Dear Public Employee: Think the Government is “Hostile to Religion”? Get Another Job.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in North Carolina. It was, of course, bound to be so eventually. Even Thom Tillis, Speaker of the House of Representatives in North Carolina and current GOP nominee for Kay Hagan’s U.S. Senate seat, said so back in 2012, when he helped push through a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state.

Tillis thought it would take about 20 years, so he along with numerous others on both sides of the fence were somewhat caught off guard when on October 10 a federal judge in North Carolina struck down the ban.

Same-sex weddings began almost immediately, and have continued since.

Not seamlessly, of course. Although the LGBTQIA community and their allies have roundly embraced the October 10 ruling, those who originally backed the amendment have been scrambling for remedies. Except for a few diehards, it seems that very few actually think that there is any real chance of going back on legalization. That battle is, thankfully and for the most part, over and done with.

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.”

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.”

Berger’s intended legislation has already won the hearts and minds of many opponents of same-sex marriage. Expressing her solidarity, Tami Fitzgerald has stated, “Government was never intended to be hostile to religion, and we agree with Senator Berger that a legislative fix is in order.”

Whatever Berger puts forward, though, is going to face a well-deserved fight over its constitutionality, which same-sex marriage advocates and the state ACLU—who are now, it’s worth emphasizing, on the side of the law—have already questioned in advance.

As well it should be, since there’s really nothing to “protect” because “religious freedom” is not really at issue, here. “Religious freedom” in relation to same-sex marriage has been covered at length here 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.

Those “duties” now include issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and officiating same-sex weddings. Some have argued that that wasn’t part of the deal when they took the oath), but that’s really beside the point: the oath is to “duties” in the plural and those can and do change as the law does. Moreover, that magistrates, registers of deeds, and their employees now have to perform functions with which they may personally disagree has little to do with their “freedoms” as “citizens of the state,” as one magistrate who quit her job has argued. In taking an oath to the state one has already freely agreed to accept the state’s authority in regard to duties explicitly required by the office over matters of personal belief.

As ACLU legal director Chris Brook has said, “State officials don’t get to pick and choose which laws they follow.”  “Normal” citizens and, we should add, churches, are under no such obligation—because they haven’t taken an oath.

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.

In the end, those registrars of deeds, magistrates, and their employees in North Carolina whose religious beliefs prevent them from performing their required duties can always go find another job. That may sound harsh, but unfortunately, the constitution doesn’t grant the right to public employment—or employment at all for that matter. Perhaps it should, though those who scream the loudest about “religious rights” when it comes to same-sex marriage are often also the first to dismiss any calls for strengthening labor laws—we wouldn’t want to violate the rights of employers, would we?

54 Comments

  • tojby_2000@yahoo.com' apotropoxy says:

    Bubba: “As the Comptroller of Public Accounts for my county, I find my conscience offended at the thought that paying my employees with a currency that can be used to buy abortions, pornography and white wine.”
    Justice Cooter: “You may use a script to pay your employees that cannot be redeemed at businesses you find offensive.”

  • anonymized-1661124710@disqus.com' Guest says:

    Marriage on the state level is a legal proceeding. What other legal proceedings could be denied to same-sex couples based upon religious convictions? How about transferring jointly held property titles?

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Christian religious freedoms are the new civil rights of our age. Stand up Christians and speak boldly for your faith.

  • Religious freedom is indeed guaranteed by our Constitution, but unfortunately, for homophobics and bigots, as well as a fairly large number of conservative Christians, it means you only get religious freedom if you agree with their interpretation of the Bible. If NC state employees do not understand the difference between a religious ceremony and a civil ceremony, then I suggest that they go back to school and learn about it, right along with the division of church and state which has held sway in this nation for over 200 years.

    As for same-sex marriage, it is a legal contract, nothing more, done to insure the legal rights of spouses to things such as property, making medical or legal decisions, etc, just as it is with heterosexual couples. Whether it is a religious act (which would be performed in a church) or not is not for a state employee to determine. The employees of a state to do not have the right to refuse service under state laws to any citizen of that state, and any politicians who would seek to restrict those rights is no better than the British were in 1774.

