Sunday, February 15, 2015

Protection for Unwilling Clergy?


The article can be found here.

A bill was recently overwhelmingly passed by the State Representatives in Oklahoma that would allow protection for church clergy members whom refuse to perform marriages for same-sex couples. The bill is deemed to, "protect clergy members from any civil claim or cause of action if they refuse to recognize the marriage of same sex couples". David Brumbaugh, the bill's sponsor, stated that, "It's not about discrimination or anything like that, its just we want to make sure [the clergy] are protected". 

 Although there has been some out-lash from Oklahoma's L.G.B.T community, most claim that while the bill is "unnecessary, it is not discriminatory". This is because as Reverend Walke explains, "No one is forcing anyone to officiate same sex marriages". The first amendment provides the clergy the freedom to practice their own faith, even if that entails denying a couple marriage.

The salient point that this article brings up is whether it should be constitutionally legal for people to refuse or deny service to a group of people whose rights are allowed by law?  Should we expect everyone to put away their beliefs in the name of the State? Or should people with objections based on religions reasons be allowed exemptions? If we allow exemptions, for whom do we stop allowing exemptions for? 

The article particularly reminded me of the baker who refused to bake a cake for a same sex couple in Colorado. The couple took their complaint to court and argued that it is their "constitutional right" to not be denied service on a bases of their sexual orientation. On that first day of class, I originally agreed with the same sex couple and thought that it was wrong of the baker to not bake the cake for the couple. Upon further reflection although, it is clear to me that it is within their first amendment right to refuse service to anyone they please.

Does this then mean that clergy have the right to refuse service as well? Well, upon further research it is clear that while Colorado has a non-discrimination law in place meaning that it, “bars discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” (aclu.org), Oklahoma does not. And so, private entities are allowed to refuse service based on these factors.

This non-discrimination law in general is what I think is at the heart of this argument. Basically, the bill that would give clergy extra protection is an unnecessary step that only furthers Oklahoma from adopting policies such as non-discrimination laws. That being said, are the non-discrimination laws themselves within our first amendment rights? Although it is certainly a progressive step and I by no means think that anyone should be discriminated against, is it okay to punish people whom have a religious reason they want to deny service? If we have the freedom to practice out religions, and this is within our religious, does it make sense that people have the right to refuse service even if it appears to be discriminating against a certain group?

Oklahoma’s L.G.B.T community even claimed for themselves that “freedom means freedom for everyone” and despite the nuisance of such a bill, it is only a reaffirmation of the first amendment right.

In my opinion, the bill is not unconstitutional, but it is just unwarranted. Oklahoma has no anti discriminatory laws, and the clergy should have the right to deny officiating a marriage that they do not want to be involved in. Similar to the man who did not want to bake a cake for the gay couple, although it is unfortunate, it is within his first amendment right to deny service or his own private entity. 


What do you think? Should clergy have protection from persecution if they refuse to acknowledge a same sex marriage?

11 comments:

Liz E said...

I find these types of issues difficult to judge because on the one hand, I think it is extremely discriminatory and wrong to deny service based on sexual orientation, but on the other hand that does not mean it is unconstitutional. Because Oklahoma does not have the same anti-discrimination laws that Colorado does, it seems that these clergy are within their legal limits to deny service to homosexual couples. To me, if we have to worry about protecting the clergy from lawsuits and 'other courses of action', then this should force the state to look into the constitutionality of their anti-discrimination laws to begin with. However, I would have to agree that this bill is not unconstitutional due to these laws.

Mackenzie Y said...

I think the fact that Oklahoma does not have a non-discrimination law is key to the passing of this bill. The fact that the clergy are protected, however, I think will prove to be a slippery slope in the future, even though I would not consider this bill unconstitutional either. Using the clergy being protected as a precedent, will other professions demand bills to be passed for them to be able to deny their services to members of the LGBT community because of their own religious beliefs? It appears that the fact that this bill was a bit unwarranted seemed to be Oklahoma’s way of covering their bases before anyone filed a lawsuit against a church official for refusing to perform a marriage.

