Should anti-gay bigotry be legally protected as religious faith?

Gay Marriage

It’s not about wedding cakes. It was never really about wedding cakes.

In Rowan County, Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis is refusing to perform her official duty of issuing marriage licenses because she would have to issue them to gay as well as to straight couples. Davis believes that if she signs a marriage license for a gay couple, as county clerks must do to make the license valid under Kentucky law, she has participated in sin.

Citing her First Amendment rights and claiming to be acting “on God’s authority”, Davis asked the U.S. Supreme Court to exempt her from issuing marriage licenses. She also cited Kentucky’s so-called “religious freedom” law as protection. However, in a one-sentence ruling Monday, the nation’s highest court refused to grant Davis an exemption from the duties that she agreed to perform.

I have a certain degree of sympathy for the dilemma in which Davis finds herself. She has in effect taken two oaths, one to uphold the law and the second to live by her personal religious beliefs. However, if that personal faith means that she cannot perform the duties of her job as a representative of the government, she should resign to resolve that conflict. She cannot use her government position to impose her own personal religious faith on others and deprive others of a constitutional right.

In Texas, former football star and broadcaster Craig James is suing Fox Sports for religious discrimination, charging that the company withdrew a job offer based on inflammatory, anti-gay statements made by James during an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate. As a Fox spokesman put it, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.” Fox also noted that James had “abused a previous on-air position to further a personal agenda” when he used his broadcasting role to criticize his son’s college football coach, suggesting that it did not want to risk him doing so again.

In his lawsuit, however, James contends that Fox Sports was required to hire him anyway, because those statements were an expression of his religious faith and thus protected under the First Amendment. “I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty,” James said. “Today, many people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Sadly, countless are afraid to let their bosses know they even have a faith. This is America, and I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren’t above the law.”

And of course, in the city of Atlanta former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has filed suit in federal court claiming that he too is a victim of religious discrimination. Cochran was suspended and later fired after he distributed religious-themed but anti-gay material to people who worked for him. (The material, a book written by Cochran, condemns the “gay lifestyle” as akin to bestiality.) The city also contends that Cochran violated procedures and disobeyed orders in publishing and publicizing the book.

While the facts in each case differ, basically they come down to the same question. It has long been a compelling government interest to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin or religious faith. In some parts of the country — but not in most of Georgia — it is also a compelling government interest to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Most corporations have come to a similar conclusion, believing that expressions of bias or prejudice — even under the color of religion — endanger the diverse, mutually respectful workforce that they believe essential to success.  For purposes of recruitment and good corporate citizenship, they also believe it important that the communities in which they operate also abide by that understanding.**

But what if people claim that their religion in effect requires them to discriminate against gay people by refusing to grant them marriage licenses, publicly criticizing their “lifestyle” as immoral, refusing to hire or rent to gay couples or denying gay married couples the same health insurance and other benefits available to straight couples? Certainly, those dissenters have every right to believe what they wish, but do they have the right to act upon those beliefs in the role of a county clerk, a high-profile sports broadcaster, or a fire chief with more than 1,000 subordinates?

It’s worth noting that there’s a substantial and not all-that-encouraging history of using religion as justification for bigotry. In the most obvious example, multiple biblical passages endorsing and regulating slavery were commonly used to justify the enslavement of millions of black Americans on religious grounds, with abolitionists condemned by many Southern clergy as anti-biblical and unChristian.

It’s also much more recent. In 1967, when a Virginia judge ruled that a black woman and a white man had no right to get married, he did so by citing biblical verses that to his mind required that the races be kept separate and not allowed to mix. When Bob Jones Sr., founder of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, argued in 1960 in favor of segregation today, segregation forever, the evangelical leader did so on the basis of a passionate religious faith:

“If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God Almighty….,” Jones thundered. “God is the author of segregation. God is the author of Jewish separation and Gentile separation and Japanese separation. God made of one blood all nations, but He also drew the boundary lines between races.”

Many of the so-called “seg academies” created in that era by white families fleeing newly desegregated public schools also claimed a religious justification for their retreat, arguing that God “separated mankind into various nations and races,” and that such separation “should be preserved in the fear of the Lord.”

In the end, the American people and the American judicial system did not find that argument convincing.  By the 1970s, the federal government began to strip those segregated institutions of their tax-exempt status on the grounds that agencies that practiced discrimination did not qualify as “charitable” and that government should not in effect be subsidizing bigotry.

As the Supreme Court ruled in 1983 in upholding the denial of tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University:

“It would be wholly incompatible with the concepts underlying tax exemption to grant tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private educational entities. Whatever may be the rationale for such private schools’ policies, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy. …The Government’s fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on petitioners’ exercise of their religious beliefs.”

