Thursday, October 27, 2011

Should Christian Firemen Let the Houses of Gay People Burn?

The question in the headline sounds bizarre. Obviously most people, except the most rabid bigot, would say that Christian firemen most certainly should not allow the homes of gay people to burn to the ground.

But what about Christians who don't believe that gay people have the same legal rights as they do, when it comes to marriage contracts? Should they be required to do their job if their job is issuing marriage licenses?

Rose Marie Belforti is the city clerk in Ledyard, New York. She is paid by the taxpayers to issue hunting licenses, marriage licenses, building permits and the like. When the state legalized same-sex marriage Belforti decided that God had revealed to her that she should not respect the legal rights of gay couples. Instead, she would tell gay people that they had to make a special appointment to come in another day. On that day the Clerk's Office would hire a second person, at taxpayer's expense, to come in and process the license.

Belforti says,"I want to do what the Bible tells me to do." Interesting, but the Bible doesn't say "thou shalt not do thy job if it means helping gay people." Whatever you think the Bible says about homosexuality it says nothing about marriage licenses or the duties of city clerks. But, what if someone argued, as the Church of the Creator does, that God doesn't want white folk, his "chosen people," to deal with black people. Would a clerk be able to require black residents to make special trips that white folks don't have to make, in order to get the same services?

Certainly the hatred that fundamentalists have toward gay people is well-known and widely documented. If a government employee, like Belforti, is allowed to take a salary from all the taxpayers, while not serving all the taxpayers equally, why should this principle stop with a city clerk? Can a fireman tell gay residents that he will not rescue them from a burning building or put out the flames in their home because he only wants to do what the Bible tells him to do?

According to a local newspaper Belforti "says people are opposed to accommodating her faith."

A fellow-Republican who is now running against Belforti says that is false, "it's about her beliefs not letting her do her job." And he is right. Belforti claims that religion, a claim to unsubstantiated revelation from a mystical source, has told her not to do the job for which she is being paid. Instead of doing her own job, she is hiring a second person, also at taxpayer expense, to do the work she refuses to do.

One has a right to religious beliefs, no matter how irrational, hateful, or silly they may be. But one does not have a right to a specific job. If someone takes a job they are obliged to do the job. If they decide that some revelation from beyond has told them to not to do the work, they should relinquish the job.

No employee has the right to hold his employer hostage to whatever religious whims he or she may experience. That remains true whether or not the employer is the government.

Belforti has the right to indulge her own religious beliefs but she is doing so by costing the taxpayers unnecessary funds to hire a second person to do the work she has refused to do. When employees have ceased doing their job they have effectively terminated their employment. If Belforti had the best interest of the taxpayers at heart, and was sincere about her religious beliefs, then she should pay the cost of her beliefs, not the taxpayers, and that means resigning. It would be the decent thing to do.

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