JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act is headed to the house floor. Tuesday, and amended version of the bill cleared committee. The bill aims to put “in God we trust” on the state seal, but it also contained language that is similar to Arizona’s religious bill that may have allowed for discrimination against gays, and other groups that are not protected under law. Committee members say they have modified the bill to address those concerns.
Tuesday, several pastors, both Methodist and Baptist from Hattiesburg to Starkville wrote an open letter to legislators urging house members to reject the Senate’s bill. The letter says the basic discrimination bill may provide nothing to do with religious freedom.
Here is a look at the letter:
We write this letter in opposition to Senate Bill 2681. Our opposition rises out of our moral obligation to do what is best for our communities.
As people of faith, we are ardent supporters of religious freedom for all Americans. We know that it is the religious freedom to worship as we choose that makes our country and our state great. Religious organizations have a long established First Amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs and we as faith leaders hold that right as sacred and will do all in our power to preserve it.
However, we also know that there is a difference between sacred space and commercial space. When providing a service to the public, businesses cannot pick and choose whom to serve and whom to deny. This is basic discrimination and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.
This legislation will have immense and negative consequences on all communities, including religious communities. First, it sends the message that one’s particular religious interpretation can become the law of the land. Second, as religious leaders we know that families are harmed when legislation unfairly opens up members of our communities to discrimination. As a state, we know we can do better than that.
As Methodists and Baptists, we may not always agree on all things, but we can agree that this bill goes too far and is unnecessary. Because we are people who are called to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” we ask Mississippi legislators to reject Senate Bill 2681.
Rev. Rob Hill, Broadmeadow United Methodist Church, Jackson
Rev. Stan Wilson, Northside Baptist Church, Clinton
Rev. Bruce Case, Parkway Hills United Methodist Church, Madison
Rev. Bert Montgomery, University Baptist Church, Starkville
Rev. Rusty Edwards, University Baptist Church, Hattiesburg