Religious Freedom*

Mississippi recently passed House Bill 1523 [PDF] into law. The bill was described by its proponents as legislation to protect religious freedom by prohibiting the government from discriminating against actions performed due to strong religious convictions. What the proponents of the bill forgot to mention was the giant asterisk that noted the restrictions. House Bill 1523 only protects your religious freedom as long as you believe the right things:

SECTION 2. The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction 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.

If your religious beliefs our outside of those three criteria this bill does not protect them. For example, members of the Church of the Phenomenological Agorist hold a strong moral conviction that participation in the black market is not only righteous but a holy duty. Even though black market participation is a strongly held moral conviction the government will still ruthlessly pursue discriminatory action against them.

Do your religious beliefs acknowledge polygamy? If so those beliefs actually directly go against this bill since it only protects beliefs that acknowledge marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Don’t like it? Tough shit. You should have chosen a governmentally protected religion.

So long as you believe one of the three approved beliefs the government of Mississippi will not prosecute you for refusing to perform a wedding or bake a cake nor will it prosecute you for enforcing bathroom assignments. It will not restrain itself from prosecuting you for, for example, refusing service to police officers, something the Church of the Phenomenological Agorist strongly encourages, or people who discriminate against polygamous families.

This bill isn’t about religious freedom, it’s about religious discrimination. It creates two tiers for religions: those that subscribe to the beliefs specifically noted in the bill and those that do not. Members of religions in the first tier receive special treatment from the Mississippi government. Members of all other religions have to suffer the full brunt of the government’s boot stomping down on their faces.