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Mississippi Students Sign Letter Against A Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 10 Mar 2014 06:40pm | comments

A controversial Religious Freedom bill that some say could lead to legalized discrimination could come up in the Mississippi house as soon as today. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that a group of college students is joining the effort against the bill....

About 80 students and faculty at Millsaps College in Jackson signed onto a letter urging lawmakers to reject Senate Bill 2681.

Sarah Del Castillo, the founder of the college's chapter of Amnesty International, is spearheading the effort against the bill.

"There still is a lot of gray area. There still is a lot of potential for danger. It is not as concerning as it was, that is true. But my biggest concern now is regardless of the legal ramifications it has still been labeled the turn away the gays bill. And it still has a lot of symbolic meaning," Del Castillo said.

The official name of the bill is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and supporters say its intention is to protect people of faith from violations their religious beliefs.

The student's letter was address to representative Jim Evans of Jackson, whose district includes the college.

Evans says he opposes the bill because he sees it as divisive and contrary to his understanding of Christian teaching.

"Christ starts with truth and justice standing at the door keeper of the freedom and peace that we fight for. Truth and justice. Not separation," Evans said.

The bill was compared to a similar bill in Arizona that legal scholars said could lead to discrimination.

It was broadly scaled back last week to only cover government action.

The original author Senator Phillip Gandy of Waynesboro says the goal was never to legalize discrimination.

"We want to try to make sure that folks know that this isn't about attacking anyone or discriminating against anyone. it is simply about trying to preserve the religious freedoms that Americans have long enjoyed. That is guranteed in the Bill of Rights and our Constitution," Gandy said.

The House is facing a Wednesday deadline to act on the bill or it will die.

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