January 1, 1900
HB 1523 should be rejected
We write to you today as concerned citizens and as followers of Jesus Christ.
House Bill 1523 must not pass. Though it is called the "Religious Liberty Accommodations Act" it is not intended to promote liberty but to deny it; it is not meant to accommodate belief but to enable discrimination. Allow us to explain why we believe this as disciples of Jesus Christ and as citizens.
First, as followers of Jesus Christ: There are two stories in Scripture that are the most important, which create the frame through which all other Scripture is read: the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the story of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both are stories of liberty and God setting people free. In the Exodus, God quite literally frees the people from enslavement, setting them free from bondage, securing their liberty.
In the Resurrection, God frees the entire world from the powers of sin and death, offering freedom and liberty to all who accept it, and opening membership in God's people to all who desire it. God sets people free. God offers liberty. And God's people are called to work for liberty and freedom, particularly for individuals and groups who are oppressed and endangered. But it is not a liberty that comes at the expense of the freedom of others. House Bill 1523 may permit a kind of liberty, but it does so by discriminating against others, by limiting the liberty of other people.
Second, as concerned citizens: We do not understand the state's compelling interest that would allow its intervention in public affairs in the name of religious belief. This is not protection of religious freedom, but a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The state is claiming the power to interfere in public business and commerce for no other purpose than to preference one individual's religious belief, in fact establishing that faith for the purpose of public policy and state action. It is arrogance of the highest order to presume that mere humans can adjudicate the validity of religious belief and truths about God's intentions. And it is foolishness to hand the power to discern God's will to the state. House Bill 1523 will allow the State of Mississippi to preference religious beliefs and the State of Mississippi has no business judging which religious beliefs are more valid than others.
House Bill 1523 would allow the state to preference one religious belief over another, ultimately limiting liberty. We urge the lieutenant governor, the senate, and governor to protect religious liberty from the overreaching power of the state and block passage of House Bill 1523.
Rev. Bert Montgomery and
Rev. Laurence Wainwright-Maks
Editor's note: In addition to the two signers above, this letter was signed by 19 clergy throughout the state.
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