You may have been following the news this week and seen that legislation known as the “Turn Away the Gays Bill” was passed by the state government in AZ, and after much protest by individuals and corporations, was vetoed yesterday by Gov. Brewer.

What you may not know is that this bill has been spread far and wide in a many states, including my home state of Mississippi where the state senate unanimously passed THE MISSISSIPPI RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT, SB2681. In good news, partly due to the national backlash at Arizona, the Mississippi bill was stripped yesterday of the harmful protections for individual business owners to discriminate, but the bill still allows the government to do so.

As a minister in Mississippi, I am disheartened that this bill passed through our Senate without any NAY votes. It is as if those we elected did not read the bill, nor did they understand what the bill was saying. Even though the bill has been stripped of all discriminatory language, how could bills like this even be introduced? In 16 states laws have been proposed that would allow business owners and others to withhold services to people based on their religious beliefs. This is an absurd notion. Not only does this affect LGBTQ persons, it affects all sorts of people. Could businesses refuse to serve interracial couples because they believe miscegeny is against God and the Bible? Could a Christian employee at a public daycare or school refuse to teach a student who is Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Hindu, or Jewish? Or could a Christian student be denied at another type of religious school?

I believe these Religious Freedom Acts are another attempt of our legislatures to use religion as a smoke screen to justify their own hate and fear of those who are not like them. They use the term religion to bully us into compliance and codify the sin of discrimination. These bills are shameful and are nothing more than modern day Jim Crow. As my colleague Brad Smith tweeted,

And the leper came to Jesus to be healed, but Jesus said “I don’t know man, you look a little gayish to me…we don’t serve gays here. – @Brad_S80

I am 100 percent sure that God and Jesus are weeping over such discrimination of God’s beautiful and Holy creatures.

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Rev. Justin White

Rev. Justin White, an ordained elder in Mississippi, is the co-leader of the Mississippi Chapter of MFSA. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the General Commission on Religion and Race. He is a lover of Mississippi State athletics, Duke basketball, music, and the Muppets. He also serves as the Youth Pastor to Students and Youth at Wells Memorial UMC in Jackson, MS.

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