Federal Appeals Court Reverses Injunction Against Mississippi’s Freedom of Conscience Act

A federal appeals court has reversed an injunction against Mississippi’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, a bill meant to protect residents from punishment when acting in accordance with their religious convictions in regard to the institution of marriage.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana ruled on Thursday that the plaintiffs who filed the legal challenge did not have standing to sue because they could not demonstrate any actual harm created by the law. It said, however, that the matter could be considered if and when an actual incident occurs.

“[T]he plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by H.B. 1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality,” the three-judge panel wrote.

“We do not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact that satisfies the ‘irreducible constitutional minimum of standing,’ but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward,” it said.

The 13 plaintiffs, which included Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church, had argued that the law sends a “clear message” that the “state government disapproves of and is hostile to same-sex couples, to unmarried people who engage in sexual relations, and to transgender people.”

As previously reported, the Act was signed into law last April by Gov. Phil Bryant, who identifies as a Christian. The bill prohibits the government from punishing those who decline to officiate same-sex ceremonies or provide services or accommodations for the celebrations, as well as those whose policies require use of locker and restrooms consistent with their biological gender.

It does not permit persons to refuse service in general, but only to decline forms of personal participation in events that conflict with their faith.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a legal challenge, which was later joined by others. In June 2016, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves struck down part of H.B. 1523, while leaving the rest of the law intact.

Focusing on the officiation portion of the legislation, he issued an order stating that all 82 county clerks must issue same-sex “marriage” licenses to homosexuals despite their religious beliefs, opining that an opt-out would run contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Having reviewed the relevant section of HB 1523, the parties’ arguments, and the scope of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell, the Court finds that (Section) 3(8)(a) may in fact amend Mississippi’s marriage licensing regime in such a way as to conflict with Obergefell,” Reeves wrote.

“Mississippi’s elected officials may disagree with Obergefell, of course, and may express that disagreement as they see fit—by advocating for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, for example,” he said. “But the marriage license issue will not be adjudicated anew after every legislative session.”

The state appealed, and this week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Reeves’ injunction.

“The state communicated a message loudly and clearly with the passage of HB 1523: Only certain anti-LGBT beliefs will get the protection and endorsement of the state,” Roberta Kaplan, an attorney representing some of the plaintiffs, told the Associated Press following the ruling. “Under the logic of this opinion, it would be constitutional for the state of Mississippi to pass a law establishing Southern Baptist as the official state religion.”

Religious liberties groups, however, cheered the development.

“The court did the right thing in finding that those who have challenged this law haven’t been harmed and, therefore, can’t try to take the law down,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot in a statement. “The sole purpose of this law is to ensure that Mississippians don’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union.”

“Those who filed suit have not and will not be harmed but want to restrict freedom and impose their beliefs on others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one,” he said.

Attorneys for the complainants vowed to appeal.


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  • Ambulance Chaser

    So the court issued a ruling that says “not now, but come back to me when you’ve suffered some articulable harm” and this is supposed to be a big deal? Seems like a ruling that basically said nothing terribly earth shattering and sets very little precedent.

  • james blue

    So A Muslim DMV clerk can refuse to issue driver licenses and voter ID to women and an Atheist landlord can refuse to rent to Christians because he doesn’t want people praying on his property?

    • Ambulance Chaser

      Under the Supremacy Clause, landlords still have to obey the FHA, but your point is well taken.

    • Michael C

      Actually, no on both points.

      HB 1523 does nothing to protect religion and religious beliefs in general. It actually only protects 3 very specific religious beliefs. Those three religious beliefs are the ones that specifically target gay and transgender citizens.

      Not all religious beliefs are protected, just the ones against lgbt folk.

      • james blue

        I know I have a nuanced style of pointing out inconsistencies in standards and often it can be excessively subtle. but I would have though by now both of you would be experts at catching my point, even when you disagree with me.

        I know you both read every word I write…ADMIT IT!!!!!!!! 😉

      • Jason Todd

        This crap again?

