As a federal judge prepares to rule on Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage, a group known as the Magnolia State Heritage Campaign is trying to cement Christianity as the state’s official religion in its constitution. They are proposing a constitutional amendment that they hope will be on the 2016 ballot.
The campaign’s Arthur Randallson explained to American Family Association news network OneNewsNow, “We have taken a little bit of time to prepare an initiative that covers promoting Christianity, which is recognized as the principal religion of Mississippi from the founding of the state in 1817 to the present, and affirmed in the state constitution prayer acknowledging the Holy Bible.”
The actual text of the amendment would read:
The State of Mississippi hereby acknowledges the fact of her identity as a principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state, in terms of the majority of her population, character, culture, history, and heritage, from 1817 to the present; accordingly, the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues; and, accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens. The acknowledgments hereby secured shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
In other words, it doesn’t violate the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion, simply because it says that it wouldn’t.
The Tea Party-driven initiative would also establish English as the official language of the state, requiring all governmental services, functions, or communications to be rendered “in the English language only.”
Another significant aspect of the “Heritage Initiative” is an embrace of the state’s Confederate heritage. “Dixie” would be made the state song, April would be “Confederate Heritage Month,” the Confederate Battle Flag would be flown at the state capitol, and “Colonel Reb” would be reinstated as the official mascot of the University of Mississippi, having been changed out for a less-offensive black bear named “Rebel” in 2010. The initiative also reinforces that the Mississippi State University mascot remain an English Bulldog and that the University of Southern Mississippi mascot remain a Golden Eagle, two mascots that have never been controversial or reconsidered by their respective schools.
The language has already been approved for consideration, so the Heritage Campaign is now working to collect the 110,000 signatures to qualify it for the ballot.
Meanwhile, the ACLU of Mississippi has come out strongly against the measure, noting that declaring Christianity a state religion would undermine “peaceful pluralism and religious diversity,” English-only restrictions would discrimination against minorities, and the so-called “heritage, culture, and traditions” promoted by the initiative are “steeped in historical discrimination based on race.” Neo-confederate ideas have also been used to support anti-LGBT rhetoric and discrimination.