HB1523 - A Law for Jerks



I am not surprised that Phil Bryant and his theocrats-in-waiting would deed control over the government to their churches. What does surprise me, is how little faith our state government has in religion, that it would deed control over those beliefs to the government.

We’ve covered HB1523 before. There, I called it the “Three Commandments.” This is a more accurate name than the hyper-Orwellian "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act."

Listen. HB1523 restricts, not protects, your conscience, while trashing the constitution.

Let’s do a test.

Are you a cop who doesn’t want to haul the homeless away for begging? Our man-baby legislators deeply regret that they cannot help you.

Did you want to break into a military base and decommission a weapon of mass destruction to, perhaps, save the entire human race? You’ll be going to jail. The apocalypse is not religious.

Maybe you work at a company dumping toxic waste into the river and poisoning future generations, and remember something from some holy book about it, and blow the whistle? Sorry, your conscience is not free to do so, and our pathetic attorney general won’t give you the same protection he does to bogus forensic experts who send people to jail with science-sounding lies.

Are you a prison guard who refuses to beat and torture because of what Jesus taught? Then buddy, you are fired.

There are ten commandments, but our legislators have improved upon that tired, three thousand year old formula, giving us something sleek and tweet worthy for the new, modern theocracy - there are only three religious beliefs!

Yes, in order to keep our government out of our churches, our government has now mandated the three protected religious beliefs. (You can read this ill-constructed mess of a document HERE)

This law is awful in two ways. I need you to keep in mind as I go from here, I will often be quoting from this incredibly poorly written law - clearly our legislators are products of terrible educations from segregation academies. I would never write something so awkward and kludged together, and I once transcribed a madman’s feverish review of a television show that never existed.

The other way in which this is awful is that it is cruel, unnecessary, and intrusive.

One: Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.

Note that their religion begins in denial of the obvious existence of other unions. Those are legal unions, and if you have a“sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction…” about those legal documents, then stop being a child, and realize that the law only has a tangential connection to what is right and wrong - and even less to your sincerely held beliefs and convictions. Legal marriage exists to provide the state and her attendants with a handy legal fiction, not to satisfy your God, and certainly not to in any way reinforce your beliefs.

Two: Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

Did you ever hate the thought of hot, sweaty gay sex so HARD that you accidentally outlawed all non-marital sex? Did you ever want to be able to fire a woman because you sincerely believed she was a slut? Good news.

This third one is written like an alien sociologist was trying to describe what Mike Pence thinks.

Three: Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

Just a few notes, Gleep-Glorp the Alien. One. Individuals don’t have immutable biological sex. Two, you can’t always objectively determine anatomy at the time of birth. Three, what if anatomy and genetics don’t agree at birth? What then, hotshot?

Also, I like how, in keeping with conservative principles of keeping the government out of our business, they’ve decided that your junk and your genes are fair game for anyone to question. Dinnertime with the theocrats must be an unimaginable nightmare.

Now - I hear what you’re thinking, and bless your heart, but this law is more than about ruining wedding days, implementing The Scarlet Letter, and spying on bathrooms.

Where the fascism hits the road is who it extends the freedom of conscience to, and how they get to use it.

You can hire, fire, or discipline employees using the Three Commandments as guidance. That’s right - time to write up Bob for having a boyfriend. It’s okay, Phil Bryant has your back!

You can refuse to sell a house to someone who you feel has the wrong genitals. You can refuse to rent to a young lesbian! You can kick out your renter for having had sex in the apartment she’s paying you for!

Foster care providers can cruelly deny gay parents adoption. They can take away or prevent an unmarried couple from fostering children.

You can do “gay conversion therapy,” or as it should be called “torturing gay people until they say they’re not gay” and you can prevent a couple from going through with fertility treatments if you think one of them should really be calling herself a man.

You can make a young man who looks like any other awkward teenage boy dress like a girl, so long as someone says he was born with a vagina (no word yet on what cruelty you can inflict upon those who had ambiguous genitalia at birth).

You can bash your coworkers! And the state can’t do anything about it!

You may have noticed a common thread here. This law only allows you to do negative things. It only allows you to deny, to prevent, to take away, to torment. It protects those who force their beliefs (well, one of the three) upon others. It never allows positive action, it does not help anyone do anything to aid or better their fellows.

Another common thread here is the unimaginable cowardice of these grown men hiding behind a judge’s robe. They want to be able to deny a gay couple a marriage license or a wedding venue, to fire Cindy in accounting for sleeping with Ted, to barge into a restroom and demand to see genitalia, and they don’t want to get into trouble for it.

That is because they have no deeply held convictions. Their religious beliefs are smoke and mirrors - the three commandments and damn the rest. These would-be-warriors are prayer warriors only. They are not nuns chaining themselves to nukes, not druids standing in front of bulldozers. Their enemies are not soldiers or policemen or corporate skyscrapers. Their enemies are poor women on the way to a clinic, scared couples wanting a special day, teenagers who want to use a restroom without being harassed.

Deeply held convictions are the ones you hold even when they get you into trouble. There is nothing conscionable about using your privilege and position to prevent yourself from being inconvenienced when you are going out of your way to be hateful, but it is, at least, deeply religious.


If you would like to donate to an organization fighting HB 1523 in court, we recommend Lambda Legal, who is bringing lawsuits against it. 

If you would like to donate to an organization fighting the broader theocratic agenda in Mississippi, we recommend the Mississippi Humanist Association