US Supreme Court declines to hear appeal against upholding Mississippi Christians' religious freedom

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal against a ruling that upheld a Mississippi bill protecting Christians and other residents from punishment when they refuse to render certain services that go against their faith and personal convictions.

(REUTERS / Shaun Heasley)The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. July 1, 2005.

On Jan. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down hearing the cases of Barber v. Bryant and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, which have appealed against a Fifth Circuit ruling upholding Mississippi's "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act." Even though no explanation was offered for the move, the legal team defending the bill welcomed it, Christian News reported.

"The 5th Circuit was right to find that those opposing this law haven't been harmed and, therefore, can't try to take it down," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. "Because of that, we are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to take up these baseless challenges, which misrepresented the law's sole purpose of ensuring that Mississippians don't live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union."

While the bill does not allow individuals to refuse all services, it permits them to turn down personal participation in certain events that would make them violate their faith. It also protects them from government punishment in cases where they refuse to officiate gay weddings or provide services for these occasions.

Pro-LGBT group Lambda Legal said they will continue to fight against the religious freedom law until it is overturned. Attorney Beth Littrell lamented the Supreme Court's decision and said it leaves LGBT individuals vulnerable to "hate and humiliation."

Meanwhile, the University of Southern Mississippi has canceled three baseball games after its opponents opted out of the series over the state's "anti-LGBT" laws. New York's Stony Brook University, which receives state funding, decided not to go against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ban on unnecessary travel to states that restrict LGBT rights, Breitbart reported.

The home games were originally scheduled to take place from Feb. 23 to 25. Southern Mississippi has now decided to instead play in a tournament to be held at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas.