Ministers urge Mississippi to reject License to Discriminate bill

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Baptist and methodist ministers in Mississippi oppose Right to Refuse bill.

A group of ministers in Mississippi is calling on state lawmakers to reject a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to gays and other people by citing religous beliefs.

The legislation, similar to a bill vetoed last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, is one of several introduced in response to the past year's marriage equality victories.

The ministers in Mississippi — baptists and methodists — wrote:

“We write this letter in opposition to Senate Bill 2681.  Our opposition rises out of our moral obligation to do what is best for our communities. 

“As people of faith, we are ardent supporters of religious freedom for all Americans.  We know that it is the religious freedom to worship as we choose that makes our country and our state great.  Religious organizations have a long established First Amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs and we as faith leaders hold that right as sacred and will do all in our power to preserve it. 

“However, we also know that there is a difference between sacred space and commercial space.  When providing a service to the public, businesses cannot pick and choose whom to serve and whom to deny. This is basic discrimination and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.

“This legislation will have immense and negative consequences on all communities, including religious communities. First, it sends the message that one's particular religious interpretation can become the law of the land.  Second, as religious leaders we know that families are harmed when legislation unfairly opens up members of our communities to discrimination.  As a state, we know we can do better than that.

“As Methodists and Baptists, we may not always agree on all things, but 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 signers include:  the Revs. Rob Hill, Broadmeadow United Methodist Church, Jackson; Stan Wilson, Northside Baptist Church, Clinton; Bruce Case, Parkway Hills United Methodist Church, Madison; Bert Montgomery, University Baptist Church, Starkville; Rusty Edwards, University Baptist Church, Hattiesburg.