First up from the God Machine this week is an unfortunate fallout from the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality: county clerks who are required to issue marriage licenses to couples, but who are citing religion to ignore their professional responsibilities.
Perhaps the highest-profile example came up this week in Kentucky, where a clerk has been instructed by the governor to do his job or leave to find some other job. NBC News reported:
Casey Davis, one of three clerks in the state who is not granting licenses, held a meeting with Gov. Steve Beshear after last month’s ruling that upheld equal right to marriage across the country.However, Beshear insisted clerks must carry out their duties and said the majority were “complying with the law” despite personal beliefs.“ ‘Issue marriage licenses or resign’ – those were the words,” Davis told reporters after the meeting. “I can’t quit… I have a mortgage to pay.”
It’s a curious dynamic. On the one hand, Casey Davis wants to remain a clerk and keep getting paid by taxpayers. On the other hand, Davis also wants the freedom to stop doing his job when he has religious objections to couples requesting marriage licenses.
For some reason, his employer – the governor of the commonwealth of Kentucky – apparently expects clerks who remain on the job to actually do their job. Indeed, in a written statement, Beshear said, “One of Mr. Davis’ duties as county court clerk is to issue marriage licenses, and the Supreme Court now says that the United States Constitution requires those marriage licenses to be issued regardless of gender.”
For his part, Davis told the local NBC affiliate, “Nature’s law will supersede any law that man puts on a piece of paper…. My job cannot go beyond what my conscience allows.”
And yet, he seems to believe the remedy isn’t to find a job he finds morally and theologically acceptable, but rather, to continue to be paid to do a job he’ll occasionally refuse to do.
If recent history is any guide, the right will likely make him a cause celebre. The governor, meanwhile, will likely direct him to the unemployment office.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The pope in Bolivia: “Pope Francis apologized Thursday for the sins and ‘offenses’ committed by the Catholic Church against indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas.” As part of the same trip, Bolivian President Evo Morales gave Francis “a large garish cross carved into the shape of a hammer and sickle.”
* Seventh-day Adventists “voted Wednesday that individual regions of the 18 million-member Protestant denomination cannot choose to ordain female ministers.”
* A powerful interfaith gesture: “Muslims are bringing hope to Christian communities in the South after a recent spate of fires devastated black church buildings. Three Muslim organizations have teamed up to raise money to rebuild worship centers in Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina that were destroyed by fire the past few weeks.”
* Striking comments in Israel: “[Israeli] Religious Services Minister David Azoulay (Shas) angered Reform Jews on Tuesday morning, by saying that they cannot be considered Jewish.”
* South Carolina: “While South Carolina’s bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from its State House grounds gains momentum, another flag is stirring debate in neighboring North Carolina. A church in Cleveland County made waves on Sunday when it displayed a Christian flag above the American flag outside its building.”
* Faith leaders weigh in on the drug war: “A group of more than 600 churches has joined a small but growing movement within the religious community to call for an end to the war on drugs through legalization. The New England Conference of The United Methodist Church, representing more than 600 congregations, voted last month to support efforts to address the nation’s drug abuse problem through ‘means other than prohibition.’”