I read the attention-grabbing article by Ray Mosby: “Andy Gipson is reason separation of church, state needed.” Since he didn’t contact me before writing his piece, I must respond by saying, “Ray Mosby’s article is a prime example of fake news.” If he had contacted me or checked the facts with anyone else, he would have found I have personally supported our local domestice violence shelters, as has our small church congregation; that I have personally authored and shepherded multiple bills into law that provide more funding and protections for domestic violence victims in our State. I would have told him the primary reason for my actions to help victims is my moral conviction – based in my faith – that domestic violence is absolutely wrong. Just ask anybody.

But Mosby opted for a more sensational “story” via his article. His baseless opinion piece illustrates to the Mississippi public the many reasons people do not, and should not trust so many journalists in the media today. Granted there are some good journalists, but there are so many demonstrable falsehoods in Mosby’s article that it’s hard to know where to begin.

So, let’s begin here: Mosby says “Lots were surprised to learn domestic violence is not already grounds for divorce in this state, but it isn’t . . .” Did Mosby inquire of a single attorney? If he had, maybe he would have learned that the Mississippi Supreme Court has a differing opinion on the law. The State’s high court has said the current broader ground “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment” includes a “course of conduct on the part of the offending spouse which was so unkind, unfeeling or brutal as to endanger, or put one in reasonable apprehension of danger to life, limb or health.” Non-physical abuse is included, and only one act of physical violence toward a spouse can provide a ground for divorce under current law. But this is just the first of many examples of Mosby’s fake news.

Second, Mosby’s article misses the underlying problem: there has been a judicial application problem, not a law problem. My solution was an evidentiary-based amendment with uniform standards of proof. Although the law already covers domestic violence and has for 100 years, the local chancellors in different districts and counties across our state have applied differing standards which my amendment corrects. Mosby obviously didn’t check his facts with the anti-domestic violence advocates who met with me at my request to help draft this solution to the real problem. I know he didn’t contact me for any comment or input. There you have it – more fake news.

Third, Mosby’s attribution of quotes to me are absolutely and totally false, having been taken out of context. Mosby doesn’t tell the reader that I killed not one, but two divorce bills, for different reasons, on the same day. They only reason I gave for killing the domestic abuse bill (Senate Bill 2703) was precisely that it is already the law and did nothing to help the problem. And in that same meeting I said I would work on a narrowly-tailored solution for the real problem. Respectable journalists like Geoff Pender actually in the room that day can tell you that’s exactly what I said. But, for whatever reason, Mosby didn’t check his facts, choosing instead to print only statements I made in a completely different “no-fault” divorce context, discussed below. Still more fake news.

The other bill I killed was a no-fault divorce bill, Senate Bill 2483. In that context, I did say and I stand by my statement that we as a State need to find policies to strengthen marriages, as opposed to passing no-fault, no-reason divorce legislation which would “open the floodgates.” Statistics show that spouses and children suffer on a variety of levels when marriages fall apart without good reason. We already have a form of “no-fault” divorce in irreconcilable differences divorce, but the spouses must agree on child matters, property division, etc. I think this helps protect innocent spouses and children. To create a pure no-fault basis would let one spouse leave for no reason “to find themselves” or leave for greener pastures, be gone a couple of years, and then have a ground for divorce to use against the innocent spouse. That is not right, in my view. I think most Mississippians agree with me on that. Mosby’s failure to address this issue, taking my statements out of context, is evidence of even more fake news.

Finally, Mosby pretends his article is supposed to demonstrate the need for the separation of church and state. I support Jefferson’s original meaning of separation of church and state. The concept, now found in our First Amendment, protects the rights of people of faith from encroachment on their moral conscience by the State or Federal governments. It is the fundamental right to be allowed to freely exercise one’s freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, without fear of government punishment. So, is Mosby really saying that Christians like me or other people of faith should not be eligible as public servants, or should not be allowed to maintain their moral convictions as public servants? If that’s what Mosby means, he should come right out and say so. In any event, I’m respectfully asking Mr. Mosby to check his facts and correct or retract his piece. It’s time we as Mississippians demand a return to civil discourse based on the facts, not an uniformed raging debate based on fake news and social media.

Rep. Andy Gipson