        When are you going to get it in that brain damaged head of yours sexual behavior and mental illness does not entitle you to special rights and privileges?

        • Michael C

          In my opinion, my perceived or actual sexual orientation should not inhibit me from equal treatment in the public sphere.

          It appears that you and the state of Mississippi see things differently. I think you’re both wrong.

          • Jason Todd

            You already have equal rights as a citizen of the United States of America. You think your behavior (and that’s all it is, Michael…there is not a single fantasy in the world that will ever change that) entitles you to more.

            No.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I’m pretty sure all he wants is for everyone to agree with you. While I’m very glad that you wouldn’t deny service to someone based on their sexual orientation, many people do, hence, we need protected classes.

          • vicnicholls

            In the public services but not in private business. That was never the intention of the original constitution writers. I never trust an org that doesn’t help its own, couldn’t care less about those murdered in other countries, and only targets certain groups (Christians) but has yet to sue Muslims for the same thing. We had a Youtube video that showed a Muslim bakery refusing to do a same sex marriage cake. I’ve seen no evidence of lawsuits.

            I’ve seen a lot of evidence of people (like a “progressive Democrat”) who had no problem shoveling their beliefs but once they finally got told to stop and they had no right to force their beliefs down someone elses’ throat, used a national forum to try and hush them up and out. The national forum thought that was ok.

            That’s irrespective of it being against the Bible.

          • james blue

            If there is no sign of the lawsuit from that youtube video you need to ask the person who made it why. Although I can pretty much explain it as not being the same group

          • vicnicholls

            It was done to show the double standard.

          • james blue

            Okay but nobody had actually tried to buy a cake for their wedding and had it refused. The makers of the video would be entitled to file a suit, Gay have been getting married and have had cakes that one or two bakers (in the world) have refused and been sued doesn’t make a case for selective targeting.

          • vicnicholls

            Well if you doubt it, get someone from the LGBTQ groups who will sue and
            go in and see if a Muslim or Hindu or whatever religious persuasion
            will do it.

            That way if you doubt it, proof positive that I was not lying.

            Btw, if there is discrimination, have a Bible thumper (one of the holy rollers) go in and apply for a job, etc. same as gay people. No one will want them. They’ll take the gay person first. Its called John 15:19.

            That is why Muslims, etc. are accepted. Bernie Sanders only goes after Christians. That is because non Christians are threatened by Christ.

          • james blue

            It appears you are seeking to create self fulfilling prophecies.

            The lawsuits haven’t been raised by activists attempting “gotchas” to take down Christians, they have been raised by real people finding themselves discriminated against in the daily course of their real lives.

            I believe a private business should be able to do or refuse to do business with whomever they wish for whatever reason they wish, so much as I find prejudiced refusal repugnant, I believe they have the right. What I do not believe is that there is a witch hunt to single out Christians. If they are the ones being caught by big government anti discrimination and public accommodation laws it’s because they are the ones who have thus far broken them.

          • vicnicholls

            The Bible says they would be persecuted. Then again, you don’t accept Christs’ Word over man’s.

            Let me know when I see a gay or gay related group do what they have done to Christians, to a Muslim or Hindu group, etc.

          • james blue

            Please read my comments again and see if you can figure out what you are apparently missing about what I wrote.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            That was never the intention of the original constitution writers.

            No one ever said it was, nor does anyone say that the Constitution demands that public businesses be compelled to serve individuals. State and federal law, however, do.

            I never trust an org that doesn’t help its own, couldn’t care less about those murdered in other countries, and only targets certain groups (Christians) but has yet to sue Muslims for the same thing.

            You’re right. That would be hypocritical. I would condemn whatever organization did that. Now show me one.

            We had a Youtube video that showed a Muslim bakery refusing to do a same sex marriage cake. I’ve seen no evidence of lawsuits.

            Probably because either A) you didn’t see a video of that, or B) you saw a video of that, but it wasn’t in a state where gay is a protected class.

          • vicnicholls

            The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law establishing a religion and there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion. How do you explain William Penn then?

