“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”
The United States government cannot make me do something that legitimately violates my religious beliefs.
For instance, the United States military makes allowances for conscientious objectors, “one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles.”
But it is not a violation of my rights if the government passes a law to which I have a religious objection as long as I do not have to participate. The simple ability to walk away preserves my rights.
This seems like a relevant idea for state officials today. If the job becomes offensive you can just walk away.
What a public official cannot do is make the public act according to that official’s religious beliefs … and that is exactly what the Texas Attorney General is asking county clerk’s to do — decide whether the public has access to federal law based on the county clerk’s own religious beliefs.
I know that many of my friends have a strong, legitimate religious objection to same-sex marriage. To them I say this debate is no longer about the Biblical definition of marriage.
It is about equality under the law and THAT is vitally important.
Because if today a county clerk can deny a same-sex marriage license based on a religious objection, well then tomorrow the same county clerk might have a religious objection to something you want to do.
It isn’t that far-fetched, you know. We argue today about the phrase “separation of church and state,” but we forget that President Jefferson used that phrase to encourage Baptists afraid of losing their religious freedom in America.
Our history is replete with examples of Christians persecuting Christians of a different denomination. Christians were hanged in Boston for their beliefs, executed by other Christians.
Which is why we should be very careful when we cheer for public officials defying the law for any reason … because you never know who will be the next target.