Courtney W. said...

I think as long as the same sex couples are able to obtain marriage licenses, then the clergy should have the right to refuse service. As Liz and the author have pointed out, Oklahoma does not have an anti-discrimination law, the clergy members are not legally bound to perform a marriage ceremony if the marriage goes against their personal beliefs.

Ben K. said...

If someone opens their doors for business with the community, then they do not have the right to deny service to an individual based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. This is true with or without an anti-discrimination law. Once a business has opened their doors, they have in a sense become a public service. The difference with this case is that the institution mentioned is a clergyman and his church. In my opinion, I think religious institutions should be given certain rights that transcend certain civil laws. In this instance, if the state of Oklahoma does not allow clergyman to deny same-sex marriage, the state is controlling the religious freedom of this particular religion. If a principle of the religion is no same-sex marriage, then Oklahoma does not have the constitutional authority to enforce the religious actions of the clergyman.

Trevor T said...

Due to the lack of Anti-discrimination law in Oklahoma, I have to agree with the author that the bill is not unconstitutional. It allows the clergy men the free practice and free will to deny service to whoever they want on whatever grounds they want. If a member of the church doesn't want to preform a ceremony that is contrary to what they or the church they represent believe in they don't have to. I believe there is a difference between this case and the bakery because a bakery is a secular service while clergymen represent a church which is a service of faith. Although I personally take issue with this bill and lack of anti-discrimination standards, given the state laws and standards, I believe the bill is constitutional. The bill is moving Oklahoma in the wrong direction of a more accepting and caring society, but regardless is not unconstitutional.

Molly H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam Cohen said...

I don't think the absence of an anti-discrimination law means that public services or stores, like the one in Colorado, gives those services or stores the right to discriminate because the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, as applied to the First Amendment through due process, protects all citizens and gives all of them the same protections no matter what. I think the key here is what Ben said, which is that this is a church and not a public institution. The First Amendment, in my opinion, does not give the state the right to regulate the types of people churches can and cannot serve and the type of couples clergymen can and cannot marry. Marrying a same-sex couple goes against what their religion stands for and the state cannot force them to contradict something that is important to their religion.

Alex L. said...

I agree with Sam above-as Clergy is not a public service or office, clergy members have the ability to decide who they wed and won't wed. Frankly, this bill is unnecessary and seems like a political stunt to gain favor among the clergy. It is important to realize the connection that Clergy have with their congregation and the ability they have, official or not-to sway voting patterns.

Molly H. said...

As mush as i dislike the fact that this protection act was passed, I too find it important to remember that Oklahoma, as a state, does not have a non-discrimination law and same-sex marriage is still possible for homosexual couples, just not by specific clergy members. I respect that these clergy members wish to remain protected because of their beliefs, even if they are very opposite of my own. It's a tricky subject to dance around, as same-sex marriage has become a hot topic among all states and more and more are allowing it each day. I personally think clergy members have the right to deny conducting a same-sex marriage as long as the state continues to have a non-discrimination law for those clergy members who would be willing to conduct such services.

Kristen B. said...

I agree with Morgan and think that this bill is unnecessary. Clergy members have the right to refuse to marry any couple, no matter their sex, and this bill is just protecting clergy members in case a couple is offended. In my opinion this bill was created to help political figures gain support due to religious reasons. Since same-sex marriage is such a heated issue in our country, states need to find a common ground so that communities can learn how to move forward in a unified and American way.

Ana M. said...

I believe that Oklahoma made the right decision by passing the bill of protecting clergy members. The First Amendment protects an individual’s right to exercise his/her religion. I believe that Oklahoma has good intentions when protecting clergy from any accusations. I do not view this as a form of discrimination. If a person truly believed that performing a marriage is against his/her religion then the person should not be forced into something that endangers the stability of that religion.