            Virginia’s Bill of Rights legally defined “religion” as a means to
            secure freedom from government coercion, which enabled a foundational
            protection for other freedoms.

            Gay organizations have done nothing when its been reported that Muslim countries do that. That is to include the former countries that are Muslim dominated from the previous Soviet Union.

            I did see the video. Then have someone in the LGBTQ group go up and video some Muslim bakeries and get it on tape.

            Btw, I have seen more discrimination against myself and hatred, as a Christian, rather than the opposite way around. I can easily show that. This would be to people who would not be able to prove anything that I said anything about conversion, Bible, etc. but did know I was a Bible obeying Christian.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            “I did see the video. Then have someone in the LGBTQ group go up and video some Muslim bakeries and get it on tape.”

            If you’re talking about the Steven Crowder video, you didn’t see a gay person, you saw Crowder posing as one and asking some Muslim shop owners for same sex weddin cakes. They get weird looks on their faces, then it cuts away. I don’t see anything illegal going on there, so who would sue, and for what?

          • vicnicholls

            Well if you doubt it, get someone from the LGBTQ groups who will sue and go in and see if a Muslim or Hindu or whatever religious persuasion will do it.

            That way if you doubt it, proof positive.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            …and do it in a state where such denial of services would be illegal, yes.

            However, until that happens, Steven Crowder really doesn’t have any evidence for his point and I’m not interested in making it for him.

          • vicnicholls

            You want whoever this guy is proved wrong. Go out and do it. Until that is done, your argument has no value because you can’t prove that the discrimination is not there.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Since has hasn’t actually demonstrated anything, I can’t “prove him wrong.”

            I don’t have an argument to prove.

          • james blue

            I accept Christ as my savior, I’ve seen way more winters than I have left and I have never been discriminated against. That said having hung around sites like this for a while I have learned that some have a much more delicate view of what counts as discrimination and hatred.

          • vicnicholls

            Then maybe you are too much like the world and not enough like Christ.
            II Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

            Think about it.

          • james blue

            Or maybe you read that and are seeking out fulfillment.

          • james blue

            And maybe you read Timothy and in the desire to fulfill are looking to be persecuted. There is real persecution in this world and there is paranoia

          • Michael C

            We had a Youtube video that showed a Muslim bakery refusing to do a same sex marriage cake.

            Actually, what you saw was a piece of slickly edited propaganda. Steven Crowder’s video doesn’t tell the truth.

            The bakeries have come forward to correct the misleading editing of that video, one even stating that they have sold wedding cakes to gay couples.

            Don’t believe them? That’s cool but you should believe the guy who made the video when he told a journalist that “no one said ‘No, we won’t do it.’”

            Beyond that, the state of Michigan does not protect gay people from discrimination in public accommodations. Even if a bakery owned by a Muslim refused service to a gay customer, it would be 100% legal. If the customer tried to sue, the lawsuit would be thrown out.

            All of this is irrelevant, though. The issue here is whether or not it is acceptable for businesses and public servants to discriminate just because a person is gay. Apparently the state of Mississippi believes that this is okay. What do you think?

          • vicnicholls

            I have no idea who the guy you are referring to is. Not the one.

            Your next to the last paragraph, substitute the word Christian for Muslim and that’s what should have happened. No lawsuit and it should have been lost. They could have gone any where else but choose to do so out of revenge.

            You are using both businesses and public servants together. Public servants do what the govt. tells them. Businesses operated independently. If they choose not to serve some people, that’s what happens. Otherwise they can’t refuse to serve people without shoes or a tie. You can easily choose to put up your own place and serve who you wish, even if it is gay only. Btw, don’t equate sin with the color of someones’ skin.

            There is such a thing known as the ability in America to practice your religion without interference from the govt. That was why the Puritans came here, that was why William Penn started his “colony”. That is why you tolerate the FLDS and the years of child and woman abuse, in the name of religion, because as on investigator put it on TV, “no one gives a *****”.

