If you have a goddy hatred of the whole idea of same-sex marriage and you’re seeing hurdle after hurdle fall in defiance of your goddy hatred, what do you do? You go on goddily hating it, of course, but also you make a big fuss about “religious freedom” for people whose jobs entail some kind of involvement with marriage. Hollis Phelps at RD gives an example:
The strategy has fallen instead to “protecting” those whose religious opposition to same-sex marriage may conflict with the law.
That includes public employees whose regular duties include issuing marriage licenses and officiating marriages, such county registers of deeds, magistrates, and their employees. As The Charlotte Observer reported, the conservative North Carolina Values Coalition, for instance, sent an email the weekend before last to the state’s registers of deeds, stating that they can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on their “First Amendment right not to violate their religious beliefs.” Tami Fitzgerald, director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, likewise told the Raleigh-based CBS affiliate WRAL, “You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your religious beliefs just to keep your job. That’s just wrong, and it violates our first freedom—the right to freely exercise your religious beliefs.”
Nope. That’s not an infinitely generalizable claim. Your religious beliefs could require you to sacrifice your first-born, but murdering your child would be murder and subject to prosecution. Your religious beliefs could require you to exclude non-white people from public schools, but you would not be permitted to put that belief into practice. Nope.
In a rear guard response to the potential conflict, which has seen the resignation of at least six magistrates, North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger stated last week his intent to introduce a bill that would protect the jobs of public employees who refuse to issue marriage licenses or officiate same-sex weddings out of religious conviction. Although the details of the bill aren’t yet hammered down, Berger has stated, “The court’s expansion of the freedoms of some should not violate the well-recognized constitutional rights of others. Complying with the new marriage law imposed by the courts should not require our state employees to compromise their core religious beliefs and First Amendment rights in order to protect their livelihoods.”
Core religious beliefs? What’s core about them? They’re not remotely core. Point me to the much-quoted sermon or aphorism by Jesus that says Teh Homoseckshuals have to give you their shirts. Ha ha, that’s a trick command, because you can’t, because there isn’t one.
“Religious freedom” in relation to same-sex marriage has been coveredat lengthhere at RD, but I would like to stress the point that being required by an employer to perform essential duties that may infringe upon one’s individual religious beliefs, whether those beliefs are sincere or not, is not necessarily a violation of one’s First Amendment rights. And it certainly doesn’t necessarily amount to government hostility toward religion.
“Necessarily” is the key word here, of course, but this is especially the case when your employer is the state and your job requires on oath—an oath that is, it’s important to note, freely taken—that you uphold the law. The magistrate’s oath in North Carolina, for instance, requires him or her to swear to “faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties” of the office; registers of deeds must swear likewise.
Aha, they swear an oath, do they – that’s a useful detail.
All of this is not to make a more general philosophical or political argument about the authority of the state. I’m as suspicious of the next person about state authority and government overreach. It’s just to say that you can’t always have it both ways, especially as a public employee, and the fact that you can’t doesn’t automatically entail a violation of rights.
Actually you can hardly ever have it both ways. There’s a little known minor god that makes bad things happen if you try.