Mississippi’s unprecedented anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law is based on bogus “religious liberty” horror stories peddled by Fox News and anti-LGBT activists.
On April 5, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) signed into law a “religious freedom” bill that creates a broad legal defense for individuals, businesses, and religiously affiliated organizations -- like hospitals, schools, and shelters -- to discriminate against LGBT people. Gov. Bryant claimed the law was meant to “protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions … from discriminatory action by state government.”
Conservative media have spent years peddling the myth that Christians are being persecuted by LGBT nondiscrimination laws. Fox News has long touted the stories of a handful of anti-gay photographers, bakers, and florists who refused to provide services to same-sex couples and were then sued for violating nondiscrimination ordinances. In regular segments that Fox dubs the “Fight for Faith,” the network often sides with for-profit businesses -- like an Idaho wedding chapel -- to claim that the Christian business owners are being persecuted by the government or LGBT activists:
Fox News employees have even written books devoted to the anti-LGBT Christian persecution myth. In 2014,Fox News’ anti-gay mouthpiece and serial misinformer Todd Starnes went on a publicity tour for his book God Less America, which details “real stories from the frontlines of the attack on traditional values.” This February, Fox News contributor and prominent conservative media figure Erick Erickson released a book You Will Be Made To Care, The War on Faith, Family And Your Freedom To Believe, which explores how the “leftist-homosexual mafia” is waging a "war on Christians.”
Conservative media’s misinformation campaign framing Christians as “victims” of discrimination is part of a larger effort by anti-LGBT activists seeking to pass “religious freedom” laws. With Fox News providing the “Fight for Faith” stories to lay the groundwork for laws like Mississippi’s, anti-LGBT organizations can continue their national push for laws that protect anti-LGBT discrimination.