“Private Beliefs”—It’s All In How You Pose the Question

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SteveK tipped us to an article that includes:

Improbably, gay marriage and religion loom as issues in the Nov. 8 race for a part-time, $12,000-a-year clerk’s job in this town of gently sloping hills on Cayuga Lake. Voters are posed with the question: Where is the line between an elected official’s public duty and private beliefs?

[From Gay marriage, religion issues in NY clerk race – WSJ.com]

“Private beliefs,” it says. What is it that makes a belief about marriage “private”? Why aren’t homosexual insurgents’ beliefs about marriage “private beliefs”?

And where is the line between an elected official’s newly-imposed artificial “responsibilities” and her public convictions?

It’s all in how you pose the question.

17 Responses

  1. SteveK says:

    The town clerk fulfilled her public duty by delegating the job to another qualified person. The couple got their license but that wasn’t good enough. It’s not the delegation that bothered the couple, otherwise they would insist that the Governor or Mayor sign the license, not the States delegated office in their town. What bothers them is that someone didn’t agree with their actions. And for that they MUST be sued in court. MUST!

  2. Sault says:

    Perhaps the question should instead be – is it acceptable for a government employee to refuse to do their job because of their personal convictions? My beliefs are my beliefs – not yours, and certainly not the world’s if I choose not to share them. My paycheck, however, depends upon my ability to do my job. If she can’t do her job, then she should be terminated.

  3. It looks to me though like the jobs’ requirements were being met quite adequately, Sault.

  4. Sault says:

    So is it okay to have someone else do your job for you? Is it fair? Should her example encourage others to not do what they’re paid to do, simply because it doesn’t suit them? We all have to do things that we don’t want to do – but we do them anyways. If her job description says “hand out marriage certificates”, then that’s what she needs to do. If she can’t do that, then they need to find someone else who will. It’s what the free market would do…

  5. SteveK says:

    Sault,

    If her job description says “hand out marriage certificates”, then that’s what she needs to do.

    We don’t know that she did anything against policy. Supervisors can alter formal job descriptions by approving modifications to daily work duties. Coworkers, with the support of managers, can ask other coworkers to do something for them in exchange for them doing other work. If it’s against policy to do what she did, then you have a valid point.

  6. “So is it okay to have someone else do your job for you?”

    I think that context should be taken into consideration. Ledyard is some place in the middle of nowhere that has never issued more than 7 marriage licenses a year (of any type). Furthermore, the woman believes that God Himself has put in place strict sanctions against homosexual unions. So yes, issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals wouldn’t “suit” her, but in a much more profound way then your phrasing seems to suggest (as if she were refusing to clean her room or take out the trash). Lastly, she apparently had the authority and capacity to set up a simple arrangement so that state laws were being met in spite of her personal beliefs.

    So in this case I do think it’s okay to have someone else do your job for you.

  7. Sandy says:

    50 years ago she would have refused to hand it out to an inter-racial couple and you would have stood here defending her beliefs. Bigotry is what this is called. She shouldn’t be a public servant, fullstop.

  8. Sault says:

    All I’m saying is that if your job description says “hand out marriage certificates”, then it isn’t unreasonable to expect you to do so, despite what you think that God has told you. I couldn’t get away with that at my work, I know that…

  9. Tom Gilson says:

    Sault, she had worked out a plan that was agreeable to her and her employer. Really, now, it’s not the least bit unusual for an employer to make accommodations for an employee’s convictions or conscience. This lawsuit is over the top. And I still dispute the move to place religious belief in the “keep it private and shut up about it” category, even for public servants.

  10. “50 years ago she would have refused to hand it out to an inter-racial couple and you would have stood here defending her beliefs. Bigotry is what this is called. She shouldn’t be a public servant, fullstop.”

    Go ahead and demonstrate to us how the Bible condemns inter-racial marriage.

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    As you consider how to answer Bryan’s question, Sandy, remember that stereotyping is of the essence of bigotry. And I don’t know how you could conclude that we would have had that racist attitude apart from stereotyping us.

  12. Sandy says:

    As far as I know it is only the apostle paul who indicated any dislike of homosexuality in the new testament. His words however as is most of the bible were ambiguous. Just as he spoke of women wearing head coverings and note speaking before men. I simply get the impression that he didn’t like women. Modern christians turn a blind eye to these verses explaining them away by saying that cultural settings have to be taken note of. And please let’s not fool ourselves, disapproval of mixed marriages abounds in the old testament, a large number of hard-line christians still persist in disapproving of “unequally yoked partnerings”.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Paul’s words were not ambiguous. Neither were Jesus’ words on marriage.

    I have no idea what evidence you draw upon to say we turn a blind eye to various passages. For goodness’ sake, they’re at the heart of some of the most seriously raging disputes in Christian theology! Which is to say, you really don’t seem to know what you’re talking about.

    “Mixed marriages” have to do with mixtures of belief systems and practices, not of race. In the OT this is complicated by the manner in which God chose a certain people as his vehicles of revelation, but there were certainly mixed marriages of which God approved regardless. Rahab’s would be one good example.

    If you get the impression that Paul didn’t like women, then you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what you’re talking about either. (I never use all caps, but for this I made a very rare exception.) You can’t make a statement like that without some idea of the cultural environment, and how Paul’s treatment of women rose miles and miles and miles above that of everyone else’s in Greco-Roman culture (not to mention the rest of the world). This canard irks me (can you tell?) because it seems to tell so strongly against Christianity, but it’s based in abject and utter ignorance of historical and cultural context.

    Your shift key seems to work at the beginning of sentences, I see, but it doesn’t seem to do so well elsewhere. I have another pet peeve about that, too, for the failure to capitalize biblical proper nouns (“biblical” is an adjective) comes across as an intent to demean. Maybe that’s not what’s on your mind or in your heart, but it has been so with others in the past, so I have set up a standard with which I intend to remain consistent. Please see the comment guidelines.

  14. Sault says:

    Hmmm. Does this count?

    “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation.” – Deuteronomy 23:3 (NIV)

    My understanding is that this is a proscription against Ammonite/Moabite and Jewish marriage.

  15. Read the verse right after that, Sault. It had nothing to do with race.

  16. SteveK says:

    Bryan,
    How dare you consider the context. 😉

  17. Sault says:

    It seems odd to me that the Holiness code would allow inter-racial marriage, when it goes as far as saying that you can’t even wear clothing of mixed fiber.

    I know there’s some references about what the priests can and can’t do, and I believe that includes who they marry… hmm. I’d have to look it up to refresh my memory…