Five Baptist and Methodist pastors in Mississippi have written a letter to legislators there, opposing a religious freedom bill on the grounds that it would permit business owners to discriminate against customers.
The bill, SB 2681, has passed the Senate. The state House is slated to vote on it tomorrow.
The ACLU of Mississippi opposes the bill, saying that even after amendments intended to quell opposition, it “still allows private individuals and businesses to discriminate against people” on the basis of race and other factors, not just sexual orientation.
In the letter, the five pastors, Rev. Rob Hill of Broadmeadow United Methodist Church in Jackson, Rev. Stan Wilson of Northside Baptist Church in Clinton, Rev. Bruce Case of Parkway Hills United Methodist Church in Madison, the Rev. Bert Montgomery of University Baptist Church in Starkville, and the Rev. Rusty Edwards of University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, write:
As people of faith, we are ardent supporters of religious freedom for all Americans. We know that it is the religious freedom to worship as we choose that makes our country and our state great. Religious organizations have a long established First Amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs and we as faith leaders hold that right as sacred and will do all in our power to preserve it.
However, we also know that there is a difference between sacred space and commercial space. When providing a service to the public, businesses cannot pick and choose whom to serve and whom to deny. This is basic discrimination and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.
Students at Mississippi State University also protested the bill. Justin Glover, an alumnus of the school, told the university newspaper, “To me, as a gay Christian, one of the most important things to let people know about this law is that it’s purportedly saving religious rights — and, let’s admit, in Mississippi largely they’re talking about Christians — and encoding animus, encoding hate, enshrining it in the law is antithetical to the message of Jesus.”