Today, Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2681, the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, into law.
Religious freedom is one of our most treasured liberties, a fundamental and defining feature of our national character. The ACLU vigorously defends the rights of all Americans to practice their religion. We have the right to a government that neither promotes nor disparages religion generally, nor any faith, in particular. We have the absolute right to believe whatever we want about God, faith, and religion. We have the right to act on our religious beliefs, unless those action harm others.
We are disappointed that Governor Bryant did not listen to the public outcry from Mississippians about SB 2681. However, in light of the opposition from state religious leaders, legal scholars and Mississippi’s own citizens, lawmakers did improve upon the language in the original bill.
Unfortunately, the new language falls short. The law could still open the door for someone who wants to use their religion to discriminate against others. The law could allow individuals and businesses to bring challenges against what they view as substantial government burdens against religion, including challenging existing nondiscrimination laws. Mississippi legislators rejected language that would have explicitly prohibited religion from being used to excuse discrimination.
Senate Bill 2681 also exposes virtually every brand and office of government to litigation where our state will have to spend taxpayer money to defend lawsuits. This law is unnecessary and the Mississippi legislature has been unable to articulate why this law is needed in our state.
We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination. Nobody should be refused service because of who they are.
This law also adds "In God We Trust" to the Mississippi state seal and goes into effect July 1st, 2014.