“Religious Freedom,” Gays, and Mississippi’s Trainable Fleas

It is such a shame that the Mississippi legislature chooses to invent problems that do not exist, while ignoring so many that do. With the Senate’s unanimous approval of the “religious freedom” bill protecting businesses from having to trade with people they think might be gay, the Senate manages in one stroke to align itself with the state-sponsored racial discrimination of half a century ago, invite economic retribution, violate the equal accommodations component of the Civil Rights Act, and incidentally do nothing to enhance religious freedom—all while very effectively illustrating Mark Twain’s observation that “fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.” Where are the plaintiffs complaining that their religious liberty has been compromised? None. Zero. Nada.

If the legislature is truly concerned with religious liberty, they might start with amending the Mississippi Constitution, which, in Article 14, Section 265, states that “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold office in this state.” In effect, while the legislature bucks and brays about what it considers religious freedom, we have in fact an officially theocratic state, where religious belief is a constitutional requirement for elected office. There is no freedom not to believe, or even to have no opinion. To be meaningful, religious freedom cannot just be a matter of having the freedom to choose among theistic offerings; it must also embrace the right not to believe. Thus the current “religious freedom” legislation, rooted in anti-homosexual sentiment, is a farrago of hypocrisy, mean-spiritedness, petulance, ignorance, pandering, and grandstanding—full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or at least nothing worthy of a legislature supposedly smarter than fleas.