    When one religion seeks to impose its views on an entire population, or sub-group of that population, in this nation they are violating the very amendment that they want protection under. Christians have a very specific duty to each other and to all of mankind, and when they claim to exclude a group of God’s children from the very things they claim for themselves, then they are no longer Christians – they are bigots. Like the article, if you are an employee and refuse to do the duties that your job requires, you should leave or be fired. The law is clear, and if you fail to support it because it violates your religiously held beliefs, then find a job more to your standards, and let someone else who is more Christ-like take your place.

    Rev. Devon J. Noll
    New Word Universal Fellowship Church
    Christmas Valley, OR
    http://www.newworduniversalfellowship.org

  • asmorrell@gmail.com' Andre M says:

    Oh, Frank. How entertaining you can be. A fool on parade.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Thank you for your support and proving my statement. Wake up Christians!

  • kithkal@ubernet.net' Darwin says:

    I fully support the right of LGBT to marry with a marriage license. Of course they cannot marry under common law in Colorado like straight couples can. But with a license (permission from the state to do something that would otherwise be illegal) they can marry even in Colorado. That is wonderful. Now they can be eligible for more government voluntary slavery like tax deductions and other government created marriage benefits.

    These homophobe Christians NEED to quit their jobs. Every single American that believes that homosexuality is sinful needs to quit their job today or admit that they don’t really have faith in their Bible and their religion. As the one judge that already quit said, God will provide. That is the promise. At least that is what these Christians CLAIM will happen. They need to embrace the light or embrace the darkness. Thomas Jefferson called it “voluntary slavery” and considered it evil. If a man or woman chooses to work for a boss then they choose to follow the boss’s rules (like Hobby Lobby employees), especially if the boss is the government. Any job for the government is a government benefit and Constitutional protections DO NOT APPLY. It is like the voluntary army. Join and they will tell you when to get up and when to take a shower and what to eat and what your job will be today. Join the army and commit a crime and you are not protected by the 4th, 5th, 6th, or even the 8th Amendment.

    “[W]hen Congress establishes a statutory right, [like employment] it clearly has the discretion, in defining that right, to create presumptions, or assign burdens of proof, or prescribe remedies; it may also provide that persons seeking to vindicate that right must do so before particularized tribunals created to perform the specialized adjudicative tasks related to that right. Such provisions do, in a sense, affect the exercise of judicial power, but they are also incidental to Congress’ power to define the right that it has created. Such provisions do, in a sense, affect the exercise of judicial power, but they are also incidental to Congress’ power to define the right that it has created. No comparable justification exists, however, when the right being adjudicated is not of congressional creation.”
    Northern Pipeline Const. Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co. 458 U.S. 50, 83-84, (1982)

    You can’t even sue the government in an article III court. You have to ask an article I court and the Constitution does not apply there.

    See also Bowen v Roy. If you ask the government for a benefit your God given and/or Constitutional rights are surrendered and you fall under those privileges granted by the government for your “benefit.” Voluntary slavery is NOT unconstitutional.

    No honest Christian could be a voluntary slave (employee) of the United Fascist States of America. Anyone that works for these National Socialists and their clearly established Civic Religion of Socialism is working for the enemies of the Christian God.

    No REAL Christian would ask the government permission (license) to marry and ask the government to join them, “The words are: “What GOD has joined together let no man put asunder.” The words for a civil marriage should be” What government has joined together only government can put asunder. (After all if you want a divorce you have to beg the government for one.) A marriage license is a violation of the separation of Church and State.

    Choose you this day whom ye will serve. Every REAL Christian should resign from any and all government job. Every REAL Christian should remove their children from the Marxist propaganda mills known as public schools. Every REAL Christian should stop paying income taxes and stop paying Socialist Security taxes. But then a REAL Christian would have done these things long ago. Hypocrites need not follow the Christian God.

