Letter to the editor: Response to HB 1523 column

Posted on Oct 12 2017 - 7:57am by Jonathan Wiggins
In her recent column for The Daily Mississippian, Ms. Jaz Brisack panned Mississippi’s HB 1523 as “a violation of human rights and dignity” that will expose to discrimination “anyone who does not adhere to a heteronormative and evangelical Christian lifestyle” (although the bill explicitly applies to other religions, as well, such as Islam or Judaism). Several marginalized groups in particular are listed.
Ms. Brisack calls the bill a “victory for alt-right, regressive hate groups, like the state legislature, and their ring leaders, like the governor.”
Her argument is fundamentally flawed for two reasons.
First, HB 1523 does not, as she claims, allow for discrimination in the issuance of marriage licenses and adoption rights. The bill itself states nine times that “the state government shall not take any discriminatory action” against someone for making his own choices, regardless of his “religious affiliation or lack thereof” (§9 (3)(a)).
As such, state officials are allowed to “seek recusal” from their positions of authority over groups conflicting with their beliefs, as long as they provide sufficient prior notice (§3 (8)(a)) and ensure that services are “not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal” (§3 (8)(a)).
Thus, HB 1523 guarantees that all marginalized groups — not just Christians — will receive state services free from religious discrimination. Some victory for the alt-right.
Secondly, Ms. Brisack recommends people boycott various businesses in order to combat the discrimination potentially engendered by this bill. This itself amounts to discrimination and undermines her own message that such an act is by nature harmful to society and inspired by bigotry, or that it can be defeated only through government intervention. Commerce, not government jackboots, should be the lingua franca of a capitalist society.
Religious freedom and the freedom of expression are not mutually exclusive. This bill makes sure of that.
Jonathan Wiggins is a senior pharmacy major from DeKalb.