether the measure would allow discrimination against gay people or other groups. Rather, the debate focused on whether there’s a need for a state law to spell out the freedom to practice religion that’s already guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Senators amended the bill to add “In God We Trust” to the state seal, and passed the bill 48-0. Gov. Phil Bryant said during his State of the State speech Jan. 22 that he wants to add the phrase to the state seal.

He said Wednesday that he had hoped legislators would deal with the seal in a separate bill without tying it to other issues.

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14 more reader comments:

  1. that flag needs to be changed

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:08pm
  2. “A subcommittee proposes removing parts of the bill that would allow people to refuse service to others based on religious beliefs. If the full committee accepts the changes, the bill would say state government cannot infringe on religious practices.” They already have that. It’s called The Constitution. *facepalm*

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:10pm
  3. isn’t that the confederate flag in the top left corner. back where I come from that is gaining popularity of the really low class people where i come from to justify there absolutely stupidity… And I come from Northern Canada…..

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:11pm
  4. Andrew that is a confederate flag of hate and discrimination. You would think Ole Miss. would learn from her past, but she is misbehavin' again.

    Replied on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:17pm
  5. by the looks of it so is the entire country....

    Replied on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:18pm
  6. Mississippi do u not see this is shut down in every state!!! It a bill to allow discrimination. I don’t care how u re think it, rewrap it, or reword it. A discrimination bill is all it is.

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:13pm
  7. The change in language for the bill had absolutely NOTHING to do with AZ. The bill was changed because of pressure from grassroots organizations & the state Chamber of Commerce.

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:17pm
  8. Sorry, it has everything to do with AZ. Without the national attention focused on AZ, the MS lawmakers would have just steamrolled over the grassroots orgs. Because of AZ, these bills are quickly being withdrawn or reworked in about 12 states because no one else wants that kind of attention.

    Replied on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:24pm
  9. discrimination is a life style choice that goes against my religions beliefs

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:18pm
  10. Next thing you know, someone is going to invent a REAL gaydar ,to alert these idiot businesses who do not want to serve gays, when a homosexual enters their business!!!! WTF!! Because without being accurate about their assumption of ones sexual identity, they may be turning away A LOT of potential business because they are so IGNORANT, they wouldn’t know if someone were a homosexual standing next to them!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:20pm
  11. Needlessly throwing away Tax Payer money .

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:21pm
  12. Southern state governments are kinda stupid.

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:25pm
  13. At least when non-southern states do something stupid, they’re being experimental. They aren’t restating the bill of rights because of unfounded fears.

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:28pm
  14. So, Mississippi is talking about removing the language in the bill that allows businesses to refuse service based on “deeply held religious beliefs”. Here’s what they’re not telling us: even though that language may be removed, people will still have no legal recourse if someone does refuse them service due to their religious beliefs. IOW, the language that says that the state (ie. Courts, Attorney General, etc.) cannot “interfere” with said “deeply held religious beliefs” would remain intact.

    Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:29pm