Late last month, a federal judge declared Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523) unconstitutional. In response, legal scholar and libertarian Richard Epstein discussed issues of religious freedom and anti-discrimination initiatives on the latest episode of the Hoover Institution’s podcast, The Libertarian.
The Mississippi law was written to protect those with specific religious objections on issues of marriage, sexual acts outside of marriage, and gender. The law would give people with the specified views the state-protected right to act on these views in business dealings and in roles as administrators. Anti-discrimination LGBT groups argued that the law allows unconstitutional discrimination, and the judge agreed, striking down the law under the Equal Protection Clause. The judge also ruled that the law violated the Establishment Clause because it favored some religious beliefs over others. The case represents one of many recent clashes between freedom of conscience and anti-discrimination laws.
Epstein rejects the judge’s ruling as both legally misguided and finds error in the underlying understanding of tolerance.