Judge rules in favor of religious freedom

A federal judge in Mississippi has provided a huge victory to those who believe in actual religious freedom.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves struck down Mississippi’s unconstitutional “religious freedom” bill, HB 1523, last Thursday night. The judge declared the entire bill unconstitutional, with immediate effect. “The Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment] is violated because persons who hold contrary religious beliefs are unprotected—the state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” Reeves wrote

The judge struck the bill down because HB 1523 “establishes an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others” and “because its broad religious exemption comes at the expense of other citizens.”

The bill was a particularly dreadful attempt by members of the Christian right—and their allies in the Mississippi Legislature—to impose their belief system on others.

“HB 1523 aimed to allow clerks to cite religious objections so that they could recuse themselves from granting same-sex couples marriage licenses,” the Clarion-Ledger reports. “In addition, the law incorporated three beliefs that businesses could cite in order to refuse service to clients. The three beliefs included the following: that marriage should only be between one man and one woman, that sexual intercourse should only happen in such a marriage and that one’s gender is assigned at birth and cannot be changed.” 

It is no surprise that Reeves ruled that it was a constitutional violation.

“This Mississippi bill was particularly outrageous, even by the standards of the Bible Belt,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “We welcome a federal judge’s reminder to the state of Mississippi to respect the Constitution.”

The judge even addressed the sadly common and misguided idea that because the phrase “separation of state and church” doesn’t appear in the U.S. Constitution, the notion is meaningless. “There cannot be the slightest doubt that the First Amendment reflects the philosophy that church and state should be separated,” Reeves wrote in a lesson to people who insist on misinterpreting the Bill of Rights.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nontheist organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with nearly 24,000 members all over the country, including in Mississippi.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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