Last year, the Clarion-Ledger issued a dire report on economic freedom levels in Mississippi. (Claudia Williamson, “Gov’t spending, regs hurt Miss business climate,” THE CLARION-LEDGER (Feb. 20, 2015) available at http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/columnists/2015/02/20/govt-spending-regs-hurt-miss-business-climate/23759031/.)
What is economic freedom? According to the article, “[t]he term economic freedom describes the degree to which individuals can live their lives and make personal choices without government intervention.”
The article noted that “over the past five years, Mississippi has been declining in economic freedom.” “The effects of Mississippi’s restrictions on freedom and personal autonomy are real and they are harsh…” Examining the state’s neighbors, the article describes how both Louisiana and Texas, which have much higher economic freedom rankings, are also much richer than Mississippi. It concludes that “Mississippi is relying too much on government and too little on personal choices.”
The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act increases freedom for all Mississippians. The Act limits the power of state and local governments to impose additional regulatory burdens and punitive sanctions on individuals and certain businesses. The Act is precisely the kind of solution to make Mississippi more economically free and that was recommended by the Clarion-Ledger.
Importantly, the Act protects the freedom of individuals to “live their lives and make personal choices without government intervention.” It ensures that wedding business owners are not compelled to participate in events that violate their religious or moral beliefs. Such freedom is attractive to business owners, many of whom launched their business because they wanted the freedom to direct their own lives and determine their own livelihoods.
It is noteworthy that, Louisiana and Texas, the two states that the Clarion-Ledger looked to as models for Mississippi, both have robust protections for religious liberty. Last year, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal issued an executive order that implemented many of the same protections contained in Mississippi’s bill. And both Texas and Louisiana have strong religious freedom protection laws.
Simply put, laws like the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act expand both religious freedom and economic freedom. It protects churches and pastors, but also individuals and wedding businesses from harmful government regulation. And like the Clarion-Ledger found, Mississippi needs to reduce such government regulation.