Viewpoint

Should we protect those other “core religious beliefs”?

From Rev. Jay Leach, Senior Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte:

Regarding the legality of same-sex marriage in North Carolina, Senate Leader Phil Berger recently announced that “complying with the new marriage law imposed by the courts should not require our state employees to compromise their core religious beliefs.” Berger is concerned that magistrates and registers of deeds cannot now selectively enforce our state’s laws based on which ones comport with their personal religious views on marriage.

However, Sen. Berger is surprisingly narrow in his focus. Because his proposed legislation applies only to the issue of same-sex marriage, he leaves unprotected other much more obvious religious mandates on marriage. In so doing, he also leaves magistrates and registers of deeds unprotected and thus still subject to the prospect of being forced into acts that violate their personal faith.

For example, Jesus was quite clear in stating that “everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” Why should magistrates and registers of deeds be coerced into supporting adultery by offering marriage licenses and legal ceremonies to divorcee-adulterers? When the Bible speaks with absolute clarity on this issue, where is Berger’s concern to uphold this religious view?

Christian scripture is similarly straightforward in requiring a wife to keep her head covered at all times. “A wife,” it says, “ought to have a symbol of authority on her head.” Sen. Berger, should our state demand that those professing a literal reading of the Bible be required to ignore this religious principle just so women with uncovered heads can have the right to get married?

Let’s assume there is a magistrate whose “core religious beliefs” are based on clearly worded mandates about marriage in the Hebrew Bible’s book of Deuteronomy. In no uncertain terms it insists that “if the evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman . . . the men of the city shall stone her to death.” While he might ask that the actual stoning be left to others, Sen. Berger surely would not insist that this faithful magistrate compromise on something so unmistakably offensive, would he?

And a Muslim register of deeds whose reading of the Qur’an informs him that women are to be “devoutly obedient” and that in cases of severe disobedience a man is granted the authority to beat his wife? Does Berger think that the courts can impose on this particular register of deeds the requirement that he grant a license to a woman who does not seem duly submissive or who might balk at the prospect of being beaten if necessary?

Sen. Berger has chosen to focus his proposed legislation on but a single religious belief regarding marriage. Integrity demands that Berger dramatically expand his proposed legislation. Otherwise, some of us may begin to suspect that the unrelenting and expensive effort to prevent marriage equality in North Carolina that is being championed by Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis just may be about something other than the protection of “core religious beliefs.”

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