Barbara MacEwen, Religious Liberty, and Special Rights

Suppose an on-duty police officer sees a known homosexual getting stomped to death in an alley by two men shouting, “Die, faggot, die!”  He does nothing to stop it, and he lets the thugs escape, because he believes in Leviticus 20:13:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

His religious beliefs make it impossible for him to intefere with what he views as God’s will, or even to hold the assailants responsible.

Should this officer be penalized?  Or would that violate his religious freedom?

I’d like to know because NOM continually warns that same-sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty. They’ve even identified the “first casualty” of New York’s marriage equality law — an upstate town clerk who doesn’t want to sign marriage licenses for same-sex marriage:  

Barbara MacEwen, the town clerk in upstate Volney who is responsible for signing marriage licenses in the town, said she’s morally opposed to same-sex weddings and does not intend to affix her signature to any marriage documents for gay or lesbian couples.

“If there’s any possible way to not do it, legally, then yes, I would not want to put my name on any of those certificates or papers,” MacEwen told POLITICO. “That’s their life, they can do it, but I don’t feel I should be forced into something that’s against my morals and my God.”

This taxpayer-supported public servant wants the right to choose which taxpayers she’ll serve. NOM, apparently, sympathizes with her.

That’s why I have to wonder about the limits to NOM’s notion of religious liberty. Personally, I’m no big fan of government coercion. You know that New Mexico photographer our opponents keep talking about? I think he should have been free not to photograph a same-sex wedding. Just as I think a gay photographer should be free not to shoot a wedding in a church that works to strip him of his marriage rights.

But Barbara MacEwen is a public employee. She’s an elected government official demanding the privilege of not following the law.

Who’s asking for special rights now?

What other “rights” does NOM think Barbara MacEwen should have? The right to withhold licenses from interracial couples? From a divorced person who wants to remarry? From a Catholic and a Baptist planning to marry in a Baptist church?

All those unions have been considered immoral by someone’s religion. Where does NOM stand on these items? Because as far as I can tell, NOM conception of religious liberty include the right of public servants to ignore laws they don’t like.

At this point, I was going to bring back the police question I asked at the beginning, but I thought of another I like better:  A number of states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, so…

…if NOM wants to let town clerks pick and choose the laws they’ll recognize according to their religion, then shouldn’t clerks from gay-friendly faiths be able to issue same-sex marriage licenses regardless of state law?

So tell us, NOM. Tell us exactly which religious liberty protections special rights you’d like to have.

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17 comments to Barbara MacEwen, Religious Liberty, and Special Rights

  • 1
    Kevin says:

    1. The right to conceal where all of NOM’s money really comes from.
    2. The right to make misleading statements, misrepresentations, and outright lies.
    3. The right to be free from any criticism.
    4.The right to use derogatory and abusive language.
    5. The right to pass laws denying basic freedom, rights, and equality to people they don’t like.
    6. The right to be seen as victims if anyone challeneges or questions their excercise of those rights.

  • 2
    Clayton says:

    When my partner and I had a commitment ceremony (followed later by a legal marriage on our honeymoon), we were very clear with all vendors and service providers that we were a same-sex couple.  We decided in advance that if any of them had voiced any hesitation or unwillingness to serve a gay couple, we would happily take our business elsewhere.  We weren’t in any hurry to enrich homophobic people, and there’s always someplace else to buy a wedding cake.
    That said, a public servant is supposed to (can Barbara MacEwen grasp this concept) SERVE THE PUBLIC.  She is the employee of all taxpayers, and it is her job to carry out her proscribed duties.  If she wants to sit in judgement of same sex couples, that his her right only as a private citizen, not as a public serant, and if the job becomes too onerous, she is welcome to find another.  Perhaps as a spokesperson for NOM.

  • 3
    Patsy says:

    Barbara MacEwen should be fired. She’s supposed to serve ALL the public, not just the one’s that she personally approves of.

  • 4
    BradP says:

    As usual, Americans never look abroad for precedent.  But in Canada, one might look to, say, Saskatchewan (no, no Sasquatches) where the government simply fired everyone who made this idiot claim, and where the courts have universally come down saying that government officers administering non-discretionary duties have no choice but to obey or get fired . . . I.e. the Crown said, “Obey the law or lose your job.”  Easy.
     

  • 5
    tavdy79 says:

    The UK is currently going through a very similar court battle, involving a Christian registrar called Lillian Ladele who refused to officiate civil partnerships. (Registrars are the officials responsible for performing civil marriages and civil unions in the UK.) Ms. Ladele won her original case in mid-2008, however she lost the following December when Islington Borough (her employer) appealed. There’s a PDF of the decision here, and it’s well worth reading – please note that it’s on the website of the Christian Institute, the organisation funding Ms. Ladele’s case. She then lost a further appeal a year later and has since been refused leave to appeal the case to SCOTUK, so is taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
     
    Although the case isn’t actually about the legalisation of gay marriage, it is still a significant case within the battle. At present the ECHR hasn’t explicitly ruled one way or another on gay marriage, however the decision in a relatively recent case said (in effect) that the ECHR would only unilaterally legalise gay marriage if/when a large enough proportion of Europe already had &/or supported marriage equality. Rather obviously this is a somewhat oxymoronic situation, as it requires that human rights be subjective.
     
