By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
September 11, 2015
The incarceration of Rowan County (Ky.) County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was a predicted consequence of the June Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. Those who hold to a conviction that scripture does not allow for such “marriages” but in fact condemns homosexuality have warned that the freedom to live out the convictions of their faith would eventually be eroded and their faith-based practices eventually criminalized. The photos of a woman going to jail for refusing to act contrary to her faith should be a wake-up call for evangelical Christians as well as believers of all faiths that teach normal marriage relationships are to be between one man and one woman.
In the wake of the controversy in Kentucky, North Carolinians can be encouraged that believers here have more recourse than the officials in Kentucky.
North Carolina magistrates and county clerks have a greater degree of religious rights protections than other states due to a bill passed by the General Assembly in June. Senate Bill 2, also known as the Religious Freedom Bill, was passed by both houses of the General Assembly but was vetoed by Governor Pat McCrory. McCrory, though a supporter of traditional marriage, had said that government officials should not be able to pick and choose which duties they will carry out. The General assembly then voted to override the governor’s veto of the bill. The purpose of the law is to give magistrates and staff in county register of deeds offices a way to avoid having to participate in same-sex weddings if they have religious convictions against such unions.
The North Carolina law covers magistrates who are appointed by county court clerks and also assistants to the elected register of deeds in each county. These are appointees and not elected officials. If a magistrate or staffer has religious objections to same-sex marriage, they may recuse themselves but must opt out of participating in all marriages for a period of six months. Also, someone must be made available to cover the employees who recuse themselves on religious grounds.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, sponsor of the legislation said, “We provided an opportunity for folks who have strongly held religious views with objections to opt out, but we also provided a backstop. It’s keeping folks from having to choose between their job and their religious beliefs. I think that’s important.”
Since the new law took effect, thirty-two magistrates have recused themselves from performing same-sex marriages. Now, News 13 in Asheville reports that all four magistrates in the McDowell County Clerk’s office have recused themselves under the new law. Magistrates from other counties drive in to cover for them. The law also requires that marriage services be available for 10 hours a week.
Chief District Judge Randy Pool said of McDowell County, “Every single one (of the staff) has said they will opt out and won’t do the marriages. They have arranged for Rutherford County magistrates to devote ten hours to performing marriages here. They are following the law and cannot perform marriages of any kind for six months, just as long as we do ten hours a week which is the what the law requires.”
Marriage services in McDowell County have already been limited to three days a week for limited hours: Mondays 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Supporters of the law hail the passage and override of the veto as a victory for religious liberty. Opponents describe the bill as hateful, bigoted, and unconstitutional.
The New York Times reported that the law was “…a measure aimed at curtailing same-sex unions.”
Equality North Carolina, a supporter of same-sex marriage, said the group plans to bring a court challenge to the law.
Acting executive director of the North Carolina ACLU, Sarah Preston, said the law amounts to “government officials refusing to do part of their job.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League said, “Although North Carolina legislators wanted to protect believers from having to choose between their job or their faith, the online conversations and comments from same-sex marriage proponents reveal that they want people of faith to have to do just that. The prevailing opinion is that if your job requires you to act against your faith, then you must resign. Nowhere has it been mentioned that current magistrates and clerks began their careers at a time when there was a reasonable expectation that our laws and government supported the ideals of basic morality that most civilized societies have observed for millennia. Just because a five justices have attempted to legitimize what the scriptures call to be a sin, the believer cannot simply flip a switch and pretend God’s Word is inconsequential. The homosexual lobby will not be satisfied unless those who hold to a biblically-based set of ethics are marginalized and ostracized.”