RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Protecting bakers from having to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples has been a common justification for religious freedom bills, and that's true in Mississippi. Yesterday, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill into law that allows religious organizations, individuals and businesses to refuse their services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people if they feel offering such services violates their religious beliefs. As it happens, many of Mississippi's business owners object to the new law, among them, bakery owner Mitchell Moore, who was born and raised in Mississippi and now lives in Jackson with his wife and young family. We reached him at one of his bakeries. Good morning.
MITCHELL MOORE: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: As a baker, this bill would allow you to refuse service to people you don't want to bake for. Have you ever felt forced to bake for clients that you didn't want to serve?
MOORE: No, no that is not a problem. I am here to bake cakes and to sell those cakes. I'm not here to decide arbitrarily who deserves my cake and who doesn't. That's not what I do. That's not my job.
MONTAGNE: Have you heard from others that they do have these objections?
MOORE: Not to my knowledge, no. Everyone that I know in the greater, say, wedding-service industry - we're here to serve. The public's made up of a lot of people. I don't have to agree with what they do. I don't have to support them. I serve them.
MONTAGNE: Well, I do gather that you are a Republican. But you oppose this bill. So what are your particular objections, other than it sounds like you don't think it's needed?
MOORE: So leaving aside the stupidity of passing it because it decriminalizes discrimination - which, that really is kind of the biggest issue - but I can actually say I think the law of unintended consequences is going to come back to bite the people who signed this bill. If it is my sincerely held religious belief that I shouldn't serve them, then I can do that. And I can hide behind that language. But that language is so vague it opens a Pandora's box. And you can't shut it again.
MONTAGNE: Well, do you consider yourself a religious person or would you...
MONTAGNE: ...consider that maybe you don't understand what it means to have a deeply held religious belief?
MOORE: I don't think that there is such a thing as a deeply held religious belief that you should not serve people. There is no sincerely held religious belief to think that I am better than other people - to think that my sin is different than other people. And so I am a deeply Christian man, and those go counter to my belief system.
MONTAGNE: Why do you think your state elected officials, who presumably think they're looking out for the best interests of exactly people like you - why do you think that they passed this bill?
MOORE: The assumption that they think that they're looking out for us - that's not what they are doing. A report just came out. We rank number one - our state government is the most dependent on federal money. We are the third most obese state. We rank at the bottom in unemployment, in education. We've got crumbling infrastructure. None of them are being tackled. Instead, we are passing, hey-let's-discriminate bills.
MONTAGNE: Coming from Mississippi, do you have concerns that this bill reflects on your state in a way that you wouldn't like it to be seen?
MOORE: Yeah - Mississippi is an amazing place. And it's filled with amazing people. But if you aren't from here, if you don't know that, you're going to choose to not come here because of bills like this - because you see the state government as taking no action on hundreds of other priorities and taking action instead on trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. It boggles my mind.
MONTAGNE: Well, thank you for sharing this with us.
MOORE: Certainly - you're welcome.
MONTAGNE: Mitchell Moore is a baker, and he owns Campbell's Bakery in Jackson, Miss.
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