Mississippi Governor To Sign Religious Freedom Bill To Protect Citizens Right To Practice Their Faith

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Mississippi’s governor, Phil Bryant,  said he will sign a religious freedom bill that protects state residents from local or state laws that would violate their right to practice their faith.

Via Yahoo News:

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed 79-43 in the state House of Representatives and 37-14 in the Senate on Tuesday, protects residents from state laws or local ordinances that violate their right to practice their faith.

It is modeled after the 1993 federal law with the same name and will take effect July 1.

Critics say the measure legalizes discrimination, giving businesses the right to refuse service based on religious objections. They warned scenarios such as the Colorado cake-shop owner who refused to bake for a gay wedding last year could become commonplace in Mississippi.

Supporters say the measure will help people like Telsa DeBerry, a pastor who successfully fought the Mississippi city of Holly Springs for the right to open a place of worship on the town square.

City ordinance had required churches to get approval from 60 percent of surrounding property owners, something DeBerry challenged as discriminatory in federal court before finally reaching a settlement with the city.

“That’s the real-life scenario of this bill,” said Republican state Representative Andy Gipson. “If it were in effect at the time, it would have allowed Pastor DeBerry to use the state court to protect his religious freedoms rather than having to go to federal court.”

The Washington Post has more:

The two sides disagree on whether the version passed Tuesday would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians on religious grounds. Another provision of the bill will add the words “In God We Trust” to the state flag, a priority of Gov. Phil Bryant’s (R). Bryant said earlier this month he would sign a previous version of the legislation.

“This is a victory for the First Amendment and the right to live and work according to one’s conscience,” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said in a statement applauding the vote. “This commonsense measure was a no-brainer for freedom, and like the federal [Religious Freedom Restoration Act], it simply bars government discrimination against religious exercise. The legislature gave strong approval to a bill that declares that individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce.”

Similar bills are pending in Missouri and Oklahoma, where legislators are likely to take them up in coming months. Legislators in North Carolina are also likely to bring up a religious freedom measure when it opens in May.

Do you support the idea of religious freedom protection laws that protect state residents from local or state laws that would violate their right to practice their faith?