Mississippi Law Would Permit Unlicensed Drivers To Operate Buses Under Religious Exemption

Jesus Take The Wheel ActAlabama and Mississippi have recently been in a battle of which state could pass the most ridiculous laws. For awhile, I didn’t think anything was going to top the Alabama city declaring itself to be “owned by God,” something I’m sure any supernatural being would ask for a refund on immediately. To make sure they didn’t lose any ground to Mississippi, Alabama also came back with free lawyers for fetuses, just in case Mississippi had any plans of outdoing them in the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot category. Mississippi then responded with a proposal to make the Bible the official state book and Alabama countered with state Chief Justice Roy Moore telling the federal government that his religion says he doesn’t have to listen to them on gay marriage.


Alabama looked like it had the crazy religious thing on lockdown, but now Mississippi has introduced a bill nicknamed the “Jesus Take The Wheel Act.” Seriously.

House members on Thursday passed a bill exempting mid-sized church buses from the state’s commercial driver’s license requirements, prompting one lawmaker to call it the “Jesus Take the Wheel Act.”

The bill, HB 132, would help congregations lacking a CDL-certified driver transport up to 30 passengers in a church-owned vehicle. Although applying equally to all churches, it’s primarily aimed at smaller congregations with fewer members and financial resources.

It now heads to the Senate for consideration. (Source)

As if I actually needed another reason NOT to go to Mississippi (even though the BBQ at Pig Out Inn in Natchez is delicious), now we are looking at the possibility of non-certified individuals driving church buses – because certainly nothing bad could ever happen there. I wonder how the churches that go to Jackson to protest the one remaining abortion clinic choose a driver under this scenario? Do they pick the youngest person with a license, the person with the best vision, or do they go with the one with the fewest DUIs on their record?

All snark aside, why does a church get exempted from rules that are there to protect not only the safety of passengers in the vehicle, but also passengers in other vehicles or even pedestrians? These aren’t just 15 passenger vans that you see those denim skirt wearing homeschooling evangelicals piling out of at Walmart either. We’re talking about buses potentially being operated by people not trained on how to drive them, but I guess Mississippi lawmakers figure that the “Jesus Take The Wheel Act” makes sense because Jesus will deal with the fallout of allowing dangerous drivers on the road.

Commercial certified bus drivers must pass a written test and a driving test and also must get a CDL Medical Card, which requires the driver pass a physical.

“Obtaining a CDL is not especially difficult,” Coll said, “but the testing does increase the level of scrutiny on drivers, and the medical requirements prevent individuals with poor vision/hearing/motor control or untreated diabetes from driving large vehicles full of vulnerable passengers.”

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, though, one of the most dangerous – and popular – church transport vehicles requires no certified driver at all. The fully loaded 15-passenger van has a high roll-over risk resulting in numerous fatalities nationwide, the NTSB said in a consumer warning. (Source)

It’s bad enough that they get out of paying taxes and still get to pretend the Bible trumps the Constitution every chance they get, but now they can also get out of transportation regulations, because they’re a religious organization? I wonder how the lawmakers over in Mississippi would feel if the Church of Satan or a Muslim group demanded to be covered under the Jesus Take The Wheel Act?


A couple of years back, some people decided to create “Jesus Take The Wheel Day” as a joke Facebook event scheduled for March 31, 2013 to see whether anyone would be dumb enough to actually try this. Apparently Mississippi lawmakers are willing to up the ante and allow unlicensed people to drive buses under a religious exemption. What could possibly go wrong?





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  • hellyeah_rook

    Do you think the law will be dropped once the church of Satan pushes for religious rights?

    • James Worcester

      One has nothing to do with the other.

  • Jennifer Hoyt

    So what happens if one of these yahoo’s wants to take a busfull of people to another state? Is that person ‘covered’? Will any insurance company cover this scenario???

    • Eddie Higgins

      No insurance company will will cover the bus in Mississippi regardless of where the bus is driven !

      • the Lurker

        Most churches use the self-insurance option for their vehicles.

      • James Worcester

        Not in Mississippi!

      • James Worcester

        Actually, that is false. Mississippi has mandated that all motor vehicles be insured, and I know that my insurance agent does.

      • James Worcester

        Actually, that is false. Mississippi has mandated that all motor vehicles be insured, and I know that my insurance agent does.

    • James Worcester

      In accordance with the USDOT exemption, yes.

  • fedele

    I can guarantee when the first accident occurs (and it will) they will claim, “it was god’s will”. ..

    • James Worcester

      Maybe in whatever state you live in.

      • fedele

        It’s neither here nor there what state we’re referring to, I speak of any religionist from any church who would put people in danger rather than pay for the appropriate precautions. I know what I speak of, I used to drive a school bus and it takes more than a class D license, which is just an ordinary drivers license.

