June 23, 2017
Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit unanimously rejected a constitutional challenge to Mississippi’s religious-freedom law, known as HB 1523, which shields churches, religious organizations, state employees, and small businesses from government penalties if they refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies and other activities that violate their religious or moral beliefs. The law also shields Christian adoption agencies from being forced to place children with homosexual parents. And it protects doctors, counselors, and therapists from being forced to provide services that promote homosexual or transgender behavior.
A group of homosexual and transgender activists had challenged Mississippi’s law on constitutional grounds. But the Fifth Circuit ruled that these plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge Mississippi’s law because they failed to show that this law had injured them in any tangible way. The plaintiffs had asserted that they were offended by Mississippi’s efforts to protect the religious and conscientious scruples of Mississippians who do not support homosexual and transgender behavior. But mere offense taken by a law does not permit a constitutional challenge to proceed in federal court. As the Fifth Circuit explained: “The failure of the . . . plaintiffs to assert anything more than a general stigmatic injury dooms their claim to standing.”
Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, said in response to the Court’s ruling:
“The Fifth Circuit’s ruling today is a sweeping and resounding victory for the cause of religious freedom, and a defeat to those who have sought to bully and coerce devout Christians into participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies. This unanimous ruling shows that Texas and other States within the Fifth Circuit can enact similar conscience-protection laws without fear of judicial invalidation. There is no reason why religious believers in Texas should have any fewer protections than those that Mississippians enjoy, and we urge the Legislature to enact these urgently needed protections.”
Texas will enter a special session on July 18th, but religious liberty is not specifically on the list of items to address.
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