What, you thought Governor Jan Brewer’s Veto of SB-1062 would end the debate? Of course not. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryan has signed the measure, titled the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or MRFRA for the cool kids.
Here is the key operative language:
State action or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to that person’s exercise of religion in that particular instance is both of the following:
(i) Essential to further a compelling governmental interest;
(ii) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
And people who feel that burden can raise this burden as a defense in any proceeding, regardless if a state or individual is bringing the action:
A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened or is likely to be burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation or impending violation as a claim defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the or a political subdivision of the state is a party to the proceeding. The person asserting that claim or defense may appropriate relief, including relief against the state or a political subdivision of the state. Appropriate relief includes, but is not limited to, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, compensatory damages, and the recovery of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Interestingly, this law only requires a “burden” and not a “substantial burden,” which was the language used in the Federal RFRA, and Arizona’s SB 1062.
“Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”
Arizona SB 1062, dubbed the “Religions Freedoms Restoration Act, provides in relevant part:
STATE ACTION shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
These are IDENTICAL. Mississippi’s is not.
To the courts we go!