WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s decision to sign the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy released the following statement:
Governor Phil Bryant’s decision to sign the so-called Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act is extremely troubling and dangerous for religious communities and religious freedom in the United States. While I commend his desire to take decisive action to protect the First Amendment rights of Mississippians, this bill – a gross distortion of the American promise of religious freedom – will do far more to hurt that cause in the long run.
Sadly, I fear that the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an attempt to codify discrimination. Even with the improvements made to the bill during the debate in the state legislature, it remains a dangerous conflation of legitimate religious liberty concerns with a radical attempt to legitimize discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Mississippians and many others. This law will do more to separate and isolate Mississippi’s religious communities than it will to bring all Mississippians together. I hope that the people of Mississippi quickly realize the error their leaders have made and work swiftly to repeal this law.
Yet another state’s decision reminds us of the lack of comprehensive understanding of religious freedom as defined by the Constitution. Religious freedom and equality for the LGBT community need not jeopardize each other, and religious freedom claims should never negate the Constitution’s guarantee of civil rights. Not only Mississippi, but clearly our entire nation, needs a new education of the constitutional meaning of this first freedom.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.