The liberals who lit the firestorm that surrounded the Arizona SB1026 bill have nearly ignored similar legislation in Mississippi.
The Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act has already passed through the state senate and will be voted on by the state house before March 12, but without the same outrage, pressure, and media flare-up that surrounded Arizona’s bill. What makes this bill any different?
Honestly, very little.
The bill uses some of the same wording as Arizona’s, the only difference being that it does not specify that religious rights extend to businesses. Nonetheless, such specifications should not be necessary, as Michael McConnell of Stanford Law told me during our discussion on the Arizona bill:
This is certainly not a dangerous law. The law is already in place. The amendments are minor tweaks that resolve some ambiguities that have come up in a few states. Everyone has a right to raise their free exercise rights under state law. This has been in place for a long time.
It should not be controversial that religious rights extend to business activity and should not be controversial that religious freedom applies in civil suits as well as direct governmental enforcement.
However, it was controversial and the Arizona bill was vetoed.
Then the Mississippi law emerged and faced only minor scrutiny from civil rights and gay rights groups, which feared the original wording of the bill could lead to discrimination. (Unsurprisingly, despite the lack of uproar, the activists were just as intransigent in Mississippi as in Arizona: Even after the wording which allowed businesses to cite religious rights was removed from the bill, they still oppose it.)
This leaves me with two questions. First, why has this bill not faced the same nationwide controversy that the Arizona bill did? And second, why do progressives think businesses should not have the same rights as individuals when it comes to religious liberty?
The Arizona pressure campaign led other states, including Maine, Ohio, Idaho, and Georgia, to drop their own versions of a religious liberty bill. But Mississippi held on and has been met with few attacks from the other side. What makes this different?
And to those on the left who still want to wipe out these bills – why do you think that religion is only something an individual can practice when acting as an individual? Why must religion be confined to Sunday worship services? Why can a woman have her religious beliefs on Sunday but not carry them into her small business come Monday morning?
I’d say it’s not because liberals hate Muslims, or Buddhists, or Jews, or Hindus, but because they have a clear anti-Christian agenda. It is the Protestant craft store owners and the Catholic nuns that get accosted—not the Muslim cab drivers.
We must beware of the left’s agenda to keep Christians in church-service-sized boxes. Thankfully, it looks like liberals are worn out from their last fight and this bill will pass, rightfully reaffirming Mississippians' First Amendment rights.