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Mississippi Conscience Protections Stand

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This week, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear two cases (Barber v. Bryant and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant ) challenging Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523). The development leaves in place a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that dismissed challenges by several homosexual individuals and pro-homosexual rights organizations. Mississippi’s conscience protections will stand, for now.

HB 1523 provides that, “The state government shall not take any discriminatory action” against a religious organization or person when they act in very specific areas upon the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” that:

(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and

(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The act protects religious organizations and individuals from the attacks we have seen around the country where, for example, Catholic Charities has been forced to shut down adoption or foster care services, because they hold on to the Biblical model of marriage and sexuality, or a government employee is fired for his faith, or a Christian baker, photographer, or business owner is forced to choose between their livelihood or a violation of conscience.

As predicted, the Supreme Court’s imposition of same-sex marriage on the country by judicial fiat has only encouraged liberal elites to go after (to punish, as they have said) anyone who does not actively affirm and celebrate homosexuality, transgenderism, and beyond. Mere silence on these issues is offensive. The champions of tolerance will never tolerate what the Bible has to say about marriage and sexuality.

The homosexual groups and individuals challenging the law decried it as a violation of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The Fifth Circuit dismissed their challenge, because the plaintiffs did not even have standing to sue.  That is to say, they had suffered no harm.

They only claimed, “stigmatic injury,” which again highlights their demand for active affirmation of their lifestyle under threat of law. HB 1523 does not target homosexuals. Polygamists can complain in the same manner these groups are complaining. Yet, somehow, the media and the homosexual lobby have created a narrative that they are specifically being targeted for discrimination, despite the simple truth that all other sexual relations outside of God’s model for marriage are not allowed in the Holy Scriptures.

The promise of the Obergefell same-sex marriage decision was that, “those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” But we are finding out (again, as was easily predicted) that many elites do not believe that. The Court said emphatically then that, “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.” But what we continue to hear from the homosexual lobby is that everyone who supports laws like this one, to allow all to coexist in peace and harmony in a pluralistic society, are simply bigots who are using religion as an excuse to harm homosexuals.

We heard it chanted over and over by famous politicians and noted commentators on the steps of the Supreme Court as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case was recently heard. The rhetoric was actually used to punish Jack Phillips in that case. Justice Anthony Kennedy picked up on it, calling it “despicable.” He said that one of the commissioners saying, “religion [is being] used to justify discrimination [was a] despicable piece of rhetoric.”

So, it is. But, so what? Liberal tolerance is a farce. It doesn’t matter what rhetoric they use as long as the Court continues to treat sexual preferences as race and people of faith as bigots. Justice Kennedy himself was the author of the Obergefell decision and other opinions which have been major contributors to the attacks on people of faith.

He did it knowingly. Our current religious intolerance was predicted by Chief Justice John Roberts in Obergefell, writing:

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses. Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage — when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today. (Citations omitted).

And “no comfort” we’ve had.

Similarly, although we should be grateful that the Mississippi law is left to stand, we can take no comfort in it.  Another challenge will surely rise, and another and another after that. Perhaps what would be most helpful is for the Supreme Court to issue a strong opinion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, signaling once and for all that it takes seriously the words of the First Amendment protecting the “free exercise of religion.” For that to happen, Justice Kennedy must live up to the promises he made (alone, it seems) in Obergefell.

We can only hope.