Students react to Miss. religion law

Gov. Phil Bryant Courtesy Photo
Gov. Phil Bryant
Courtesy Photo

Thursday, April 3 Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2681, better known as the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill that claims to protect individuals’ religious beliefs is being opposed by many, but mainly by the LGBTQ community.

Biology major Tyler Moseley is truly disappointed by the passing of this bill.

“It saddens me that our legislature could pass a document so vague and ripe for misinterpretation,” Moseley said. “I believe in religious freedom, but discrimination is an ugly thing.”So what does this bill say?

Section 1 of the bill says “state action shall not burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion.”

Here, “burden” is defined as any action that “constrains, inhibits, curtails or denies the exercise of religion by any person.”

The bill also states that the exercise of religion includes “the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Section 2 of the bill adds the phrase “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

During the month before the bill was passed, many politicians within the state were distancing themselves from the bill for economic reasons. In response, executive director of the Christian Action Commission, Jimmy Porter, wrote a letter to state Republican representatives threatening to make a public spectacle of every representative that failed to vote in favor of the bill.

“This bill is a perfect example of how a little lobbying and lazy legislators who don’t read the bills can sneak something so wrong into something as innocent as changing the state emblem,” Moseley said.

Based on the fact that LGBTQ individuals are not fundamentally protected by any legislature against discrimination the way that an individual is by race, many have understood this bill to essentially legalize discrimination against, and segregation of, members of the LGBTQ community.

But that brings to mind: even if someone could decide to change their sexual orientation, should they feel the need to do that so as not to live as a second-class citizen in Mississippi?
Student Joshua Harper feels persecution is afoot. “Aren’t Christians supposed to love everyone?” he asked.

For a state in which being Christian is the norm, it seems backward that an act should be passed in order to protect Christians from discrimination. After all, the Mississippi Constitution is one of only seven states that decrees “no person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this State.”

Taking into account both this section of the Mississippi Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, one must wonder: whatever happened to separation of church and state?

Despite all this, it is reassuring that individuals aren’t alone in this opposition. The teachers and administrators of Tougaloo College and Millsaps College issued a joint letter expressing their concerns about this bill.
Similarly, a joint statement was issued by The University of Mississippi’s Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, warning of violent and
hateful consequences.

Despite clamoring support from Southern Baptists and Old South legislators, both students and teachers all over Mississippi agree that SB 2681 is bad news.