U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Efforts To Block Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Law

Jack-Phillips-600WASHINGTON – In a major victory for religious freedom, the U.S. Supreme Court today refused to take up a constitutional challenge to a Mississippi law that shields cake bakers, wedding photographers, and other businesses from being forced to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. With its action this morning, the Supreme Court left in place a lower-court ruling that had thrown out a constitutional challenge to the law brought by a coalition of homosexuals and anti-religious freedom activists.

“We’re pleased that the Supreme Court has allowed Mississippi’s religious-freedom law to take effect,” said Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values. “The Court’s action this morning shows that the legal challenges that were brought against Mississippi’s law have no merit, and we urge the Texas law makers  to follow Mississippi’s example and enact these needed protections for Christians and other devout believers who don’t want the government forcing them to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies.”

A group of homosexual and other activists had challenged Mississippi’s law on constitutional grounds. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) ruled that these plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge Mississippi’s law because they had failed to show that this law injured them in any tangible way.

Mississippi’s law is known as House Bill 1523, and it prohibits the state government from penalizing or discriminating against churches, religious organizations, state employees, and small businesses that refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies and other activities that violate their religious beliefs or moral convictions. The law also shields Christian adoption agencies from being forced to place children with homosexual parents. And it protects doctors, counselors, and therapists from being forced to provide services that promote homosexual or transsexual behavior.

The plaintiffs had asserted that they were offended by Mississippi’s efforts to protect the religious and conscientious scruples of Mississippians who do not support homosexual and transgender behavior. But mere offense taken by a law does not permit a constitutional challenge to proceed in federal court. As the Fifth Circuit explained: “The failure of the . . . plaintiffs to assert anything more than a general stigmatic injury dooms their claim to standing.”

The Texas legislature considered a bill similar to Mississippi’s House Bill 1523 during the 2017 legislative session, but it did not pass.  Texas has a state level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) but many have argued that this current Texas law passed nearly 20 years ago would not prevent the government today from punishing cake bakers, wedding photographers and other individuals with religious beliefs about marriage.

ABOUT TEXAS VALUES Texas Values is a nonprofit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas. More information is available at txvalues.org. 

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