            It is not OK to discriminate against Christians only – unless you are Bernie Sanders.

          • TheKingOfRhye

            “Businesses operated independently. If they choose not to serve some
            people, that’s what happens. Otherwise they can’t refuse to serve people
            without shoes or a tie. You can easily choose to put up your own place
            and serve who you wish, even if it is gay only”

            No, it doesn’t quite work that way. There are things like the Civil Rights Act that say a business that serves the public can’t refuse people service because of their religion, race, or sex or such things. That doesn’t mean that can’t refuse service to somebody for OTHER reasons. You can say we shouldn’t have things like that in place, (and I’d disagree) but that is the way it is.

          • vicnicholls

            That right doesn’t come before my right to practice my religion as I believe.

            Make sure to come up with gay businesses and have Christians lawsuit against it for not serving them for their religion. Especially when they have other choices but refuse to only get it from a place they’d sue out of existance. Makes you wonder about people that ONLY want business from one place, but will sue it out of business to get what they won’t ever get any way, ruin it for others.

            Kinda says a lot about the mentality and attitude. Don’t see Christians doing that. I also don’t see them doing what you are doing: coming in to just cause hate and discontent and malice and harrass Christians on their own area.

            Says a lot about your heart and attitude doesn’t it?

          • Bob Johnson

            The privilege of running a business (business ownership like driving a car is not right) comes with legal responsibilities. Some of those responsibilities may conflict with religious convictions. If you can not meet your legal responsibilities your business must face the legal consequences.

          • vicnicholls

            You are an atheist. Totally against Christian stuff. So why are you on here? As the Bible says you are of your Father the Devil. He wanted to be God. So you want to rule over Christians. Christ wins in the end.

          • TheKingOfRhye

            “Make sure to come up with gay businesses and have Christians lawsuit against it for not serving them for their religion.”

            If there were businesses owned by gay people that did that, the Christians would be perfectly in their rights to sue, and I would have no problem with that. The businesses would clearly be violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That’s probably why you don’t see that sort of thing happening too much. Well, that, and 2 more things….gay people are a small minority, there’s a lot more Christians than gay people that own businesses. There’s a lot more Christians than gay people, period. (I guess we’ll just disregard the fact that gay Christians do exist for right now…) And also, at least in my personal experience, gay people are generally pretty tolerant and open-minded, and wouldn’t be likely to refuse service to someone for their religion anyway.

            “Especially when they have other choices but refuse to only get it from a
            place they’d sue out of existance. Makes you wonder about people that
            ONLY want business from one place, but will sue it out of business to
            get what they won’t ever get any way, ruin it for others.”

            So….what you’re saying is, gay people should only visit businesses where they are welcome, is that it? And somehow they should have knowledge of which ones they are beforehand, I guess? You know what sounds an awful lot like to me? “Separate but equal.” Law-abiding American citizens shouldn’t have to deal with that, in my opinion.

            “I also don’t see them doing what you are doing: coming in to just cause
            hate and discontent and malice and harrass Christians on their own area.”

            I come here to argue against things I disagree with and express an alternative point of view. My intent is not to cause hate or malice or to harass. Maybe it “says a lot about YOUR heart and attitude” that you think you know what MINE is.

          • Michael C

            I have no idea who the guy you are referring to is. Not the one.

            I’m pretty sure the Crowder video is exactly the one you’re referencing. Please give me some information about the video you’re talking about so I can find it myself. The title of the video or even just the uploader’s username would be fine. Otherwise, I simply don’t find you credible.

            You are using both businesses and public servants together.

            I’m lumping businesses and public servants together because the law that is the subject of this article allows both to refuse service to gay and transgender citizens.

            Businesses operated independently. If they choose not to serve some people, that’s what happens.

            This has not been true for over half a century.

            There is such a thing known as the ability in America to practice your religion without interference from the govt.

            If you think the First Amendment is a free pass to do whatever you please in the name of your religion, you need to spend a little more time researching U.S. law.

