JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - After a federal judge's decision to strike down Mississippi's controversial Religious Accommodations Act, Attorney General Jim Hood is taking the opportunity to blast those who passed it in the first place.
"I can't pick my clients, but I can speak for myself as a named defendant in this lawsuit," Hood said in a statement Friday. "The fact is that the churchgoing public was duped into believing that HB1523 protected religious freedoms. Our state leaders attempted to mislead pastors into believing that if this bill were not passed, they would have to preside over gay wedding ceremonies. No court case has ever said a pastor did not have discretion to refuse to marry any couple for any reason. I hate to see politicians continue to prey on people who pray, go to church, follow the law and help their fellow man."
Hood explained that in 2014, the state enacted the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which created a right of citizens to sue the state in state court if they felt that their religious freedoms were being overburdened. He said the federal court pointed out that that act was already in law when HB 1523 was passed, in what Hood called "an overtly political fashion."
Hood said the judge's decision to strike down the Religious Accommodations Act is "straightforward and clear." And while he believes there will be a case in the future in which the U.S. Supreme Court will better define our religious rights, this case is not it.
"On page 9, the court quotes statements made by legislators, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The court found that those statements, along with the inclusion of the term "sincerely held religious beliefs" and the definition thereof in HB 1523, were strong evidence that the law was unconstitutional," Hood explained.
Hood said his attorneys will evaluate the decision to determine whether or not to appeal all or parts of Thursday's ruling. He did promise to appeal the Court's decision earlier in the week to extend the injunction to cover circuit clerks, who were never parties to the case.
"In consideration of the individual rights of all our citizens, the state's current budget crisis and the cost of appeal, I will have to think long and hard about spending taxpayer money to appeal the case against me," Hood said. "An appeal could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, North Carolina has set aside $500,000 for defense of its bathroom law. Even if we won and the injunction were set aside on appeal, the case would be remanded and proceed to trial over about two years. Because of the huge tax breaks handed out to big corporations by these same leaders, the state is throwing mentally ill patients out on the street. This is hardly protecting the least among us as Jesus directed."