The logic in that ruling makes it clear where we are headed in this argument. It just may take some time to get there.

—————————————-

**That has inspired a backlash in some quarters, as expressed eloquently if archaically by state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus in recent remarks to the Paulding County GOP;

We’ve had this problem because very large multi-national corporations that are headquartered in this state – their executives, many of whom are not from Georgia, have different values than you and I do. They think that their cultural norms, their liberal, far-left cultural norms, should be applied to our state.

Reader Comments 0

1231 comments
bu2
bu2

Should anti-Christian bigotry be celebrated and enshrined in law?

Maryellen Simcoe
Maryellen Simcoe

Back in my youth, people stood up for their Christian beliefs by defying the draft. For that they paid the consequences, as well they should. If you act on conscience, you must be prepared to pay the price. One justice said (paraphrase) that if an individual is above the law based on a professed belief, what follows is every citizen is law unto himself.

On the workplace question: I once had a coworker who was an evangelical Christian who talked about it all. the. time.

I'm wasn't then and am not now interested. My objection was that I was a "captive audience" and couldn't leave if I didn't want to hear the conversation.

MJBreaux
MJBreaux

If not brought up already, I am willing to bet she solemnly swore to uphold the laws of the county, state, and USA. And if she swore on a Bible, she swore before her God, to do that.

KUTGF
KUTGF

Well I see the heman woman haters club had a meeting last night.  How funny.  They do have a lot of projection and distortion. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@KUTGF

yeah, apparently the Worst Insult you can hurl in that club is that a guy might be mistaken for a girl on the internets.

They seem mired in what they imagine the 1950s to have been.

/headin' upstairs.

fedup52
fedup52

Trump and Bush are going at it...I wonder why Trump doesn't attack Ben Carson who currently in 2nd place according to the polls..

++++

Bush (GOP establishment pick) is a bigger challenge.

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

@fedup52 Apparently Ben has been more accepted by the GOP constituency since he came out in favor of ERs using RU486 on non-black women who come in and state that they have been raped.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

When the US Marshals show up she may change her tune. George Wallace sure did... when he was told to get out of the door way of the University of Alabama admissions office.

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

@jezel Good point.  Those Dixiecrats accepted their rightful place at the back of the bus once they were shown to their seats.

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

Perhaps the judge will see fit to withold her pay and the pay of her staff until they decide that their paycheck should be earned.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Numbers_R_Us I'm sure that the judge has just been waiting on your recommendation.  Now that he has it...

PudHead
PudHead

Well should anti-cop, anti-American, anti-white bigotry be as protected as the attack on peoples religions? Hmmm

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@PudHead

I'm doing some calendaring. 

How many months before you stop blaming each and every cop shooting on BLM?

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

@Visual_Cortex @PudHead How long does a Republican hang on their nonsense.  I don't know.  When did their birther movement start?  When did Laffer sell them on the silliness that tax cuts pay for themselves?  

straker
straker

Is she the only clerk in the county that can issue marriage licenses?


That seems sort of strange.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@straker

She heads a staff of clerks, apparently. she's the overlord of this wee bureaucratic fiefdom.

TBS
TBS

She is the one overseeing the issuing of marriage licenses in Rowan County KY

Only strange thing is that she isn't compiling with the law

I suspect this charade is going to end with her or someone else in Rowan County following the law

When it is all said and done gays in that county will be able to obtain marriage licenses

Book it

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@TBS

Rowan County KY

Am I the only one who scans that^^ and snickers?

Doggone_GA
Doggone_GA

@straker As the elected official...it's my best guess that it's her signature on the license, no matter who actually handles the transaction

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Doggone_GA @straker

Worth noting that this county has all of twenty-three thousand residents, so it's not all that strange to have but one office, and one official, OK-ing the marriage licenses.

bu2
bu2

@Visual_Cortex @Doggone_GA @straker

What's strange is that they have more than 1 gay couple a year that wants to get married there.


Of course they don't.   They just have a bunch of outsiders.

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

Has McKoon introduced that legislation banning companies like Delta from Georgia yet.

honested
honested

Well, the deranged woman from Kentucky has until the end of business today to perform her job as instructed or face the (hopefully terrible) consequences of her scurrilous actions.


_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

@honested What would make you happy?  2 weeks in the stocks?  Rip out her fingernails? Burned at the stake? 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@_GodlessHeathen_ @honested

How about we just loose some of that "dreadful lightning"?

