Religious Beliefs are not a Justification for Refusing to Fulfill Government Duties

CC: D.22.v.92L

CC: D.22.v.92L

With same-sex marriage the law of the land, there is no surprise that some county clerks, backed by state officials, have balked at issuing licenses for same-sex couples. Their opposition is based on religious considerations.

In Arkansas, a county clerk of 24 years decided to retire than violate her religious beliefs. That is her prerogative. As a government official, her responsibility is to represent all the people equally. Her decision to resign is the proper one. It keeps her religious beliefs intact, as she desires, and opens up the county clerk position to someone with a willingness to uphold the equality guaranteed in the Constitution.

In adjacent Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton is trying to rally resistant clerks by offering whatever support that he can and inform them that lawyers are lining up to offer pro bono support for any clerks who face legal troubles for denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

“[T]he United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist,” Paxton said in a statement. “… Importantly, the reach of the Court’s opinion stops at the door of the First Amendment and our laws protecting religious liberty.”

It is disappointing that an attorney general can get the Constitution so wrong. One’s religious liberty, as well as other First Amendment rights, and many other rights of the Constitution, have limitations while performing a government job. A person who is a government employee can’t claim exemptions from fulfilling their legal responsibility because doing so will trample the equal protections that the Constitution guarantees every American. It is no more acceptable for a county clerk to refuse to fulfill their job responsibilities equally than it is for a police officer. The solution for those who feel that they are violating personal religious beliefs is simple: follow the path of the Arkansas clerk who resigned.

Removing oneself from involvement with the government is a long-practiced action by many who hold strong religious beliefs. Conscientious objectors are a prime example, but others have chosen to exclude themselves from the government for other reasons. The Amish refuse social security because it is seen as a form of insurance that they prohibit. These believers remove themselves from the government actions that offend them. Their conscience decisions are their right, as guaranteed under the Constitution. It is not their right to become army recruiters or social security administrators and deny those jobs and programs to others because they find them offensive.

The alternative would open a mountain of exemptions that could eventually cripple the government and all our notions of fairness. If county clerks can deny equal treatment to same-sex couples, then they can do it for a range of other intrusions on their religious beliefs.

  • They could deny marriage to Muslims, atheists or other non-Christians.
  • It might offend their religious sensibilities against racial or ethnic purity to let people of different races marry.
  • Women who are dressed too provocatively could be deemed as unsuitable for marriage.
  • The same goes for women who express a desire to work outside the home or pay for the marriage license instead of the man.
  • Adulterers could be denied marriage licenses.

The list is endless.

Even the argument that the objection is only about transforming the ages old notion of marriage between a man and a woman is faulty. The Old Testament allows polygamy, marriage of masters and slaves, rapists and victims, child marriage and so on. The concept of marriage has changed over the millennias. Those who think otherwise are deluding themselves.

The Supreme Court came down on the side of same-sex marriage as a contract between two people. It did not take a stance on the morality. It is simply about people engaging in a consensual contract and having the same rights that others already possess.

As a government employee, it is a person’s responsibility to uphold that law. This issue is as simple as that. For the county clerks who refuse licenses for same-sex marriages, they need to show themselves the door as soon as possible.

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Discriminating Against Gays is About Self-Righteousness, Not About Religious Freedom

CC: Stefano Bolognini

CC: Stefano Bolognini

American society and the world are indisputably moving forward towards respecting the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and live equally among heterosexuals. This is an enormous accomplishment within a short period of time. It was only a couple of generations ago that homosexuality was prosecuted as sodomy and gay people hated by society at large. Even a generation ago, much of this was still true. Today, the old bigotries are falling to the wayside for most, but not all people.

Opposition remains among the strongly religious who see homosexuality as a sin that they cannot accept. Others, less religious, are simply monomaniacs who despise those who are unlike themselves. For both of them, they see homosexuality as a choice, like choosing a flavor of a pie or color of an automobile. They are wrong, and science is beginning to prove that homosexuality is no more a choice than the color of one’s skin, hair or eyes are a choice.

Recent studies have provided further evidence why gay people do not choose to become gay but simply are gay. Current research shows that homosexuality is a combination of genetics and environment. Basically, it appears that a predisposition depends on the makeup of one of the mother’s X chromosomes, which is then influenced by chemical interactions in the environment during pregnancy or early childhood. These chemicals can arise from man-made substances like plastics or pesticides to natural occurring ones. None of this is easily controllable by human behavior. So if you let your son play with dolls or your daughter is a tomboy, that has nothing to do with either becoming attracted to the same sex.

Obviously, gay people don’t have many children. So, you may ask, why hasn’t evolution bred out this genetic outcome? It seems that the same part of the X chromosome that allows for homosexuality also brings increased fertility in women. In sum, female relatives of gay men have more children.

Total this together, and it is clear that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong for a civilized society based on reason over emotion.

Those who hold strong religious beliefs like to point to their personal values. In an odd coincidence, the last few years have seen two incidents, one in the United States and the other in Britain, involving the refusal of highly religious people to sell cakes for gay marriages. The argument is that providing cake with a message favorable to same-sex marriage violated the provider’s religious beliefs.

Most businesses, whether run by religious or non-religious individuals, don’t give a hoot about the personal beliefs of their customers. They are simply interested in a financial transaction. However, some are so caught up in their self-righteous belief that they think they know how others should live. They are willing to turn aside good business sense for narrow-mindedness. Somehow, these individuals believe that they are sanctioning a life of immorality by preparing a cake. In fact, being contracted to writing a message on a cake doesn’t imply that the writer endorses the message any more than a sign painter endorses a business by painting a sign for it or that a carpenter supports marijuana legalization because he helped refurbish a medicinal marijuana outlet.

The argument that providing cake for a same-sex marriage undermines one’s religious beliefs is further weakened by the selective nature of that argument. There are customers who come into Christian businesses all day long who hold different religious beliefs or have stolen, lied, adultered and coveted many things of their neighbors. All these deeds are part of the Ten Commandments. Yet, services are still provided for these people by Christians and other fundamentalist believers of religion. For some reason, homosexuality is considered a greater sin, even though it is not forbidden in the Ten Commandments, nor did Jesus ever utter a word against it. Basically, the refusal to provide an economic service for gays is arbitrary and selective.

Since the people who claim their religious liberties are being imposed upon are not consistent with their religious beliefs, and because the overwhelming evidence is that homosexuality is not a choice but biological, there is no reason for a civilized society to allow such blatant discrimination against people who want nothing more than the legal right to love one another.

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