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US Supreme Court Ruling Could Boost A Controversial Mississippi Law

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 01 Jul 2014 03:01pm | comments
Protesters outside the Governor's mansion.
Mississippians statewide are continuing their opposition to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which is now law in the state. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports similar federal legislation was at the center of one of the biggest US Supreme court rulings this week.
 
Opponents of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act took to the streets in downtown Jackson in front of the Governor's mansion yesterday, the day the law officially took effect. 
 
The law says that governments in the state cannot put a substantial burden on religious practices.
 
But protestors, like Amelie Hahn who is gay, this opening the door for discrimination against Mississippians like her based on religious grounds.
 
"That is absolutely insane and this is exactly what this can do. I am not going back. I refuse to go back. There is absolutely positively no way that I am going to submit to an unconstitutional law and I don't have to," hahn said.
 
Mississippi's law is closely modeled after a federal law that was at the center of a U-S Supreme Court ruling this week in favor two Christian owned companies. 
 
The court ruled that the religious objection of the company's owners means they do not have to provide certain types of birth control under their insurance plan.
 
Forest Thigpen with the Mississippi Center For Public Policy, a right leaning think tank, says the ruling underscores the needs for laws protecting religious people from Government overreach.
 
"So Yes, I would say that they validated the Religious Freedom Restoration act at the national level which would tend to indicate that they do so for those laws at the state level," Thigpen said.
 
Governor Phil Bryant also quickly released a statement saying the ruling affirms the state law and that the claims of discrimination a qoute 'baseless'.
 
But Bear Atwood, a civil rights attorney and former head of the state's ACLU, says it may raise more questions than it answers.
 
"At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what the law says, it matters what people believe the law says. And what people believe the law says is that it is ok to discriminate," Atwood said.
 
Atwood is concerned that if Mississipi's law is every challenged in federal court, that judges in Mississippi would look to the Supreme Court's ruling for guidance.

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Protesters outside the Governor's mansion.


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