            It is not OK to discriminate against Christians only

            No civil rights laws single out Christians for discrimination. Civil rights laws are applied equally. In places like Colorado and Oregon, public accommodations cannot refuse service on the basis of a customer’s sexual orientation regardless of whether the business owner is Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, or whatever.

            In places like Dearborn, Michigan and Tupelo, Mississippi, business owners of all religious or nonreligious beliefs (Christian, Muslim, atheists, etc) are free to deny gay people of employment, housing, and service at stores and restaurants. It’s totally legal.

          • james blue

            Questions limited to the private sector.

            Why is it not okay to discriminate against Christians only?

            Should it be legal to refuse to serve someone because of the color of their skin? if not, why not, if yes, why?
            Should it be legal for a business to refuse to serve gays, be it a wedding cake or a restaurant refusing to serve two gays on a date. if not, why not, if yes, why?
            Should it be legal for a business to refuse to serve (insert religious group here)if not, why not, if yes, why?

            Not what the law IS, what you think it should be. Also I do understand the difference between thinking something is wrong to do verses making it illegal to do. for example you might think drugs are bad, but not that they should be illegal.

          • vicnicholls

            As has been said by African Americans, don’t equate sin with the color of my skin. Please give me Bible verses in context for that.

            Yes, and I’d expect a gay business not to serve me if they wanted. I’d go somewhere else. Not sue for them for it, actually if I knew it was a gay business and they said we don’t want straight people or only straight people that are like the Pulse owner who set up the bar out of love for her brother (I think it was), I’d be perfectly fine with it and not bother them. Unlike those who want to come after us.

            I say yes it would. Years ago it might have been true to select who you can serve, but economically it wouldn’t really work out. Those who would serve all are going to make more. I’m fine with that. Let them have that.

            I don’t have a problem with those not wanting to serve someone out fo their religion. I wouldn’t expect my Hindu friends to serve me Christian stuff. Their culture is different and they wouldn’t know things Christians do. That’s not a sly on them in any way. I would expect the same for me. I couldn’t serve them as well on things because I didn’t know. We held a baby shower for a Hindu lady. It wasn’t until later I found out that wasn’t their culture! I apologized several times. I asked why they didn’t tell us, we would have respected their culture in that. They said they understood our motives. Ever since then, no baby showers. We would do stuff after, as their culture does.

            Still, they recognized we wished to honor and respect their wishes. They also understood that there are lots of nuances we don’t know. So it all worked out, no one was offended, and now we understand each other.

            Curious as to why others aren’t the same way.

          • james blue

            I should have numbered those questions so I wouldn’t be trying to figure out which answer goes to each question.

            Basically all the questions were driven by your ” don’t equate sin with the color of my skin” quote coupled with your “it’s not okay to discriminate against Christians only”.to ascertain if you held behavior or “choice of lifestyle” as different to race across the board or just for sexual preference. I often hear the argument that race is an immutable characteristic whereas sexuality is a choice to deny that homosexuality should be a protected class in big government anti discrimination and public accommodation laws. But religion is a choice, not an immutable characteristic yet the same people argue that it should be a named protected class.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    USA has neither freedom or conscience for anyone, apart from Christianity. It’s just liberals’ decadence reigning.

  • Adagio Cantabile

    As usual, the ACLU, Anti-Christian Liars United. Not having a conscience themselves, they assume that any Christian appealing to his conscience is just using it as a cover for discrimination. They really do believe that the only reason Christianity existed for 2000 years was to discriminate.

  • Michael C

    If you search for it, because its been a while since I’ve seen it, you can find it.

    All I was able to find was the Crowder video. To my knowledge, that’s the only one. There are no others.

    And so where are gay businesses that do the same thing and are sued out of existance because they don’t want to serve ???

    If a business owned by a gay person illegally discriminates on the basis of a protected characteristic (religion, for instance), they will be just as liable as any other business.

    Btw, it has been for the FLDS a free pass since

    Mormons must obey the same laws as everyone else. They’re not permitted to violate civil rights laws either.