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Sep 16 2011

FOTF Thinks the Government Can Discriminate

Focus on the Family is taking the position that those who work for the government can engage in discrimination to the point of refusing to serve those they disapprove of, as long as they say they’re doing so for religious reasons. After People for the American Way sent a letter to the town where the city clerk has refused to issue marriage licenses to couples who meet all of the requirements of state law threatening a lawsuit if they don’t force the clerk to do so, FOTF expressed their outrage at the notion of the government having to treat people equally. They’ve also started a legal defense fund for the clerks.

People for the American Way Foundation (PFAW) is threatening legal action against a New York town unless its clerk starts issuing same-sex marriage licenses — or resigns…

The board has yet to announce the results from its Sept. 12 meeting about the letter.

Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director for New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, was disappointed, but not surprised with the latest turn of events.

“I would hope that the People for the American Way would realize that it’s the American way,” he said, “to recognize the religious freedoms of every American.”

They have this exactly backwards. When someone acts as an agent of the government, they are required to comply with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. If gay or lesbian couple that meets all of the legal requirements for marriage and is refused a marriage license, that amendment is clearly violated. And so is their own religious freedom. The clerk is demanding that only those who meet her own personal religious test get the benefit of the government’s service; that is a clear violation of that citizen’s right not to be subject to the religious whims of someone else — especially when that someone else is representing the government.

Let’s also recognize the absurdity of the notion that merely because one has religion-based disapproval of someone they can be refused service by a government employee. Imagine for a moment — just imagine — that a Muslim town clerk refused to give a marriage license to a Jewish couple. The same people now blathering on about religious freedom would be screaming “Terrorist!” and demanding that they be sent to Gitmo. This has nothing to do with religious freedom, it has to do with Christian supremacy and anti-gay bigotry.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    chilidog99

    So if another clerk disseminates against Christians based on their own religious beliefs, they would be OK with that?

  2. 2
    MikeMa

    Creeping sharia christo-facism.

  3. 3
    fergusdk

    Just another reason why separation of church and state makes logical sense. It’s not like there’s history of religions killing each other when their entangled within the state. But alas, the extreme right have, time and again, shown their not the most logical bunch and I’m afraid are doomed to repeat history.

  4. 4
    sithrazer

    You refuse to do your job? You’re fired.

    Now, I’m not saying there aren’t times when refusing isn’t the right thing to do (spent too long thinking on the double negative and sprained something, I think I got it right though). Such as when doing so would potentially endanger yourself or others, actions taken by organized labor, or when it clearly violates the law.

  5. 5
    hunter

    Obviously their irony meter is busted beyond repair — or they’re just oblivious to the fact that others have religious beliefs that don’t match theirs. I vote for the latter.

    I assume there was a fundraising pitch in there someplace.

  6. 6
    uzza

    Here’ my plan:
    First I get a job with some religious outfit like that, as a janitor or something. Then, I claim that my religious convictions don’t allow me to do any work, dressing it up with a lot of blather about the Sabbath, see. Then when they fire me, I just cut and paste their own documents to sue the crap out of them. Fun times, whot?

  7. 7
    anandine

    I’m a little more lenient than most of y’all. I’d give the clerk a third option, moving to a job that doesn’t involve interacting with the public or making policy. That seems like a small religious accommodation, like allowing Sikhs to wear turbans and carry knives or allowing Muslims to take breaks to pray.

  8. 8
    Rieux

    chilidog99:

    So if another clerk disseminates against Christians….

    Somehow the image this brings to my mind is fairly icky.

  9. 9
    D. C. Sessions

    or they’re just oblivious to the fact that others have religious beliefs that don’t match theirs. I vote for the latter.

    They’re not at all oblivious. It’s just that their beliefs are the only ones that matter.

  10. 10
    jeevmon

    Not at all surprising. Focus on the Family is directly descended from people who thought it was just fine for town clerks to refuse to register people to vote based on the color of their skin.

  11. 11
    Chiroptera

    Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director for New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms

    The competition for most Orwellian Organization Name is getting kind of stiff, eh?

  12. 12
    John Hinkle

    They’ve also started a legal defense fund for the clerks.

    So a lawsuit is still only in the “threatening” stage, and FOTF is starting to raise money for this. And if there’s no lawsuit? Where does the money go, into the FTOF executives’ pockets general fund?

    Look, there’s someone to hate! Quick, start raising money!

