OPINION: Religious Freedom Bills
Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer
Last month Mississippi Governor signed a bill into law that he claimed would protect religious freedoms, yet instead of protecting people from discrimination it does the exact opposite.
Supporters of the bill have claimed that it protects “religious freedom” but the clear focus of the bill is on allowing for open discrimination against people of the LGBT community.
This bill allows for religious organizations to refuse to conduct a marriage, fire employees for their sexual orientation, and refuse to provide adoption or foster care services.
Individuals and private companies are allowed to refuse to give counseling, refuse to give housing, refuse to provide any wedding-related services, all because of someone’s sexual orientation.
After same-sex marriage was determined a universal right last summer, it is extremely disappointing that certain states are still trying to limit the rights of LGBT people, especially considering the current standing of states like Mississippi that are signing these bills into law.
According to Gallup and USA Today, Mississippi has the lowest life expectancy, highest obesity rate, third lowest graduation rate, and lowest median household income in the country, yet instead of focusing time and resources on solving major issues, they’re spending time and resources getting discriminatory bills like this one passed.
The problem is these bills hurt more than just the people who they target; they can have broader economic impacts as well.
We have seen this happen in Georgia where a similar bill was put on the Governor’s desk. That bill lead to numerous companies and groups threatening to pull out of the state, such as Coca Cola, Delta and Home Depot. Nathan Deal, the governor of Georgia, went on to veto that bill but that was not the case for all states.
In North Carolina, another similar religious freedom bill was passed. The reaction was not surprising, and a number of companies such as Bank of America and Lowes blasted the law, with some companies such as Paypal actually pulling investments out of the state.
America has become a very diverse and gradually more accepting nation, but these states are holding back progress and wasting time and energy trying to uphold backwards legislation.
It’s time to recognize the fact that we are all different and, regardless of what religion you follow, it’s no longer acceptable to discriminate against people who may not live the same way we do.