A controversial bill, that according to supporters, would support religious freedom, has been passed in Mississippi. The bill could allow Mississippi residents to sue regarding laws that inhibit or affect the way they practice their religion. Those who disagree with the bill believe that it could pave the way for discrimination against the LGBT community.
The bill, which missed deadlines last week, was resurrected, and language that was criticized by civil rights groups was removed. The House and the Senate, which are largely dominated by Republicans, passed the bill with a considerably large yes-vote.
One of the bill’s provisions is to add “In God We Trust” to the Mississippi flag. This is a priority of Gov. Phil Bryant, who said earlier in March that he would approve a previous version of the bill.
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, was quoted by Washington Post as saying, “This is a victory for the First Amendment and the right to live and work according to one’s conscience. This commonsense measure was a no-brainer for freedom, and like the federal [Religious Freedom Restoration Act], it simply bars government discrimination against religious exercise. The legislature gave strong approval to a bill that declares that individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) still opposes the bill despite the change in the strong language. “We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination. Nobody should be refused service because of who they are,” Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of ACLU in Mississippi, said in a statement.