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Dec 28 2012

Those Poor, Persecuted Christian Clerks

OneNewsNow, the “news” wing of the American Family Association, has an article about those terribly persecuted Christian clerks in Maine, where same-sex marriage is now legal. And it turns out they can’t discriminate against gay couples if they choose to perform weddings:

Carroll Conley of the Christian Civic League of Maine tells OneNewsNow that in response, Secretary of State Charles Summers, Jr. (R) has issued a guideline “that notaries do not have to perform marriages. They are authorized to perform them, but if someone wants to avoid being a solemnizer of a same-sex marriage, then the option would be not to do marriages at all,” Conley explains.

Clerks face the same dilemma — to either not do marriages at all, or to do both and violate their religious beliefs. That means a Christian notary public or clerk who wants to only provide their services for traditional marriage ceremonies does really have an option.

“So what we’re praying for is that we will find those individuals that are not willing just to avoid the issue and enjoy their freedoms and the benefits, but also those persons that will stand up and, of course, with our national partners like Alliance Defending Freedom … offer them the legal resources to make that fight,” Conley tells OneNewsNow.

Sorry, not gonna work. A government clerk can no more discriminate in their overseeing marriage ceremonies than they could refuse to issue driver’s licenses to black people or only give hunting permits to men. Their job is to carry out the law and they don’t get an exemption from that just because their imaginary deity doesn’t like someone.

32 comments

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  1. 1
    steve84

    Clerks don’t even perform weddings. The lying starts right there. All they do is hand out marriage licenses, which is a purely administrative act. There can be no so-called “religious exemption” for that.

  2. 2
    Spanish Inquisitor

    That all have a lessor god they ultimately hope to appeal to – The Deity Scalia. They really think that if they find the right case to take to the Supreme Court, their prayers will be answered.

  3. 3
    Loqi

    If the first amendment worked the way these idiots seem to wish it did, there would be nobody in prison for murder. Just take up the Aztec religion and you have a license to kill (er, sacrifice).

  4. 4
    Randomfactor

    Clerks don’t even perform weddings.

    In my county the County Clerk (and her deputies) DID peform weddings. Until same-sex marriage briefly became legal, at which time it became “too time-consuming” for them to continue the practice and it was discontinued for everyone. (She was smart enough not to resume performing weddings after Proposition 8 passed.)

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    @steve84 #1 – To be fair, clerks and other civil servants in many jurisdictions do have that authority. During that brief window in California, a number of county clerks stopped doing marriages altogether rather than be “forced” to do same-sex weddings. Two counties that I know of (Kern and Tulare) stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether. Given how ignorant of civics many Christian “civics” organizations are, I am willing to extend Conley the assumption that he just doesn’t know how things work in his state (real marriages are performed in churches anyway, doncha know.)

    I do find it odd that Maine allows notaries public to officiate. As far as I can tell, only two other states give them that power, North Carolina and Florida. In Washington, only clergy and judges can do marriages.

  6. 6
    Randomfactor

    Two counties that I know of (Kern and Tulare) stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.

    Nope. They stopped performing ceremonies, but kept issuing licenses. A friend of mine was one who got such a license during the open window.

  7. 7
    d.c.wilson

    That all have a lessor god they ultimately hope to appeal to – The Deity Scalia. They really think that if they find the right case to take to the Supreme Court, their prayers will be answered.

    Which is, of course, totally different from when a liberal judge rules against their prayers, because that is legislating from the bench.

  8. 8
    Matt G

    And what if they disapproved of interracial marriage for “religious” reasons?

  9. 9
    Brain Hertz

    Clerks face the same dilemma — to either not do marriages at all, or to do both and violate their religious beliefs. That means a Christian notary public or clerk who wants to only provide their services for traditional marriage ceremonies does really have an option.

    You know, my understanding of the whole “rights” and “freedom” thing is that it’s all about protecting individuals from overreach by the government. Which party do they think is the government in this scenario?

  10. 10
    sundoga

    When are people going to understand that when you give your time to an organization for money (i.e. are employed by) you are agreeing to abide by THEIR rules and not your own? If something is truly against your principles, then act on those principles – and resign.

  11. 11
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Randomfactor #6 – Yeah, I realized I had it wrong as soon as it posted: counties are not allowed to stop issuing licenses, although Kern and Tulare sought an official opinion from the state Attorney General to see if they could.

  12. 12
    John Hinkle

    Alliance Defending Freedom

    Love that name. Almost makes me want to get out the checkbook.
     
    So if the ADF were to sue, they would be defending the freedom of government workers to not do their job and still get paid for it? Holy shit, even Obama didn’t think of that when he gave the forty seven percenters gifts in exchange for votes!

  13. 13
    dan4

    @3: While I don’t agree that the clerks should be allowed to refuse to perform same-sex weddings, that’s a silly “slippery slope” claim. All crimes (like your “license to kill” example) are based on a “positive” (doing something), while not performing a wedding is a “negative” (NOT doing something). It’s clear that “these idiots” are basing their First Amendment claims to not perform gay marriages solely on a “negative.”

  14. 14
    Alverant

    @13 How about NOT shooting people? Or if you don’t want something as extreme, how about NOT slowing down to a school zone speed limit. Speed limits impeed my right to do with my property as I see fit.

    Those clerks are doing something “active” (positive is a poor word choice IMHO), they are saying, “no”. What would happen if a 911 worker refused to do their job because the client was?

