By June Wise
September 3, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) -- A Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, has stirred controversy for defying a federal court order to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court declared marriage a constitutional right for same-sex couples. She claims giving gay couples licenses to wed would violate her religious beliefs, yet she has refused to resign. Today, a judge ordered her jailed for contempt of court.
If government workers could refuse to serve the public anytime a law conflicts with their private religious views, that would be a dangerous and trouble-prone path. Divorce, birth control, war, and blood transfusions are all prohibited in some religions. Some faiths ban immodest dress, adultery, consumption of caffeine or alcohol, musical instruments, celebrating birthdays, serving certain foods, and seeking psychiatric care.
Should public employees in jobs with responsibilities for such matters be able to refuse to follow laws governing all of these issues and more?
Here are a few points to ponder:
The Catholic Church does not allow divorce. Should Catholic judges be allowed to refuse to grant divorce decrees because they believe ending a marriage is sinful?
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in blood transfusions. Should a Jehovah’s Witness working as a doctor, nurse or medic at a government-run hospital or in the military be free to refuse blood transfusions to bleeding patients whose lives are at risk?
Muslims and Jews don’t eat pork or shellfish. Hindus thinks cows are sacred and don’t eat beef. Should we let school cafeteria workers refuse to serve these foods to school kids, if they belong to these faiths? Or refuse to sign purchase orders for such foods?
Catholics don’t believe in birth control. Should a Catholic doctor at a county health clinic be able to deny birth control to women who want family planning?
The Church of Christ teaches that music other than the human voice is a sin. Can a teacher in a public school demand that a school marching band stop practicing within earshot?
Mormons’ faith prohibits consumption of caffeine. Can a Mormon office worker opt out of making coffee or refuse to place an order for beer for a company picnic?
Quakers believe in pacificsm. Can a Quaker police officer or soldier refuse to fire a gun? Or a Quaker clerk refuse to issue gun licenses?
Wiccans worship a goddess. Can they refuse to issue or accept currency that reads “In God We Trust?” Should a Wiccan teacher substitute “in Goddess we trust” when leading a pledge of allegiance at school?
“Christian Identity” is a religion that promote racism. Should a member of this faith who works for the government be free to deny marriage licenses or other services to African-Americans or inter-racial couples?
Scientologists view psychiatry as barbaric. Should they be able to deny a patient a referral for psychiatric care, if they work for a publicly funded program such as the department of corrections, juvenile justice, or a state hospital?
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in celebrating birthdays, except for Christ’s birthday. Can they refuse to allow celebrations of children’s birthday in schools or observations of holidays such as President’s Day or Martin Luther King Day, since these honor birthdays, too?
Fundamentalist Muslims believe women should wear chadors or burkahs to be modest. Should they be able to insist that all women in their workplace conform to their religious standards of decency so as to avoid offending them? Some sects also believe adultery and even rape should be punishable by stoning. If we allow public officials such as judges to follow their consciences instead of the U.S. constitution, federal state and local laws, what’s next—Sharia law?
America is based on religious freedom – but not the right to impose one’s religious beliefs on others.
If public employees can’t separate their private beliefs from their public duties, they should resign and seek another job—not insist that personal views, even prejudices, be imposed on the public they are supposed to serve.
You don't have to agree with every law on the books. No doubt many public employees disagree with one or more statute on the books, just as many private employees disagree with some workplace standards. But you do have to follow the laws of the land -- or find a new job. Please stop wasting taxpayer resources by tying up our overcrowded court and jail systems, unless you're prepared to reimburse taxpayers for those costs, too.
The views of this editorial reflect the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.