Brenda Scott, president of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, a labor organization, questioned whether state politicians are really doing God's work in Mississippi.
Photo by Trip Burns.
From the rolling back of abortion rights to extolling the virtues of teen abstinence and one-man-one-woman marriage to protecting religious freedom, Mississippi's elected leaders say they are all about spreading the word of Jesus Christ.
Organizers and supporters of what they're calling a Moral Movement are dubious of those claims. The evidence, they say, lies in legislative actions Mississippi has taken in the past few years.
"We're putting God on the (state) seal, but are we really doing his work here?" Brenda Scott, president of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, a labor organization, told the Jackson Free Press.
Scott is referring to a law the Legislature passed earlier this year that went into effect July 1. Called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it added the phrase "In God We Trust" to the official state seal and ostensibly strengthened protections on religious expression. The latter provision sparked controversy because social-justice activists believed the law would open the door to discrimination against minorities.
The act also prompted the nation's LGBT advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, to launch a new initiative across the South called Project One America. HRC named former Mississippi United Methodist pastor Rob Hill as its executive director. Denise Dennell, also a former pastor of Mississippi United Methodist church, will serve as HRC's Mississippi faith leader, and the group will hire a field organizer.
Several cities around the state, including Jackson, have passed equality resolutions. Hill said this morning that HRC would like to meet with Mayor Tony Yarber and the city council about adopting a city ordinance that protects sexual orientation and gender identity.
Thirteen southern states are joining North Carolina in participating in a Moral Week of Action, each day focusing on a legislative area where opportunities exist for more moral policymaking. Those areas include economic justice and labor rights, education, juvenile justice, women's rights, Medicaid expansion and "respect in the Law and in the Community regardless of race, creed, class, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status."
Gov. Phil Bryant, who considers himself a devout Christian, wrote a July 18, 2014, letter to President Obama expressing outrage at the U.S.'s growing trend of taking in and helping immigrant children. It began: "I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the ongoing crisis at the United States' southern border. Illegal aliens—many unaccompanied children—are flooding into our country in record numbers."
Father Jerry Tobin said there is a moral imperative to protect children. "Stuff like this is horrible," Tobin said of comments like Gov. Bryant's.
The Rev. Bruce Case said we should remember people "languishing under the crushing burden of poverty" when making policy.
"If it is not good news for the poor, it is not good news," Case said.
The Moral Movement group plans a rally for Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Capitol.