      • James Worcester

        I have owned a commercial public transportation company in Mississippi since 1991, Sir, and I follow USDOT regs to the letter. Church buses 30 passengers and below have had the exemption since the USDOT took over fou the ICC. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the USDOT.

      • fedele

        First of all, I’m not a sir, but that’s ok. Fortunately, I don’t live in Mississippi so I’m not concerned with any of those non-qualified drivers running into me. Lastly, my original comment was directed towards the religious zealots and their legislators.

      • James Worcester

        With your attitude, Ma’am, or whatever, I an pleased as punch that you don’t live in Mississippi, too! Meanwhile, those “non-qualified drivers” you refer to are free to operate church buses in your state, too, under a Federal exemption that was enacted by the USDOT in the late 1990’s.

      • fedele

        If churches have exemptions they wouldn’t need a new law and this wouldn’t be a big deal. Where I live any vehicle that carries 16 or more people needs at least a class c license. There are no exceptions. I could understand a small van but when you’re talking bus there are many safety issues that a class C operator’s training would cover in detail. Allowing only a reg D license would allow a 16 yr. old to drive a bus. I think that’s irresponsible. You want to talk about attitude, I’ve been respectful to you, I’m not the one that called you “ma’am, or whatever”… You can have the last word. Good Day.

      • James Worcester

        Each individual state has different licensing procedures. Your state is allowed to require a higher rating of licensure. That is why Mississippi did not abide by the exemption until this year. In this state, persons under 21 cannot apply for any commercial license, including a class “D”. As far as attitude, you seem determined to belittle the state I live in and love, and that is neither polite or respectful. Believe what you want to believe. Facts cannot trump prejudice.

  • Eg Kbbs

    Please tell me this is from the Onion or other satire site.

    The reason for a CDL isn’t just the protection of the people on the bus. It is also for the protection of all the other vehicles which the bus can crash into. Do you want a bus tailgating you on the freeway or the bus driver falling asleep at the wheel ?

    What is next ? A Christian can claim an exemption that allows him to do surgery without the little trouble of med school ? (Well, Rand Paul’s self-certification board is a step in that direction).

    • James Worcester

      Only one problem with your ridiculing of Mississippi for exempting church bus operators from carrying CDL’sp…USDOT exemption has been in effect since the 1990’s for ALL states. RESEARCH BEFORE YOU RIDICULE!
      Reply · Like · 1 · Follow Post · Yesterday at 4:12pm
      James Worcester · Top Commenter · Military Police at Retired from U.S. Navy
      By the way, the headline is VERY misleading. Anyone in the State of Mississippi who operates a motor vehicle which carries passengers or is used in a commercial venture is required to carry a Class “D” commercial license. The new law puts church buses carrying less than 30 pasengers in this category, consistent with the USDOT exception, eliminating the need for church bus drivers to procure state mandated Class “C” operators licence.

      • ShibumiMC

        Don’t be saucy Worcester. That whole scenario needs to be ridiculed.

      • James Worcester

        That’s cute, is that a pic of your Daddy? When do you turn 12?

  • Old Top Kick

    Hopefully the insurance industry will step in with some sanity and require a CDL with passenger endorsement for coverage to be in force. Either that or drive rates into the stratosphere such that hiring a properly licensed driver will be the cheaper option.

    • James Worcester

      The headline is VERY misleading. Anyone in the State of Mississippi who operates a motor vehicle which carries passengers or is used in a commercial venture is required to carry a Class “D” commercial license. The new law puts church buses carrying 30 pasengers or less in this category, consistent with the USDOT exception, eliminating the need for church bus drivers to procure the previously state mandated Class “C” operators licence.

  • annoyed

    Sorry, I’ve seen how nuns with licenses drive cars; I don’t want someone without proper CDL licensing driving one because its a church bus.

    • James Worcester

      The headline is VERY misleading. Anyone in the State of Mississippi who operates a motor vehicle which carries passengers or is used in a commercial venture is required to carry a Class “D” commercial license. The new law puts church buses carrying 30 pasengers or less in this category, consistent with the USDOT exception, eliminating the need for church bus drivers to procure the previously state mandated Class “C” operators licence.

  • loring

    This is sensationalist and a bit absurd because every state has these kind of laws, covering day care centers, private schools, as well as churches. Usual rule of thumb is extended mini-vans seating 12 or 16 sometimes do not require CDLs, while buses seating 16, 20, or more, or those with a handicap lift, always require CDLs. The issue is not “no driver’s license,” the issue is CDL and what class. Most non-orofits are granted some CDL exemptions

    • James Worcester

      Yessir, this is done under the USDOT exemption. Mississippi law was more stringent until this bill came forward.

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