    “If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.”– Orson Scott Card Novelist

  • kithkal@ubernet.net' Darwin says:

    I fully support the right of LGBT to marry with a marriage license. Of course they cannot marry under common law in Colorado like straight couples can. But with a license (permission from the state to do something that would otherwise be illegal) they can marry even in Colorado. That is wonderful. Now they can be eligible for more government voluntary slavery like tax deductions and other government created marriage benefits.

    These homophobe Christians NEED to quit their jobs. Every single American that believes that homosexuality is sinful needs to quit their job today or admit that they don’t really have faith in their Bible and their religion. As the one judge that already quit said, God will provide. That is the promise. At least that is what these Christians CLAIM will happen. They need to embrace the light or embrace the darkness. Thomas Jefferson called it “voluntary slavery” and considered it evil. If a man or woman chooses to work for a boss then they choose to follow the boss’s rules (like Hobby Lobby employees), especially if the boss is the government. Any job for the government is a government benefit and Constitutional protections DO NOT APPLY. It is like the voluntary army. Join and they will tell you when to get up and when to take a shower and what to eat and what your job will be today. Join the army and commit a crime and you are not protected by the 4th, 5th, 6th, or even the 8th Amendment.

    “[W]hen Congress establishes a statutory right, [like employment] it clearly has the discretion, in defining that right, to create presumptions, or assign burdens of proof, or prescribe remedies; it may also provide that persons seeking to vindicate that right must do so before particularized tribunals created to perform the specialized adjudicative tasks related to that right. Such provisions do, in a sense, affect the exercise of judicial power, but they are also incidental to Congress’ power to define the right that it has created. Such provisions do, in a sense, affect the exercise of judicial power, but they are also incidental to Congress’ power to define the right that it has created. No comparable justification exists, however, when the right being adjudicated is not of congressional creation.”
    Northern Pipeline Const. Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co. 458 U.S. 50, 83-84, (1982)

    You can’t even sue the government in an article III court. You have to ask an article I court and the Constitution does not apply there.

    See also Bowen v Roy. If you ask the government for a benefit your God given and/or Constitutional rights are surrendered and you fall under those privileges granted by the government for your “benefit.” Voluntary slavery is NOT unconstitutional.

    No honest Christian could be a voluntary slave (employee) of the United Fascist States of America. Anyone that works for these National Socialists and their clearly established Civic Religion of Socialism is working for the enemies of the Christian God.

    No REAL Christian would ask the government permission (license) to marry and ask the government to join them, “The words are: “What GOD has joined together let no man put asunder.” The words for a civil marriage should be” What government has joined together only government can put asunder. (After all if you want a divorce you have to beg the government for one.) A marriage license is a violation of the separation of Church and State.

    Choose you this day whom ye will serve. Every REAL Christian should resign from any and all government job. Every REAL Christian should remove their children from the Marxist propaganda mills known as public schools. Every REAL Christian should stop paying income taxes and stop paying Socialist Security taxes. But then a REAL Christian would have done these things long ago. Hypocrites need not follow the Christian God.

    “If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.”– Orson Scott Card Novelist

  • asmorrell@gmail.com' Andre M says:

    How was I depriving you of your rights, Frank?

  • truktyre@hotmail.com' Craptacular says:

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana

    “In 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued presidential proclamation 3542, forcing Alabama
    Governor George Wallace to comply with federal court orders allowing two African-American students to register for the summer session at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The proclamation ordered Wallace and all persons acting in concert with him to cease and desist from obstructing justice…From the time of his gubernatorial campaign in 1962 until 1963, Wallace had boldly proclaimed that he would personally stand in front of the door of any Alabama schoolhouse that was ordered by the federal courts to admit black students.” – History.com

    Governors are subject to obeying and enforcing the law, regardless of their personal feelings. These petty bureaucrats that are currently attempting to obstruct justice will be lumped in with the other bigots when their actions are written into history, along with former Gov. Wallace.

