Every person who serves in public office, a judgeship, or any other government job is required to take an Oath of Office. That Oath of Office varies depending on which position you are going to serve in. When I joined the Coast Guard all those years ago, I took an Oath as well.
In that Oath, I swore to “defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I also swore to uphold all “legal commands” issued by senior authority and uphold the laws of the U.S. This oath has been issued to service members for as long as I can remember, and far longer than that.
Even the President of the United States is required to take an oath as well. I don’t know of a single position in federal, state, county, or local employment that is not required to take a similar oath. These oaths are designed to ensure that all employees of the government are sworn to uphold the laws they are to serve.
That is until now. In North Carolina, there was a law passed that was vetoed by the Governor, and then overridden by the State Legislature that allows Magistrates to disobey the law. This is being dressed up under the guise of “religious liberty.” But, in essence, Magistrates in North Carolina are allowed by law to violate the very laws they have sworn to uphold.
The law is known as SB2. We all know that Gov. McCrory is a total nut-job himself. However, even he was smart enough to veto the law when it was first passed. SB2 states: “Every magistrate has the right to recuse from performing all lawful marriages under this Chapter based on sincerely held religious objection.” Note this particular part, the emphasis will be mine: all lawful marriages.” That is correct, a Magistrate can now recuse from performing all lawful marriages just by saying he has religious objection against it.
Now, we all know that this is intended to stop same-sex marriages. But, the Legislature knows very well that would immediately draw a court objection striking it down since it would limit the action to only “some” marriages. This law has more far-reaching consequences than you may think.
Just as an example, a Magistrate is Catholic. That Magistrate does not believe in divorce and re-marriage. As a result, that Magistrate could “recuse” himself from issuing a marriage license and performing a marriage that involves a couple where at least one of them was divorced. Although this marriage is “legal” the Magistrate is allowed to take it upon himself to not perform said service.
This can run the whole gamut. Inter-racial marriages, same-sex marriages, inter-faith marriage, all of which are “legal” but not recognized by certain “religious beliefs.” What about a Magistrate who believes in polygamy? That Magistrate can now deny to perform a monogamous marriage based on his “religious beliefs.
You may read this and think I am being insane. But, what would have happened back in 1967 when the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia. It was in Loving—decided 48 years ago —that the court ruled it unconstitutional for states to prevent mixed-race marriages. If SB2 had been on the books back then, a Magistrate could have denied to marry any inter-racial couple.
If you think I am kidding, in 1976, Carol Ann and Thomas Person, she white and he black, walked into their local courthouse in North Carolina to get their marriage license. As she recently told the story in a column in the Raleigh News & Observer, the magistrate said no. A second magistrate on duty said the same thing, and one of them “took out a Bible and began to lecture us about their religious views and why Thomas and I should not be together.” This was nearly a full decade after Loving.
Religious Freedom is supposed to mean that you may believe or not believe in any form of religion you choose. The one part of American History that the Conservative Christian Cult fail to remember is that the many of our Founding Fathers were not Christian as we now say. They were Deists. These included such figures as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and others. Deists believed in the existence of god. But, they did not believe in the story of Genesis. They held that god started the universe and sat back and let nature take its course. They did not believe in god’s interference in day-to-day life.
Since most of these Founding Fathers who were Deists were also member of the Free Mason’s it stands they would hold such beliefs. In order to be a member of the Free Masons, you must believe in a god. They call that god the “Great Architect”. But, Free Masons do not necessarily follow normal Christianity.
As a result, our Founding Fathers put into our Constitution the Separation of Church and State. They founded a “secular” form of government. Democracy can only exist as a secular government. Once Religion is brought into government, Democracy ceases to exist and you fall back to Theocracies that masquerade as Monarchies. That was the one thing our Founding Fathers did not want to happen here.
As I wrote before, bigotry will not simply die and go away. It must rear its ugly head and make life miserable for everyone. Laws like SB2 are perfect examples of bigotry rearing its ugly head. This law serves no purpose except to allow individual bigotry to invade the public trust. It is allowing Magistrates to hide behind their religious bigotry and deny people “legal marriages” simply because they don’t agree with the couple wishing to be married.
It took until 1960 until a Catholic was elected President. The primary rally against a Catholic becoming the President was because Protestants believed that a Catholic President would “take his orders from the Pope.” John Kennedy needed to give his infamous speech telling the country that he was American first and that his religion would not hinder his allegiance to America.
Today, that “fear” has been turned on its head. More than once, during an election cycle, I have been handed a list of candidates from people I knew. They told me that I needed to vote for this slate of candidates because they were the “most God-fearing Christians” running for office. These candidates were suppose to make sure God’s law was America’s law. I don’t think I need say I did not vote for any of them.
Which brings me back to the main point. Should a person’s Religious Belief trump their Oath of Office? I say absolutely not! When I took my oath, there was nothing that said “unless you have a religious belief against it.” Neither should any other oath taken by any public official.
By not performing “legal” marriages in North Carolina, a Magistrate is violating that oath of office. That Magistrate is supposed to “serve all of the citizens of North Carolina.” They are bound by the State Constitution to do so. If a Magistrate is so against performing “legal” marriages for whatever reason, he should resign his post.
In all honesty, if such a law were passed at the Federal Level, I would not hesitate to call it treasonous! If you choose to work for a government, you are choosing to serve the people represented by that government. Your religious beliefs have nothing to do with how you carry out your duties. You are obligated to uphold all legal orders.
This law is a perfect example of how the right-wing is perverting our laws. They are openly defying the very “law of the land”, the Constitution, that they claim they want to defend. And, as I wrote before, this is how Fascism begins.
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