To know me is to love me but to love me you have to understand that I have a love-hate relationship with the State of Mississippi. I learned this week that Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law, "The Religious Freedom Restoration Act." The bill, which passed by large margins in both the Mississippi House and Senate, does two things. First, it adds the words. "In God We Trust" to the state seal. Lastly, it allows or could open up the idea that a "person" -- and that can mean a corporation or just any individual person -- has the option to discriminate against anyone they feel isn't in line with their religious beliefs.
Allow me a moment to provide you with a little back-story. I was born in Mississippi, something I almost never ever tell anyone. I went to boarding school in Mississippi and when I graduated from college I went back to Mississippi to get my first professional job working in television news. I have met some of my best of friends while in Mississippi. Those friends were classmates of mine while at The Piney Woods Boarding School. Those friends were colleagues of mine while I worked to build my resume as a journalist. So I think it's pretty fair to say that Mississippi, in some regards, has been very good to me. With all that said, what is really fair in this country? I think the more important question is, what is really fair in Mississippi? Because fair is nowhere to be found in The Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Furthermore, the signage of this bill into law was done in a private ceremony. So I ask, why sign it in private? I'm sure we've all heard the old saying, "What's done in the dark will come to light!" Mississippi I hope you are prepared for the moment it's revealed why you really wanted this law on the books.
I find it profoundly disturbing that in the year 2014 we still have to deal with forms of discrimination. President of the conservative Family Research Council, Tony Perkins called the law, "a victory." He went on to say that the victory is for the first amendment and the right to live and work according to one's conscience. Well, my conscience tells me there is still more growing and evolving that must be done in Mississippi. I think we should all realize that gone are the days of hate and bigotry. Gone are the days when people shouldn't be able to get a fair shot because his or her beliefs are much different than someone else's. Think about it, if you look at it, it really is a form of segregation. Maybe Phil Bryant and every single state lawmaker that voted for this bill to become law should realize that standing behind religion, as your shield should not allow you to discriminate against anyone. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer realized the backlash that would come when her state attempted to enact a similar law just months ago. She vetoed the idea and maybe Phil Bryant should have done the same. Now, if I look at it through clear eyes maybe no one is really worried about Mississippi signing this into law because come on you might say, "it's Mississippi" and that's expected right?
The law however, is like opening the floodgates. It opens the door to people who might not be in line with what many in the south call the "traditional" way of living to be shunned. That would include, non-Christians, gays, lesbians and other people in the realm of LGBT. Surely, Mississippi, if you aren't aware, those people actually live in your state. They pay taxes and their children go to Mississippi schools. They are on the PTA. They serve on your local forms of government. They too are people and why would you send a strong message saying you are not welcomed here. All of it is sad because family whom I love dearly remains residents of your state and I would love to visit them and spend time with them, but you Mississippi make that hard. It's extremely hard for me to touch down off a flight to your state because people there might not agree with the way I live my life.
So, Mississippi here is where you fall short because no matter how hard it might be for me visit your state and to spend quality time with my loved ones, I want you to know this: Someone has to show you that life should not be about hating. So instead of loving my family from afar, I will visit your state and love them in your face, and I will do all of this why doing my best to refrain from giving you my hard earned money. I will spend my days showing you that you do not have to sign hateful bills into law just to flex your big hateful muscles. In closing, Mississippi, you might have, for the moment, won the battle but the war isn't over.
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