The So-called “Religious Freedom” Bill Jeopardizes Good Business Practice, Exposes Employers to Litigation

It has been reported that the Civil Sub-committee voted yesterday to mold the RFRA after the federal government’s 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It has been suggested that the amendment “addressed actions by government — not individuals or businesses”. This does NOT go far enough to protect individuals or businesses.

Religious freedom is a fundamental right.

  • The Constitution protects not only the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs. We have the absolute right to believe whatever we want about God, faith, and religion, and we have the right to act on our beliefs, unless those actions harm others.

This law would allow religion to be used to discriminate by failing to protect critical civil rights laws in Mississippi.

  • In its original and amended form as reported, this bill could allow people to argue that their religious beliefs exempt them from complying with laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, and national origin.
  • For instance, a government agency employee who does not want to hire an African-American or a Jewish applicant could claim a right to discriminate.

This law would not protect against government funding of discrimination.

  • By defining “burden” to include withholding of government benefits, religious organizations and individuals may use the statute to challenge exclusion from governmental programs. This could result in government funding of not only religious ends and activities, but also discrimination.

This law will result in increased litigation and costs to both government and private businesses throughout our state.

  • Because there is no “substantial burden” requirement, religious exemption challenges could be made to any law, policy, regulation, government action, or decision that affects religious exercise—no matter how minor, incidental, or indirect the alleged burden.
  • These cases will clog up our court system and our state and local governments will have to spend taxpayer dollars to show that the policy or law in question serves a “compelling governmental interest.” There’s no telling how long such cases may take. Private businesses will be caught in this mess as well.

SB 2681 in any form is bad for business, bad for tourism, bad for the people and doesn’t move our state forward.

The fight is still not over.

Contact the members of the House by calling, emailing, stopping by their local offices and telling them to KILL THE BILL before Tuesday, March 12th!