  • Lilmo2nd@aol.com' NavyBlues05 says:

    Gee, if your christians get any more freedom, all women and girls will be in “Fundi” brand burkas and ankle shackled to kitchen tables. Freedom to be religious doesn’t mean the freedom to bend an entire country to the misguided megalomaniacal will of a slew of god profiteers.

  • Lilmo2nd@aol.com' NavyBlues05 says:

    “No honest Christian could be a voluntary slave (employee) of the United Fascist States of America. Anyone that works for these National Socialists and their clearly established Civic Religion of Socialism is working for the enemies of the Christian God.”

    No honest citizen could be a voluntary citizen of the United Fascist States of Christian Fundamentalist America. Anyone that works for these Authoritarian Puritans and their disorganized and dangerous Totalitarian Religion is working to re-establish religious tyranny. The irony is that they turned tail and ran away from another religious tyrant because they didn’t care for the tool he used to be a tyrant… the bible.

  • pennyjane4@yahoo.com' pennyjane says:

    it would be interesting if some of these religious zealots could actually read the bible instead of just thumping it. the bible is not a weapon of mass destruction as these scared, simple minded little people (frank) would have us believe, it is a wonderful and exciting challenge to all of us….the challenge to love our neighbors as ourselves….a challenge for all to fulfill the life that our loving God gave each of us.
    frank would beat you to death with his bible never understanding a word it says….his smallness does not rise to the occasion. his religion is dead, christianity is ascending.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Your job is to take money and, in exchange for it, hand out pieces of paper for other people to fill out. You do NOT get to decide who gets a piece of paper based on YOUR religious beliefs. Period. Otherwise, a Catholic could decide not to hand a piece of paper to someone who was once divorced, or an anti-Semite could decide not to hand a piece of paper to a Jew.

    As I say about the pharmacists who don’t want to fill prescriptions of which they don’t approve … FIND ANOTHER JOB.

    Some have argued that that wasn’t part of the deal when they took the oath), but that’s really beside the point: the oath is to “duties” in the plural and those can and do change as the law does.

    Exactly.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    I know, you Christians are just so oppressed, aren’t you? What with being expected to follow the same laws as everyone else in the public square. Do you need a hankie, Frankie?

  • dkeane123@comcast.net' DKeane123 says:

    The rhyming is what makes this post.

  • awerling@gmail.com' andrew123456789 says:

    War, guns, and environmental destruction all go against my spiritual beliefs, but living in Albuquerque, good luck finding a job in this economy where you get to dictate your own involvement in such things. I’m pretty sure these activities have at least a great an impact on the world as the legal recognition of same-sex marriages. By the logic I see in connecting religion, Constitutional rights, and such marriages such as these public employees are doing, then I should, what, call the state’s attorney general for the right to refuse to do the work I was hired to do for clients who are involved with activities and commerce that I don’t personally agree with?

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    We are still working out what it means to be a Christian nation. Give us another 50 years or so.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    In fairness to Frank it can be interpreted in different ways. You shouldn’t expect too much from scriptures that were written thousands of years ago when society has progressed beyond those old concepts in so many ways.

  • pennyjane4@yahoo.com' pennyjane says:

    i expect very much from the holy Word of God….and i am never let down. people like frank have completely missed the message of Jesus as is found throughout the gospels. Jesus admonished against, ranted and raved against, holding dogma higher than love and compassion. for people like frank, who present so small a human countenance, those are concepts completely foreign to him. frank is locked into dogma, unable to comprehend even the slightest notion of love….he is an empty shell, a slave to dogma, unfeeling and un-alive. he should never be mistaken for a christian for all he says is antithetical to all Jesus, The Christ, is. frank’s whole involvement with the human race is about driving people away from God…..nothing he has ever said or done has helped bring even one human being closer to His presence….he is a servant of darkness, a delight to the devil and an enemy to all that is good and holy.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Heyyyyy, fiona!!! Where the heck you been, lolol?? Good to see you back!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    As a Christian minister, I’ve often said (in my sermons, no less): Some people are so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good to anyone! And some of them keep proving me correct, over and over! Frank 6548 is a prime example!

