Geoff Pender of the Clarion-Ledger lists the top 5 remaining issues for the 2014 Mississippi Legislative session which should end in April in his article “Miss. political power rankings.”
- Teacher raise (House Bills, 560, 526, 1140, 1416 and Senate Bills 2088, 2212, 2413).
- Mississippi Adequate Education Program (House Bills 567, 816, and 930)
- Criminal Justice Reform (Senate Bill 2784)
- Religious Freedom (House Bill 929, Senate Bill 2681)
- DPS, troopers (House Bills 303, 1210, 1517, 1521)
In addition to adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal as previously passed, Mississippi Senate Bill 2681 affirms the right of individuals to exercise their religion. Exercise of religion is defined as “the practice or observance of religion” and includes “the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief.”
The ACLU claims that the bill is “simply a license to discriminate” and special interest groups label the bill as “anti-gay” even though SB 2681 names no specific groups. The discourse has been amplified recently by the Arizona State Legislature’s passage of a similar bill, Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which was subsequently vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
Gov. Phil Bryant has remained neutral on the current discussion. Mississippi House Bill 929, “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” appears to be the companion legislation to SB 2681 but HB 929 died in committee in early February 2014. According to the Sun Herald, the Mississippi House Judiciary Committee B is considering SB 2681 and may remove parts that allow people to refuse service to others based on religious beliefs. As modified, it appears the bill will prevent the state from burdening an individual with respect to religious freedom but does not protect individuals from being burdened by other private entities.
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