Religious freedom bill survives deadline at Capitol

Religious freedom bill survives deadline at Capitol

Posted: Mar 04, 2014 7:38 PM ESTUpdated: Mar 04, 2014 8:05 PM EST

Posted by Courtney Ann Jackson

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now/AP) –

Protestors were scattered along the Capitol steps Tuesday, toting signs that called for a stop on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“I don’t think that there’s any aspect of this law that will help the state of Mississippi. Period,” said protestor Justin Dorbusch.

Protestors are worried the door to discrimination is left wide open with the bill.

It’s the bill that passed the Senate unanimously. By the time it got to the House, it was being compared to the now-vetoed Arizona legislation. Legislation that was written after a photographer refused to shoot the wedding of a same-sex couple based on religious beliefs. That photographer was sued and lost.

Protestor L.B. Wilson said, “This bill is quite lazy in it’s language.”

A group of pastors sent a letter of protest to lawmakers. In it, they said “we can agree that this bill goes too far and is unnecessary. Because we are people who are called to “love our neighbors as ourselves, we ask Mississippi legislators to reject Senate bill 2681.”

The House Judiciary B committee didn’t kill the bill. It instead, stripped the sticking points.

“We wanted to push the reset button on this whole debate because I think some people had not actually read the bill,” explained committee chairman Representative Andy Gipson-R.

Supporters say the bill would serve as a reinforcement to first amendment rights. The latest version also takes out protections for individual businesses.

“Gives even stronger protections to people from actions by the state, or any city or local government or school that infringe on their right to worship,” described Gipson.

Holly Springs pastor Telsa DeBerry testified for the committee Tuesday. He says he would have benefited from such a law in his hometown.

“They had an ordinance in place that restricted churches and only churches from occupying any space without the approval of other property owners in the community,” explained DeBerry.

If the bill becomes law, folks like DeBerry would have to prove that the government had “substantially burdened” their exercise of religion. The word substantially was added in by the House committee.

The issue will come up for a full House vote in the coming days. Opponents say they’re still concerned about the possibility of discrimination.

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