Saturday, July 30, 2011

Clerks claim 'right' to flout law

WAMC News did a story about how some municipal clerks in New York are claiming the 'right' to refuse to issue same sex marriage licenses, now that it has become law in the state. The so-called Alliance Defense Fund rails against "threats from top officials of the Empire State to charge clerks who decline to issue such licenses with a criminal offense--forcing clerks to decide between their career and their faith"... as though this is somehow both illegal and unprecedented.

If a Muslim clerk wanted to refuse to issue marriage licenses to Christian couples because of religious beliefs, would these organizations defend their right to do so? What if a gay clerk wanted to refuse to issue marriage licenses to a straight couple? What if a racist white clerk wanted to refuse a marriage license to a black or interracial couple?

Let’s take this further. What if an evangelical clerk wanted to deny a birth certificate to the newborn of an unmarried woman? What if a strict Muslim DMV worker wanted to deny driver's licenses to women? What if a Protestant bureaucrat wanted to deny a building permit to a Catholic church?

Would any of these be tolerated on the basis of the ‘rights’ of the bureaucrat? Of course not.

The clerks, like all citizens, have the right to their religious beliefs. They do not have the right to a job.

A job is a privilege, not a right, and is subject to conditions and expectations defined by the employer. For example, I may have the right to freedom of speech as a citizen, but if I exercised that right by shouting in the workplace that my boss was a lying crook, I probably wouldn’t have that job much longer. No one would argue with a straight face that my firing would be a violation of my free speech rights.

Rights outside the workplace and those related to the execution of your job duties are two very different things. Why should religious public sector workers be subjected to a different standard?

Taxpayers have the right to expect that public sector workers they are paying will apply and respect the law as written, regardless of their personal biases, prejudices and beliefs. They have a job to do. If they can’t do their job in good conscience, they should have the principle to resign, as some already have. If they won’t do their lawful jobs, the public has the right to replace them with somebody who will.

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