Welcome back to another entry of In Case You Wish You Missed It, the news you wish wouldn’t happen but, somehow, does.
Religious Freedom bills, more aptly known as social intolerance bills, have been popping up all over the country, and at an increasing rate. These bills, for the most part, aim to legally protect not only religious institutions but private businesses as well if they discriminate against anyone on the grounds that not discriminating would substantially burden their exercise of religion. This means that, for example, a Christian pizza parlor can refuse service if they think you’re gay, or Jewish, or listen to Bill Maher if you believe that those characteristics impede on your own religious beliefs. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t trying to make them gay, or convert them, or even asking them to grade your podcast on iTunes. You just being in their vicinity could be a claim of substantial burden.
Indiana passed their Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March of 2015. That must not have sat well with Mississippi, a state so invested in segregation that its flag segregates the Union and the Confederacy over 150 years later. Mississippi passed its own religious freedoms act when it was signed on Tuesday by Gov. Phil Bryant. Since many counties of the state still practice de facto segregation in their education programs, it should be no wonder that Mississippi took the chance to segregate more people by raising the bar on a religious freedom bill. Mississippi’s law now allows government employees to refuse to administer marriage licenses if it is against the employee’s religious beliefs, with gay marriage being the focal example. Need an employee without said religious inclination? If one is unavailable, too bad. It’s no stretch to highly doubt any government employee is available in that regard. Need child care services? You aren’t getting them if the provider doesn’t “like your look.”
Now, you can go ahead and ask what right-minded progressive thinker born after 1950 would decide to stay in the state of Mississippi, but that doesn’t fix the problem that civil liberties are being chipped away as each bill comes forward to be passed or vetoed. Sure, you can go to another pizza parlor if you don’t get served, or not apply to that job you found in the paper, but a standard of segregation is being set that can incorporate more and more. Who is to say that privatized health care, or even basic emergency medical care will not be given based on a person’s sexuality? And why stop there? You can be on line for disaster relief after your town is decimated by a flood and be turned away. Bus drivers can deny public transport.
And it’s not just an LGBT issue, even though that community is used as the featured example. People can claim other activities, religions, and even races impede on their religious freedoms under laws like this. This is the start of a wall that even Donald Trump probably hasn’t envisioned.