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Backatcha, Chaplain!

  • stillgoodtotalk@gmail.com' David says:

    because all must conform or be shunned by society. The alphabet borg will be victorious at any cost.

  • aravistarkheena2@gmail.com' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    How does it feel to keep losing in state, after state, after state?

    Not really your country anymore is it?

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Hell, Frankenstein6548 would try to make a swan with it and watch it sink in a stream somewhere. What a hoot! I don’t see ANY Christians being persecuted in my State of Kansas and we have plenty of loons/loonies here!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Franko is a mere ghost, and his sheet is pretty transparent whether it is a shawl of death or a gown of unrighteousness. Either way, it fails.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    THIS drivel of yours is not what God said at all. God commanded us to respect and obey all government entities, and GOD would take care of the rest. Your misinterpretation needs a LOT of tweaking!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    It never really was Franky’s idea of ‘country’.

  • Lilmo2nd@aol.com' NavyBlues05 says:

    Maybe if Authoritarian theocrats would quit tweaking the bible with dozens of retranslations AND stop insisting the US government follow their twisted biblical world view, the threat of Christian fascism will die a pathetic death.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Haven’t lost anything. Jesus wins everytime.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Your ignorance is embarrassing.

  • laura@laurajordan.net' beulahmo says:

    We’re awake. We’re hoping you’ll discover the real reason why you need to feel so victimized, realize how absurd your victimhood is within the context of the blessed freedom we enjoy in this nation, and find peace through God’s good grace, so that you can resume loving the people around you in an extravagant, joyous, wasteful way, as Jesus taught us.

  • laura@laurajordan.net' beulahmo says:

    Yes. But you’re tragically oblivious to what it is Jesus is winning.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Advocating sinful behavior is never a win.

  • laura@laurajordan.net' beulahmo says:

    Nobody asks you to advocate anything you don’t feel comfortable advocating.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/advocate

    Please do not mischaracterize what’s being discussed. That is dishonest.

  • aravistarkheena2@gmail.com' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    You are a liar.

    You are opposed to gay marriage.

    Gay marriage is now being legalized across every state of America. And where there are bans, they are being struck down.

    You have lost, on this issue, by your own definition.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Jesus never wins with assholes like you working for him. People are way too smart for you Frank… you’re a true red hypocrite!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Thank God you are in charge of THAT category, false profit (sic)! No sin, especially hypocrisy, is ever good!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Frank knows that… he’s just Satan’s dingbat!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    MMMmmm… you may have a point there, but in reference to faux christian diatribes!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    YOU… are embarrassing, Frankenstein christian!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Heh heh heh… fiona64 has a special grace about her to do those things 😉

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Remember, finona, there is a HUGE difference between “c” and “C” when it comes to Christianity. Franky and his followers are true red christians!

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    if you are representative of the intelligence here I have zero to be concerned about.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Won’t you be surprised when SCOTUS finalizes their is no constitutional right for two people of the same sex to make a marriage.

    There is no way I can lose on this issue. God has already spoken.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Yes childish is the word.

  • laura@laurajordan.net' beulahmo says:

    There is no explicit constitution right to hetero marriage either, for that matter.

    “God has already spoken.” And yet I see no evidence that you hear God.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    As if what you think is relevant….

  • laura@laurajordan.net' beulahmo says:

    That’s the only response you can muster? What’s your story, really?

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Frank, if you even knew what ‘being concerned’ was all about, none of us would joke with you! Silly girl!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    Mannn, you got that right!!! Frank’s got proof he’s a troll by his ‘horns,’ which he constantly blows (among other things!) and his meandering thoughts.

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    We’re damn lucky we got that response. He probably had to squish his Mommy’s boobs to get that much nonsense. Frank… just… has… no… story… at all!

  • dakotahgeo@hotmail.com' George M Melby says:

    YOU… are the personification of the word, ‘childish’. Now take your meds and see if your caretaker will tuck you in for the night.

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