Great news! The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (federal court in New Orleans) upheld the Mississippi “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act" or HB 1523.
This bill was introduced and passed in the MS Legislature in 2016 and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant. Tim Wildmon, AFA President, interviewed Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant earlier this week about the Fifth Circuit’s decision. Listen to that short conversation here.
AFA’s contention is that this legislation was necessary due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision which created a constitutionally protected right to same-sex marriage in every state. The court’s ruling failed to protect people and entities which hold religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality that conflict with the government’s enforcement of the right to same-sex marriage.
AFA strongly believes that legislation was necessary to prevent government (in this case state) bureaucrats and courts from denying tax benefits, government funding and licenses, school accreditation, and employment or otherwise infringing on the religious rights of Christians simply because we believe the Bible teaches that marriage is only between one man and one woman and that a person’s gender is defined by biology at birth and is unchangeable.
Examples are numerous as to why this law is necessary. Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired from his public sector job for writing a men’s Bible study (on his own time) that affirmed marriage as between one man and one woman. Barronelle Stutzman was sued by the state of Washington for declining to participate in a homosexual wedding. Faith based adoption agencies have been forced to stop serving orphans in need of homes because the policies of these agencies require homes with a married mother and father. Gordon College of Massachusetts was threatened with loss of accreditation due to its embrace of orthodox Christianity.
The protections the Fifth Circuit upheld in HB 1523 include:
- Protecting Christians from being legally forced to participate in a wedding ceremony between two homosexuals.
- Preventing of the State of Mississippi and local governments therein from violating the conscience of individuals or entities who affirm marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
- Protection of a person’s conscience from state and local government persecution if that person affirms that sexual identity is biologically fixed at birth.
- Protection of faith-based adoption agencies from government persecution if the agency chooses to place children only in homes of a mother and father.
- Protection of religious schools and other non-profit religious groups from the governmental threat of losing their tax-exempt status.
Religious freedom has been under assault in our country, especially against Christians. This decision is another reason to give thanks to the Lord today! AFA thanks our friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom for taking this case up on behalf of the people of Mississippi.