Federal Judge Overturns HB 1523

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked House Bill 1523 from going into effect following the state legislature’s passage during the 2016 Legislative Session. Under the bill, businesses would have been allowed to deny services based on sincerely held religious beliefs without facing reciprocity from the state. Individuals would still be able to bring suit against such businesses but the state would remain neutral.

Judge Reeves’ injunction asserts that the law violates the U.S. Constitution in two places:

  1. The First Amendment by “establish[ing] an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others,” and
  2. The Fourteenth Amendment by explicitly favoring “anti-LGBTG religious beliefs” and providing adherents to those beliefs a special right to discriminate that is not available to others.

Mississippi’s Attorney General Jim Hood believes the federal court ruling was clear and does not expect to appeal. No other officials’ comments were available.

This is not the first time Judge Reeves has ruled on religious freedom issues. In July 2015, he issued a court order to prevent Rankin County School District (RCSD) from including any religious activities at school sponsored events. After receiving a $7,500 fine after failing to satisfactorily comply with the court order, the RCSD prevented the Brandon High School Band from playing “How Great Thou Art” during a halftime show fearing that such an act would violate the court order and subject the district to additional fines.

Although born in Texas, Reeves grew up in Yazoo City and was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by President Obama in 2010.

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State legislators attempt to protect traditional values

Under House Bill 1523, State officials, private business owners,and others who provide services to the public couldn’t be punished for acting on deeply held religious beliefs.  The bill specifically protects individuals and organizations for acting upon the following “religious beliefs or moral convictions:”

  1. Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.
  2. Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
  3. 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 bill would prevent the state government from taking any legal action against any religious organization, state employees, or other persons for acting in a manner consistent with these beliefs.

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Navy chaplain under fire for Biblical views

A U.S. Navy chaplain has been reassigned from his duties at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston, SC while he awaits action that could remove him from the military. His offense? Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder expressed his Biblically held beliefs on homosexuality and pre-marital sex.

Michael Berry, Modder’s attorney, stated, “Chaplain Modder does not dispute that during private, one-on-one pastoral care and counseling sessions, he expressed his sincerely held religious belief that: sexual acts outside of marriage are contrary to Biblical teaching; and homosexual behavior is contrary to Biblical teaching; and homosexual orientation or temptation, as distinct from conduct, is not sin,” Berry said.

Modder stated, “[The military] want[s] a chaplain to accommodate policy that contradicts Scripture.”

The 19-year veteran also said, “Many Americans may be shocked to discover how much military culture has changed over the past few years. . . This new generation is very secular and very open sexually. The values that the military once held – just like the Boy Scouts of America – are changing. The culture wants this. Culture is colliding with truth. That’s at the heart of this.”

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Are rights from God. . . or man?

The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .”

Thomas Jefferson acknowledge the foundation of true liberty by asking, “God, who gave us life, gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Jefferson was keenly aware of a threat that now challenges the basic fabric of our country. While interviewing with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore on gay marriage issues before the U.S. Supreme Court, CNN host Chris Cuomo stated, “Times change, definitions change” and then claimed, “Our [rights] do not come from God Your Honor and you know that. They come from man.”

Moore kept his responses based on the Declaration of Independence which has been defined by law to be the organic law, or foundational law, of the United States. Cuomo objected, “Our rights do not come from God. That’s your faith, that’s my faith, but that’s not our country.” Moore reiterated that his position is not based on faith but on U.S. laws.

See a short segment of the interview at CNSNews.com or the entire interview from CNN’s New Day:

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Clarion-Ledger: State’s gay marriage ban’s days appear numbered

On October 6th, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from 5 states where lower courts ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.  By refusing to hear those appeals, the bans on same-sex marriage are overturned and the Supreme Court is unlikely to rule in favor of any bans in the future.

Geoff Pender reports that many legal experts believe it is only a matter of time before Mississippi’s ban will be overturned.  Even state Representative Andy Gipson (R-77), Pastor of Gum Springs Baptist Church, says to prepare for Mississippi’s constitutional ban to be overturned.

Gov. Phil Bryant remains defiant, “In 2004, over 86 percent of Mississippi voters supported a constitutional amendment providing that marriage in Mississippi is valid only between a man and a woman.  I will continue to uphold the constitution of the state of Mississippi.”

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Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Jackson approve pro-LGBT measures

Mississippi’s capital and largest city has joined 7 other cities in Mississippi to affirm equality and contributions of the LGBT community.  In a 3-1 vote, the city council passed the resolution that has been an objective of the Human Rights Campaign’s statewide initiative.

Jackson’s resolution follows Bay St. Louis and Waveland which adopted “diversity resolutions” in May. Starkville, Hattiesburg, Greenville, Magnolia, and Oxford are the other cities that have taken similar actions.

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Gay rights supporters gain ground in Mississippi

NewsMS reported a fourth Mississippi city has passed a resolution recognizing people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in Another LGBT Resolution Passes, Add Magnolia to the List.  In a 3-2 vote, the Magnolia Board of Aldermen passed the resolution affirming the “dignity and worth of all city residents – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)”. 

On the heels of Magnolia’s resolution,  [Human Rights Campaign is] planning $8.5 million LGBT campaign in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas.  The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the self-proclaimed largest civil rights advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality, will be opening offices in Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas and staffing them with around 20 people each. 

HRC asserts that people who know and care for gay people are more likely to support expanded LGBT rights.  With “Project One America,” HRC hopes to convince those concealing their sexual orientation to become public and accelerate the acceptance and adoption of gay rights in Mississippi and across the South.