Controversial Mississippi Religious Accommodations Act already impacting businesses

By Lucy Dieckhaus, WJTV - JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) - Mississippi business owners are weighing in about the controversial Religious Accommodations Act that would allow businesses to deny services based on religious beliefs.

Some businesses say it's already hurting their bottom line.

A Mississippi business owner says this 16 page bill signed by the governor is already costing his business millions, but they say it's not just about the money.

"You're going to go somewhere and stop and ask somebody for directions and the people here aren't going to tell you how to get there. They are going to take you there," said Wes Benton.

That's one of the selling points Wes Benton of Red Planet Entertainment uses to bring business to his home state and squash stereotypes.

But he says 70 million dollars that would have been spent in the Magnolia state disappeared because of the Religious Accommodations Act.

And he thinks the state will not only lose more projects, but some investors will cross Mississippi off their list of possibilities altogether.

He hopes to sit down with lawmakers and figure out a solution.

"If you're a politician, you are supposed to represent everybody, and everybody's rights and you know to deny one person service because another person doesn't want to do something is wrong across the board no matter how you look at it in my opinion," said Benton.

"I just don't think that it's good for the economy. It's not good for small businesses like mine. We tend to have an open door to everyone," said Roy Burr.

A Canton business owner says he thinks this bill sets Mississippi back at least 10 years, and we should be embracing diversity not shutting people out because of it.

"All types of people come here and we like to welcome everyone through our doors. We have things for everyone. We certainly don't want to discriminate against anyone," said Burr.

Kimberly Moore, a Brandon business owner says she supports the bill because it protects her church.

"Homosexuality is wrong. A marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman. That's the way God designed it, so to protect my preacher and other preachers in the churches that's the one thing that I really love about the bill that they can't be harmed in any way whether our church be sued or a preacher or whatever if they refuse to marry outside of their convictions," said Moore.

Moore encourages others to love the sinner and hate the sin.

"If someone came into my store that was homosexual or whatever, it may be there is no way I would turn them away because that's not what Jesus has called me to do," said Moore. "People think that we as Christians are judging others, but it is not that we are judging it's just that we are standing on our conviction. God's word is black and white."

Benton says the film industry is the perfect business to show off the state, and it benefits businesses big and small from dry cleaners to gas stations.

But he says would consider leaving if this legislation ends up gutting his bottom line.

"At the end of the day we moved our business here about four years ago all of our equipment here and everything to help grow the industry here, and you know we'll go back to Georgia if we have to," said Benton.

The bill will go into effect on July 1. Opponents have asked the Department of Justice to sue the state over the bill.

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