ADL: Impact of New Mississippi Religious Freedom Bill “A License to Discriminate”

New York, NY, April 7, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern over Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s decision last week to sign into law Senate Bill 2681, a “Religious Freedom” bill which potentially discriminates and threatens the civil rights of the state’s residents.

ADL issued the following statement:

This legislation is nothing more than a license to discriminate in the name of religion that will harm the civil rights, health and safety of Mississippians.  We are deeply concerned about the detrimental impact that this bill is likely to have.

The Mississippi Legislature and Governor have ignored Arizona’s painful lesson and enacted a more harmful law.  Although other states have “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” that shield individual religious exercise, the new Mississippi law is a sword that individuals and businesses can use to impose their religious beliefs on others.

The harmful consequences of this legislation may well be far-reaching.  Invoking religious beliefs, a health care worker could use the law to refuse to give a patient a blood transfusion or psychiatric care or medicine; a law enforcement officer could refuse to serve and protect Mississippians engaged in activities contrary to the officer’s religious beliefs; and based on his or her religious beliefs, a business owner could deny service to a prospective customer.

Now that Senate Bill 2861 is the law, Mississippians victimized by it will undoubtedly look to the courts to vindicate their rights.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.