When you are a humanist in Mississippi, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the evangelical events.
There are prayers at the flagpoles, public meetings and public school football games, as well as prophetic summits, tent revivals, and SO much more.
Most of the time, we humanists don’t much pay attention to these types of religious events.
Humanists believe that everyone has the right to believe what they want, as long as it doesn’t harm others, even though the obvious preference and practice of one religion over all others, or none, can be harmful, as it can make people feel excluded.
That’s why when we initially heard that a PULSE Movement event is coming to Mississippi in April of next year, we didn’t really pay attention to it. The PULSE organization hosts evangelical events across the country, and it makes sense it would add Mississippi to the list.
Then something happened that changed how we looked at it.
The sitting governor of Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant, endorsed it.
In this video created for PULSE, Gov. Bryant refers to it as a “state-wide faith event.” He also calls for everyone to come together to make this nation “one nation under God.”
This statement by Governor Bryant is a clear endorsement of a preferred religion by a public official, and this is unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. By promoting this evangelical Christian event as a public official, he removed the line between church and state.
When our elected officials and governmental entities endorse a particular faith, it becomes an issue on many fronts.
As humanists, we know what happens when the lines between church and state disappear.
We see it every day here in Mississippi.
Abortion clinics close. (Mississippi currently has one abortion clinic).
Religious freedom bills are passed which promote one religion’s beliefs above all others.
Voices of those not of the preferred faith get muffled, ignored or persecuted.
This unconstitutional activity poses a threat to all of us who want equal treatment under our secular constitutional law.
About the PULSE Movement
Again, we would normally pay little attention to a religious group, but since it’s being promoted and endorsed by our governor, we should all know what its goals are.
It just takes a little bit of digging to see how potentially dangerous the PULSE Movement can be.
On the surface, PULSE looks like a standard Christian evangelical movement that gathers young people together to spread the word of Jesus, hosting more than 150 events a year. These events are not just in the United States, but in Africa as well.
That all sounds pretty typical, but after a little bit of research, a potentially serious issue became apparent
PULSE seems to believe that the mental health issues of self-harm, suicide, and addiction in young people are caused by biblical illiteracy and a lack of church. PULSE is basically selling itself as the solution to these mental health issues.
This sort of attitude promotes a stigma around mental health that causes many in the church to avoid getting the help they need, causing people very real harm.
Mississippi – The Wall We Need to Rebuild
But this issue of PULSE’s beliefs and goals is all really beside the point. This group’s event and its goals isn’t something the governor of Mississippi should be promoting.
Besides being completely unconstitutional, when the governor, or any governmental entity prefers one religion over others, it divides one group, the citizenry, into two groups - the preferred group, and the “others.”
The “others” are made to believe they are “less than” because they are not part of the preferred group.
And then, legislation comes forth catering to the preferred group, and its religion. And the “other” group is treated as less important than the preferred group.
We can see this happening in Mississippi today.
In 2016, HB 1523, “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act or Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”, was introduced by Sen Phillip Gunn. HB 1523 protects those that choose to discriminate against people who don’t live by the religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sexual relations should be reserved for those in a heterosexual marriage, and that gender is only recognized as that which a person was born with physically and genetically.
Since June 23, 2017, HB 1523 has been standing law in Mississippi. You may be discriminated against because of who you are and who you love, and you may have no recourse whatsoever.
And in 2019, our governor has decreed our standard issue Mississippi state license plates will read “In God We Trust”, and those that don’t share the sentiment will have to pay more to avoid being forced by the state government to display a religious motto they don’t believe in.
Mississippians should not have to live by laws from a religion they did not select for themselves. ALL Mississippians, regardless of their chosen religion, or lack thereof, deserve equal consideration and to be equal before the law.
What You Can Do
We need to make our voices heard on this issue. Loudly and often.
Let your Mississippi state elected officials – including the governor - know this unconstitutional endorsement of religion is absolutely unacceptable. Call early, call often. Send e-mails. The more they hear this behavior is not acceptable from voters, maybe they will think twice and make a better choice on behalf of all Mississippians.
Also, share this post to spread the word. The Constitution works to protect us ALL, and we have to push back against those that would ignore it.
The Mississippi Humanist Association (MHA), a chapter of the American Humanist Association, works to protect the wall between church and state here in Mississippi.