The state of Mississippi scored a victory Thursday in its attempt to protect religious freedoms from that radical faction of the LGBT activist movement that seeks to undermine Christian beliefs. The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act was signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant in April 2016. Two months later, before the law took effect, a federal district judge issued an injunction against the act. That injunction was lifted Thursday by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Widely described as discriminatory, such laws are designed to protect individuals, businesses and other private entities from being coerced into acting against their own religious conscience.
The injunction preventing this law from taking effect had been issued because proponents of the injunction claimed the law violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In fact, the rights guaranteed by both of these amendments are protected by this very law. The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion and the Fourteenth, equal protection under the law. Until laws such as the one discussed here began to spring up – in one form or another – across the country, small business owners were being dragged into court, and laws used against them, for refusing to take actions that run contrary to their religious values.
One notable example of this attempt to use legal action to force Christians to violate their beliefs is set to be heard by the United States Supreme Court. The case dates back to 2012 when the owner of a cake shop in Colorado declined to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Daily Caller lists several more incidents, in which businesses and individuals have been targeted for expressing, or merely acting in accordance with, their Christian beliefs.
The Fifth Circuit decision is based upon the failure of the plaintiffs – several residents of Mississippi, supported by two organizations that advocate for LGBT rights – to prove that they had suffered “injury in fact .” In layman’s terms, they could not produce proof or evidence of actual harm and, thus, had no standing in the case. The written opinion states that the “Plaintiffs assert they are injured by the ‘clear message’ sent by HB 1523 that the ‘state government disapproves of and is hostile to same-sex couples, to unmarried people who engage in sexual relations, and to transgender people.’”
Citing numerous legal precedents, the appeals court ruled that actual, quantifiable harm must be proven.
The Mississippi law is one of the most far-reaching of its kind in the country. It covers recent high-profile issues, including the use of restrooms, protection for state employees who express their Christian beliefs and the right of business owners to decline to offer service that goes against their religious convictions.
Certainly, further legal challenges will be launched by groups seeking to impose acceptance of the LGBT community upon those whose religious conscience prevents it. Discrimination, for its own sake, is an ugly thing. Declining to participate in a practice that violates one’s faith is not discrimination. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado does not refuse service to gays; rather, he refuses to participate in a same-sex marriage, which would violate his religious convictions. Most devout Christians do not hate gays; they simply refuse to take action which condones homosexuality because it runs contrary to the teachings of their faith. The same can be said of Muslims and Jews.
LGBT activists and their supporters step beyond the bounds of fighting for equality when they attempt to use the law to enforce mandatory acceptance of their identities and lifestyles. Their fight for equality is not always without merit but, as with all human beings, their rights end where others’ rights begin.