  15. 15
    katie

    If they want to only perform mixed-sex marriages because of their traditional Christian beliefs, perhaps they could enter the clergy instead. That will ensure that they only wed those who are appropriately god-fearin’, and avoid any hint of potential impropriety or uncomfortableness at all.

  16. 16
    ragingapathy

    “Alliance Defending Freedom”??? A truly ironic and painful non-sequitor. Freedom not to do one’s job as always existed. And for that, one normally loses one’s job.

  17. 17
    shouldbeworking

    Isn’t there something about “rendering unto Caesar” that someone allegedly commanded?

  18. 18
    robnyny

    The ability of notaries to perform marriages in Maine may be a vestige of French law. (Maine had early French settlements and borders the former New France.) In France, as in a lot of civil law countries, notaries are fully empowered to solemnize civil marriages. See, for example, Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” where a notary (actually the maid in disguise) is summoned for a quickie double wedding.) Of course, the role of notary in those countries is vastly different from a notary here — a French notary more like a neutral justice of the peace whose seal is necessary to validate certain contracts. But American law has plenty of vestigal elements (sheriffs, grand juries, community property) that are obsolete in their countries of origin, whether common law or civil law jurisdictions.

  19. 19
    neuralobserver

    ‘Isn’t there something about “rendering unto Caesar” that someone allegedly
    commanded?’ –shouldbeworking @ 17

    Yes,… but ostensibly, they would look at the thing that is being rendered unto Caesar, as that which is not being rendered unto their God, i.e., being a party to a same-sex marriage or relationship.

  20. 20
    Artor

    As a follower of Odin, I feel terribly persecuted that I’m not allowed to blood-eagle Xtians, as my faith requires me to do in offering to my deity.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_eagle

  21. 21
    Ace of Sevens

    They also make Muslim clerks issue liquor licenses and Jainist clerksissue hunting licenses.

  22. 22
    reverendrobbie

    This is where I wish we would stop telling people, “Oh, don’t worry, you’re just being paranoid if you think your church is going to have to perform same sex marriage ceremonies.” If church personnel want to continue bestowing legal marriage rights upon people, then they most definitely SHOULD have to provide those rights without discrimination. Then the church personnel have the same option as these clerks: they can stop taking part in the marriage trade and just perform religious ceremonies.

  23. 23
    vmanis1

    I have found it a useful guide when evaluating supposed anti-LGBT discrimination to transpose the targets of the discrimination to any other group. `Oh no, I don’t want to hand out marriage licences to Christians, that would offend my (Jewish) religion.’ Yeah, right.

    In Canada,some marriages (especially in rural areas) are performed by marriage commissioners (something like U.S. justices of the peace, but solely concerned with marriage). When marriage equality was implemented, some commissioners said that they couldn’t perform a same-sex marriage for religious reasons (a lot more said they’d be delighted to marry any two people who love each other). This went to the courts, and the I-don’t-want-to-do-my-job commissioners lost, in that they are paid by the government for doing their job, and this trumps their religious beliefs.

  24. 24
    hunter

    Unfortunately for them, the clerks/notaries are not religious institutions — they do not perform religious services, they are not ordained, etc., etc., thus they do not qualify for a religious exemption from performing same-sex marriages. If they had any personal integrity, they would resign, but I’m not holding my breath. However, I doubt that any county in Maine is going to be able to stop marrying people. That would make for a juicy lawsuit.

    Be interesting to see how this works out.

  25. 25
    Noadi

    Maine has interesting laws on who can officiate, according to the state website it’s: Ordained ministers of the gospel, a person licensed to preach by an association of ministers, religious seminary or ecclesiastical body, judges or justices, lawyers admitted to the Maine Bar, Maine Notaries, and there are some specific rules related to solemnized marriages for faiths which traditionally do not have a member of the clergy officiate such as Quakers. I was a little surprised to learn that lawyers can perform weddings and I’ve lived in Maine my whole life.

  26. 26
    speed0spank

    How would these people react if there were clerks elsewhere refusing to do marriages until their state passed marriage equality laws? The right would go absolutely bananas over it, I assume.

  27. 27
    democommie

    “I was a little surprised to learn that lawyers can perform weddings and I’ve lived in Maine my whole life”

    Why not? They already perform divorces.

    Many of the (new) indigenous peoples of Maine, the Mainiacs, are in the tourism industry. The GOD they worship, Mammon? he don’t give no fuck ’bout nothin’ but the Benjamins. Cut off teh GAY nose and you will spite your bottom line face.

  28. 28
    peterh

    @ #27:

    Lawyers profit from divorces in Maine (generally the only individuals that do), but it requires a judge to formalize one.

  29. 29
    dougtaron

    Every time I hear this argument I wonder why Roman Catholic clerks are not objecting to providing marriage licenses to individuals who are marrying following a divorce. Such a marriage is, according to their church, sinful and not legitimate.

  30. 30
    Argle Bargle

    Lawyers are

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Officer_of_the_court

    which allows them to take oaths and witness contracts. Since legally marriage is a contract between two people who swear oaths (“do you take X to be your legally wedded etc.”) to fulfill the contract, it’s not unreasonable for lawyers to perform marriages.

  31. 31
    Argle Bargle

    Sorry about the html failure.

  32. 32
    PhiloKGB

    @ #24:

    I was going to make the same point. I’d love to see the torture an ideologue like Scalia would have to put logic through in order to find a right to freely practice religion and a lack of church-state entanglement in the same breath.

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