Mississippi AG Chooses Special Interests Over Religious Freedom

Photo credit: Christopher Meredith via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Photo credit: Christopher Meredith via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Earlier this month, a federal judge blocked a pro-religious freedom law signed by Mississippi’s Republican governor, Phil Bryant. Governor Bryant vowed to appeal the ruling, but Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, announced that he would not join in the defense of the law.

“All HB 1523 has done is tarnish Mississippi’s image while distracting us from the more pressing issues of decaying roads and bridges, underfunding of public education, the plight of the mentally ill and the need to solve our state’s financial mess,” Hood said.

The law in question, HB 1523, is meant to protect those with moral and religious objections to same-sex marriage, transgenderism, and extramarital sex from persecution from the state government. On Twitter, Governor Bryant wrote that he signed the law “to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations, and private association from discriminatory action by state government.”

Thankfully, Governor Bryant has already filed an appeal, using his own attorney.

Roger Severino, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation, wrote that “This law doesn’t take away anyone’s ability to enter a legally recognized same-sex marriage or live as they like. It only protects people and institutions to live according to reasonable and honorable views about marriage and sexual identity without facing government discrimination.”

Mississippi’s religious freedom law was passed in response to the ever-more-invasive agenda of social progressives. In California, the left is threatening Christian colleges and universities that uphold traditional sexual mores with massive penalties. In Iowa, government authorities are threatening churches with censorship over the moral content of their sermons.

Mississippi’s new law would not have been necessary even just a few years ago. But today, there are real and serious threats to ordinary Americans’ religious liberty and rights to conscience. No limit seems to exist for those who push for total societal acceptance of the LGBT agenda.

Hood’s refusal to defend such a bill and the logic behind his inaction show a fundamental issue with his philosophy of government. The Founders of the United States believed that governments were created to protect man’s natural rights — including the right of conscience.

In this account of the purpose of government, as a public servant of the state of Mississippi, Hood’s first and foremost responsibility is the protection and preservation of Mississippi’s citizens’ rights.

However, Hood apparently believes government exists to aid special interests and serve at the beck and call of factions. Roads and bridges and big business are more important to Hood than the God-given natural rights the Founders went to such great lengths to articulate and protect.

One thing is clear: these recent events underscore the responsibility of citizens across the country to hold public servants accountable. Even in reliably conservative states, like Mississippi, the left’s agenda can pass under the radar without constant vigilance.

Flaming with eloquence, the Declaration of Independence states, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

As the radical left becomes more and more entrenched, it becomes so much more important for ordinary Americans to stand up for their rights. When their public servants fail to stand with them, it is the people’s responsibility to recall and replace them.

Mississippi voters should remember Hood’s inaction when he seeks reelection.

Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.