But seriously, GH, I (and several others here) have made it clear she shouldn't be made into a martyr. Jailing her is the last thing I'd want to see; and I've heard from news reports that the gay couples being denied their right to marry, have said she should be fined, not jailed.

bu2
bu2

@_GodlessHeathen_ @Nick_Danger @honested


They want to throw her in jail since she doesn't 100% agree with them and acts on her conscience.


If she won't do what the law now requires, she needs to lose her job.  All of this jail nonsense is the bigotry and prejudice and hatred oozing out of every pore of Bookman and the leftists.

Bill OrvisWhite
Bill OrvisWhite

My pals, this is why state's rights NEED TO BE STRENGTHENED to protect innocent Christians. Me and millions of others are praying for this bold woman who is now going through an amazing amount of struggle, yet staying true to Her convictions. There is NO GREATER GOOD THAN THAT my pals. 


Here in Georgia, thousands of us are praying that the honorable Senator McKoon rightfully placing a religious protection bill in the chamber come this January and that it all get fast-tracked and signed into law within the early months of 2016. Pals, this is why SB129 NEEDED TO BE PASSED! Now, let's get measure like SB129 passed in all 50 states so that ugly scenes as to what is taking place in KY need not happen ever again! 


Good night.


Amen,

Bill 

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Bill OrvisWhite 

My, ah, friend belongs to a religion that demands human sacrifice.  Will SB129 provide m... ah, him, with protection from arrest?

Thanks for your advice.

YouLibs
YouLibs

Any legal beagles out there? Can anyone who is a citizen of Rowan County file a writ of mandamus against Davis to seek her removal? How would that play out?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

theological PROGRESS! as only the fabulous Digby can trumpet:

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2015/09/a-theology-professor-explains-that-pope.html


[A]ll that's happened is that now local priests can forgive the dizzy broads who made this horrible error without really knowing any better without be designated by a bishop to have the power to do it. That's literally the only thing that has changed. Women who make the evil choice to have an abortion need to prove to a celibate male priest that she didn't know what she was doing and then perhaps she won't be excommunicated. So that's nice.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

Trump and Bush are going at it...I wonder why Trump doesn't attack Ben Carson who currently in 2nd place according to the polls..

Normd
Normd

@BuckeyeGa 


Carson will probably run as Trump's VP...like, it seems, Ted Cruz is trying to do...lol

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@BuckeyeGa

Trump and Bush are going at it...

It seems pretty personal, the way Donald has gone after John Ellis, all these months.

Come to think of it, Trump didn't care for GW Bush either. Probably some long-standing rich-guy feud to which we groundlings aren't privy.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Normd @BuckeyeGa

like, it seems, Ted Cruz is trying to do...lol

y'know, if none of the other GOP primary guys don't get around to razzing Cruz for that, they should be sued by their donor base for political malpractice.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2015/08/trump-supporters-think-obama-is-a-muslim-born-in-another-country.html


Trump Supporters Think Obama is A Muslim Born in Another Country

PPP's newest national poll finds Donald Trump just continuing to grow his lead over the GOP field. He is at 29% to 15% for Ben Carson, 9% for Jeb Bush, 8% for Carly Fiorina, 7% for Marco Rubio, 6% each for Ted Cruz and John Kasich, and 5% each for Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker. That group makes a pretty clear top 9. Rounding out the field are Chris Christie and Rick Santorum at 2%, Jim Gilmore, Rand Paul, and Rick Perry at 1%, and Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki at less than 1%. 

Our new poll finds that Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country, and that immigrant children should be deported. 66% of Trump's supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12% that grant he's a Christian. 61% think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21% who accept that he was. And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, to only 20% who want to keep things the way they are.

TBS
TBS

Well a few of our regulars certainly fit the Trump supporter criteria

JoelEdge
JoelEdge

"She cannot use her government position to impose her own personal religious faith on others and deprive others of a constitutional right."

I don't see why not. You, the government, and various leftist organizations are using the government to impose your belief system on everyone else.

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

@JoelEdge  NOBODY should be able to use a government position or power to impose personal or religious beliefs, but you are correct, there is a double standard in play. But this column has always been about double standards.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

Like any good masochist the guy who claims to be "in the middle" just can't help himself from coming back for more.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@YouLibs @InTheMiddle2 @JoelEdge

Some people seem permanently upset that Jay, an opinion columnist, holds any kind of ideological principles and states what his positions are on matters of public policy.

that's "how so," AFAIK.

honested
honested

@JoelEdge 

I guess the 'government and various leftist organizations' confront you with a 'belief system' know as REALITY and you must find superstition much more comforting.

Sorry, reality always wins.