Saturday, July 16, 2011

The difference is quite simple

In this video, Sean Chapin skewers the attitude of a Town Clerk in rural New York State who quit her job rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because her particular religious beliefs reject marriage equality. As he said in his description, Sean is humorously “pointing out that some words have more than one meaning, including bank, base, trunk and marriage.”

The clerk said she “had to choose between my job and my god.” If she really believes that, then she was right to resign. No elected officials—or government employees, either—have the right to refuse to carry out their lawful duties because of their private, personal religious beliefs. If a government job or an elected role involves an irreconcilable conflict with a person’s religious belief, then the person must resign (or shouldn’t take such a job in the first place).

It’s easy to say that about elected officials, but employees have more choices. For example, a co-worker who doesn’t share the religious objection might be willing to do the work. Or, the worker can calculate how much they earn for carrying out the duty they object to and donate an equivalent amount of money to groups that believe as they do, like a church, for example. These are two ways to accommodate someone’s rightwing religious beliefs in a totally secular context. However, no employee can flat out refuse to perform the lawful public duties they’re employed to carry out, especially if doing so forces people to go elsewhere to obtain the same services the employee refuses to perform for religious reasons.

The religious right likes to moan endlessly how this supposedly violates the religious freedom of rightwing religionists. That’s nonsense. They still have the right to hold and profess their religious beliefs just as anyone else does, but they have no right to use those beliefs to refuse to perform their duties under the law. I’ve shown two ways their particular problems with doing their work can be accommodated.

What it all comes down to, as this video shows, is the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. No religious entity can be forced to solemnise a same-sex civil marriage, but no public official has the right to stand in the way of civil marriage because of religious objections. It’s quite simple, really.


Roger Owen Green said...

The town of Barker is about 10 miles (16km) from my hometown of Binghamton, in Broome County. It's tiny, less than 3000 people; seriously doubt she would ever even have been put into a position of issuing a license to same-sex couples. Just FYI.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

You know, I was thinking that. It seemed to me it was unlikely to ever be an issue for her, so her resignation was either a stunt (for the benefit of the anti-gay industry, by creating a martyr), or simple grandstanding. It's also possible she's sincere and did what she felt she must to preserve her pristine religious beliefs. At this point, without more information, all three are equally possible.