Secular Americans Vote Mississippi “God’s Army” Legislation Worst State Bill in the Nation

Washington, D.C.-- Today the Secular Coalition for America announced that Mississippi House Bill 786, the "Mississippi Church Protection Act", has won the title of "Worst State Bill" in America. The legislation would legalize killing a person while acting as a participant of a church or place of worship security team, deeming the act a "justifiable homicide."

The announcement marks the conclusion of the Bad Bill Madness campaign, a parody of the popular college basketball tournament. The Secular Coalition for America placed 16 bills from different states into a 1 vs 1 tournament bracket and asked supporters to vote on which bills most violated the separation of church and state. Voting took place in four rounds over a two week period which saw more than 1,300 votes cast.

The "Mississippi Church Protection Act" would allow churches to empower designated members of their congregation as part of a security team with a "shoot to kill" authority equivalent to a police officer but with less government oversight. The bill contains few restrictions regarding where one may act within this capacity, allowing a church's volunteer security personnel to exercise this authority in public and private venues outside of the church.

The bill passed the House in February and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate. It was introduced by House Judiciary Rep. Andy Gipson, a minister, who said he occasionally carries a firearm while at the pulpit. Mississippi already allows firearms inside of churches, however Gipson's bill would provide legal immunities for members of the church's security team that would also apply in some public places outside of the church itself.

"The ‘Mississippi Church of Protection Act' is well deserving of the title for ‘Worst State Bill.' This legislation would put ‘soldiers of God' above the law, allowing them to act as judge, jury, and executioner," said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. "Religious institutions are already exempt from taxation, financial transparency, and many civil rights laws. The Mississippi Church Protection Act would constitute an unprecedented and dangerous next step. Belonging to a church should not afford anyone the same rights and protections as law enforcement. This legislation emboldens extremists by creating a legal means for radical preachers to enlist their congregants into ‘God's army.'"

Contact: Casey Brescia, [email protected], (845)-380-6201

***UPDATE*** The same day the Secular Coalition for America formally announced MS HB 786 the winner of the Bad Bill Madness competition, the Mississippi Senate passed the bill 36-14. Due to an minor amendment being added, the bill will be sent back to the House for a vote before being sent to the governor's desk. In response to these developments, the Secular Coalition for Mississippi released an Action Alert urging Mississippi lawmakers to reject the bill.

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The Secular Coalition for America is the nation's premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.


 

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