  13. 13
    inflection

    Simplest example of a non-Christian I can think of for a case like this would be a Hindu clerk who refused a license to two American citizens of Indian descent based on the grounds that they were different caste — still a serious consideration among conservative Hindus. (The marriage-arrangement ads in desi papers, my gosh.)

  14. 14
    marymallone

    I’m just musing here, but I wonder if there is overlap between the group opposed to “creeping Sharia law” and the group advocating so-called “religious freedom” that is actually the insertion of religious morals or concepts into the state (or, in other words, “religious freedom” that blurs the church-state separation). If there is overlap, I wonder if that group is at all aware of the potential consequences of the precedent set by their religious crusades. That is, I wonder if the aforementioned “overlap” group is aware that by working to enable their religion to be inserted into state activities (okay, not the best term, but I mean government jobs, government functions, etc.) they are making it easier for that super-scarry Sharia law to wiggle (or creep) its way in.*

    *I think the fear of Sharia law is extremely paranoid, so I’m not advocating it here or suggesting that FOTF’s behaviour will make it easier. If we’re operating under the assumption that Sharia law is an actual threat (heh), however, then FOTF’s behaviour is actually helping the threat, and I wonder if people who fall under both the category of “Christian religious ideology should be part of the state” and “Sharia law is going to ruin our American Way of Life” realize that.

  15. 15
    Sadie Morrison

    I think it’s more that FOTF thinks that the government should discriminate based on characteristics that are, to non-conservatives, irrelevant. Once this attitude is in place, they simply try to warp reality to conform to their mindset.

  16. 16
    doktorzoom

    Oh, hey, I just started temping at the frond desk for my county’s divorce court. I think that, as a matter of principle, I’m going to start refusing to help any Christians with their divorce paperwork, since divorce is not allowed by the bible.

  17. 17
    marymallone

    doktorzoom, I volunteer in Family Court; maybe I could copy your example and start refusing to help any unmarried individuals who are dealing with child support or custody issues, as premarital sex is a sin. Except that I would expect to get fired (from a volunteer position, no less), because my place is to do my job and help things run smoothly, not to obstruct court business by inserting my own arbitrarily applied system of values.

  18. 18
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I wonder if people who fall under both the category of “Christian religious ideology should be part of the state” and “Sharia law is going to ruin our American Way of Life” realize that.

    These folks ain’t in the business of realizin’.

  19. 19
    Beth

    I have some sympathy for the clerk, though I don’t share his attitude towards gay marriage. It is an emotionally charged issue and just because the law changed, we can’t expect everyone’s feelings to instantly switch. That takes time.

    I think it’s reasonable to attempt to find some other working arrangement be made for the individual. From his/her point of view, they are suddenly being required to do something they find morally objectionable and they hadn’t agree to do that thing before taking their position. But the clerk must ensure the service is provided by their office as required by law, or resign/be fired.

  20. 20
    ebohlman

    boopsey: The problem is that, in signing an application for a marriage license, a city clerk isn’t expressing his personal approval of the marriage; he is simply certifying that the couple meets the state’s legal requirements for marriage and their paperwork is in order. Neither determination is even remotely a matter of personal belief. The situation is no different from a math teacher grading a gay high school student’s algebra test; the teacher is supposed to base the grade on the quality of the student’s work, not on her judgment regarding the personal qualities of the student. If he gets all the problems right, the teacher is obligated to give him 100% even if she disapproves of his “lifestyle”.

  21. 21
    Michael Heath

    boopsey:

    I think it’s reasonable to attempt to find some other working arrangement be made for the individual. From his/her point of view, they are suddenly being required to do something they find morally objectionable and they hadn’t agree to do that thing before taking their position.

    I suggest replacing this scenario with other examples of bigotry to test your position. Using ebohlman’s example, would you support a white teacher being reassigned to another classroom if black students were in their next classroom assignment where they couldn’t stomach grading those black students fairly? If not, how is this different? How about if she were working in the late-1960s and the state expanded the issue of marriage licenses to couples of mixed races? Would you reassign the bigot who couldn’t stomach issuing a certificate to a white man and black woman, or even worse (shudder), a black man and a white woman?

    In this case and my examples we have a bigot who expects her employer to accommodate her bigotry rather than carry out the duties delegated to that government authority by the people of the state, she is the government after all. I see no reason to accommodate this bigot and a good reason to fire them.

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