Over 30 ministers of the United Methodist Church's Mississippi Annual Conference released a statement on Monday condemning Mississippi's HB 1523 and legislation that legalizes discrimination in the name of religion. HB 1523, which was signed into law earlier this month, could allow a range of individuals, corporations, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations—including those that receive taxpayer funding to perform social services—to refuse to provide goods and services to same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage and their families.
"We believe that any attempt to legislate and sign into law discriminatory practices against any group of people is sinful and does harm to the body of Christ and to the well being of the communities both church and government are called to serve," the statement said. "We commit ourselves to be in ministry to all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation."
The group drew parallels to a similar statement released on January 2, 1963 entitled "Born of Conviction." Written in response to the violent reaction to James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi, the statement declared that Jesus "teaches that all men are brothers. He permits no discrimination because of race, color, or creed."
We at Americans United commend these ministers for speaking out against attempts to use religion to discriminate.
“I applaud the United Methodist leaders in Mississippi who refuse to allow religion to be used as a tool to harm others and to deny people their rights," said AU Faith Outreach Specialist Bill Mefford, himself a United Methodist minister. "I hope and pray other faith leaders in Mississippi will stand up and show that faith is meant to set free those who are oppressed and not further alienate them.”
Are you a faith leader who believes that religion is no excuse to harm others? Get involved by taking our Protect Thy Neighbor pledge or e-mailing Bill Mefford, AU's Faith Outreach Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.