FFRF appalled by ruling on discriminatory Mississippi bill

1US-CourtOfAppeals-5thCircuit-SealThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is dismayed about an appeals court’s misguided decision to allow a discriminatory bill to become law in Mississippi

House Bill 1523, which privileges certain religious beliefs by allowing discrimination in their name, was initially stopped from becoming law by federal courts. On June 22, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals removed the injunction staying the law.

The lower court had blocked the bill because it “establishes an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others” and “because its broad religious exemption comes at the expense of other citizens.”

Indeed it does.

The bill is an absurd foray by the government into the land of religious privilege. It singles out a few specific religious beliefs for protection, including that marriage is between “one man and one woman”; that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage”; and that a “biological sex” is “immutable” and “objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

It privileges these beliefs — mostly held by fundamentalist Christians — by allowing any person or organization who “sincerely” holds them to discriminate in matters of housing, foster care or counseling. It also allows for bakers, photographers, DJs, wedding rental companies and others to discriminate against gay couples.

The sole bright spot in an otherwise short and stark decision was that the court did not look to the merits of the law. Instead, the court dismissed the case because it said the plaintiffs contesting the law had no standing — they were not yet injured. However, the court ended its decision by explaining that it did “not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact.”

That’s why FFRF holds out hope that the law still may be struck down.

The plaintiffs intend to ask the full 5th Circuit to review the three-judge panel’s decision. If that fails, other individuals who suffer discrimination under the law will still be able to challenge it in court. Put another way, this case is not over. Religion is not a license to discriminate.

“We can’t believe that in our day and age, the Mississippi Legislature passed such an overtly discriminatory bill in the name of ‘religious liberty,'” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Someone will very soon be harmed by the law — and we’re certain it will be overturned when it’s then taken to the courts.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization representing more than 29,000 nonreligious members across the country, including in Mississippi. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

Image: U.S. Government; Copyright Free

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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