    However because the Ladele case involves civil partnerships, not marriage, they’ll be ruling on equivalents to marriage, and therefore on marriage-related rights rather than marriage itself. In theory, if Ladele loses her case the decision could set a precedent that same-sex couples should have the same marriage-related rights that opposite-sex couples have. This may make it possible for cases to be brought demanding that European countries legalise equivalents to marriage.
     
    As in the USA, the Religulous Reich in Europe has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot with reassuring frequency.

    @ BradP, SCOTUS used ECHR precedent in the Lawrence V. Texas decision, so US courts do sometimes use non-US precedent.

  • 6
    Ben In Oakland says:

    I’m a wedding photographer myself. And from my experience, the couple that sued I suspect was trouble from the start. And astute photographer learns to recognize them. Elaine didn’t. Likewise, an astute event photographer knows that the only face a client should ever see is friendly, pleasant, polite, and caring, no matter what you might feel about it. Telling people that you don’t approve of them or their lifestyle (I’m using the word consciously here) is not a way to make them happy. so on top of everything else, Elaine was rude.
     
        As a wedding photographer, I can tell you there are plenty of people whose weddings I do not want to shoot. I would be very foolish to tell them why. You just say you’re booked, and you refer them on, if you can.. Not that I would do so for illegal reasons, but because I flat out don’t like them, or think they will be trouble, or difficult to deal with. I would even shoot a Mormon wedding– though at this point, I would probably donate the money to marriage equality in honor of their wedding and let them know that I did.
     
    Nevertheless, there is something else to consider here. The wedding photographer in New Mexico violated a law that said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal. The same law that protects blacks, whites, and even Christians. 
     
    As a Jew, I reject the Christian story, and as a thinking human being, I reject Biblical morality. This bothers the religious beliefs of no one but the most rabid fundamentalist, nor would any but the most clueless dare say so in public for fear of rightly being called a religious bigot. But let me say that I’m gay and reject just this tiniest part of conservative Christian belief, and suddenly, religious beliefs are offended, the people who hold them are “persecuted”. What is the difference?
     
    Does Elaine do Jewish weddings or Hindu weddings? Theoretically, if she does not, she could cite her religious beliefs as the basis for her opposition. Why this different?
    It amazes me that religions disagree about the nature of God, and their history is written in blood. But gay people–well, they finally have it right. So, to say that she is entitled to reject these women as clients because they are gay, but not entitled to because they are Jews, represents a logical inconsistency.
     
    The word bigotry comes to mind, a bigotry that any gay person knows exists. Just because it is your religious belief and it is about gay people, doesn’t make it right.

  • 7
    Gary Brubaker says:

    Dear Ms Barbara MacEwen-
    I fully understand and appreciate your beliefs. These are rights you can express amongst your family and designated congregation.
     
    That being said you are an employee of NY State’s Registrar’s Office, and you work in New York State, which holds in Laws that New York is a ‘Right to Work’ State, that designates that you can be fired, without question, and you also can be fired for not performing your civic duty as a Clerk. Therefore, resign if you can not perform your job. There are many other qualified applicants that take your position.

  • 8
    Christopher Mongeau says:

    When Babs was elected Town Clerk, she was required to take the following Oath of Office:
    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of (Town Clerk) according to the best of my ability”.
    There is not now nor ever an exemption for duties that violate her moral or religious beliefs. If she fails to perform the duties of her position, she will be in violation of the Oath she swore when elected, and should therefore resign or be removed from her position. Just like anyone else who fails to perform their duties as duly elected officials. There is really nothing else to discuss. (And yet NOM will make many many mountains out of this, no doubt).

  • 9
    dn says:

    nom has long blocked my comments, but the one they did let through a few weeks ago was when i pretended to agree with their demand for religious protection and i claimed to be a firefighter who refuses to fight fires at gay people’s houses.  nom supporters didnt see any connection at all.
     
     
    this is also why i have  a huge problem with taxpayer funding of faith-based initiatives.  when you pay taxes, a) you dont have a choice to not pay and b) you have the right to withdraw from the system by using government services.  taking tax money and giving it to groups that can refuse service to the people who funded you to begin with is wrong on so many levels.ple

  • 10

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    [...] Barbara MacEwen, Religious Liberty, and Special Rights: A New York city clerk refuses to process paperwork for same-sex marriages. [...]

  • 12
    boatboy_srq says:

    Suppose an on-duty police officer sees a known homosexual getting stomped to death in an alley by two men shouting, “Die, faggot, die!”  He does nothing to stop it, and he lets the thugs escape, because he believes in Leviticus 20:13…

    You’ve been reading the news from Miami again, haven’t you?
    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/crime/mh-miami-beach-cops-antigay-20110615,0,417437.story
    H/T Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof.

  • 13
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    [...] actively harming those who don’t bow down to her public school theocracy. I’ve often wondered just how many special rights our opponents are trying to claim in the name of religious freedom. [...]

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