A federal appeals court has ruled the State of Mississippi can enact a religious freedom law that protects people of faith in the Magnolia State.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals announced June 22 that it was overturning a lower-court decision a year earlier that stopped the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.
HB 1523 was signed into law April 2016 by Gov. Phil Bryant but was challenged in the courts by homosexual activists. Last week's ruling found that those activists lacked legal standing because the new law had not harmed them.
"The court determined," says attorney Kevin Theriot of Alliance Defending Freedom, "that the plaintiffs in this situation weren't even harmed enough to be able even to get into court, much less to win on the merits of the case."
Both defenders and critics of the Government Discrimination Act agreed that it creates new legal rights for wedding-related services, such as bakeries and floral shops, that have been sued by homosexuals under the guise of anti-discrimination ordinances or state laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, announced June 26 that it will hear the case of a Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to create a wedding bake for a same-sex couple who later sued him for discrimination.
Phillips (pictured below) has said he sells bakery products to homosexuals at his Masterpiece Cake Shop in Denver but refuses to use his artistic talents for a same-sex wedding ceremony.
"It was the event I'm being forced to celebrate," he said. "I also don't make cakes for bachelor parties. I don't make Halloween cakes or anything with witchcraft or demons."
Most of the lawsuits have favored the homosexual plaintiffs in the appeals process, making the Mississippi ruling a rare exception - and making the state an enemy of homosexual activists and their left-wing allies.
"This law is discriminatory,” declared an attorney for the left-wing Misssippi Center for Justice, “and we will do everything we can to prevent it from causing any more harm.”
The Mississippi law also protects county clerks who refuse to sign same-sex marriage licenses; allows religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals in job-hiring; and protects religious-based adoption agencies who refuse to place children in a same-sex household, The New York Times unhappily reported last week.
Citing a legal analysis from Columbia University sprinkled with "potential" effects of the Mississippi law, the story also claimed Christian universities can fire single mothers, among other questionable claims.
"We applaud this decision," says William Perkins, editor of The Baptist Record newspaper, "because it does speak to the biblical definition of marriage and the fact that Baptists, as well as other Christians, should not be forced to practice any other way except having marriage between a man and a woman."
"This is what this entire law said from the very beginning," Gov. Bryant told American Family Radio last week. That a local or political subdivision could not say We're going to punish you if you don't follow the rules that we establish regarding your own business and ignoring your deeply held religious beliefs."
The plaintiffs in the case can request a hearing before the entire 5th Circuit or, like the Jack Phillips case, appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.