NY Town Clerk Resigns; Anti-Gay Sentiment Sparks Debate About Civil Rights
NY Town Clerk claims that condoning gay marriage is against her religious beliefs.
What would you do if your job suddenly required you to act in a way that violated your religious beliefs? Would you do whatever you needed to hang onto your job, deeming your values more expendable than your income? Or would you stand up for yourself and quit, in the interest of preserving your moral sanctitude?
Laura Fotusky, the town clerk in Barker, New York, did the latter, asserting in her letter of resignation that: “The Bible clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female as a divine gift that preserves families and cultures. Since I love and follow Him, I cannot put my signature on something that is against God.”
Fotusky has underscored the difference between the work of Civil Servant and the work of a servant of God. Shortly after New York state got around to approving marriage equality, clerks in her jurisdiction were reminded that refusal of service to members of the public on the basis of sexual orientation could be met with criminal charges.
But Fotusky believes there is a law that overpowers the laws of the American Government: the law of God in the Bible. So what happens when your government fails to protect your religious rights in the same way that they protect the civil rights of those you oppose?
Well. Among other solutions, you could expatriate to a country that is less progressive about Civil Rights than America. (There are plenty to choose from, although international flights are pricey these days.) Or, you could challenge yourself by reading, thinking, educating yourself; by embracing humanity in all its varied forms (for the Bible tells you to do so). Give it a shot.
An evolved idea of a “moral conscience” should actually preclude bigotry, in any form. Refusing to adapt the dogma of a dated text is not serving the human condition in any way. No sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. And let’s not forget, high and mighty ones, that celibacy is the actual Christian ideal (not to mention that the Bible also recommends the death penalty for adulterers).
Don’t get me wrong, I like old books too. But I don’t run around town quoting Chaucer. Or…maybe I have once or twice before, but never the original text, because I would sound like an asshole. Ancient literature and history are, thankfully, being reinterpreted through a modern lens, the same way arbitrary rules of language are dying out as descriptivists challenge prescriptivist formulas.
This problem is sure to come up again and again after Fotusky’s highly publicized resignation. Should devoutly religious clerks be forced to resign from their jobs so that they may adhere to the stipulations of an anti-gay faith tradition? Or should there be a clause allowing clerks to refuse civil service to the same-sex couples who walk in the door? (Does anyone else hear echoes of Antebellum South here?)
Senior Pastor Amandus Derr of Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York is encouraging religious folk to adopt a more progressive, inclusive attitude in modern times. “The bible is about inclusion, not exclusion,” he said. “There has been so much vilification and self-vilification in the gay community because of this kind of rhetoric in God’s name,” he said. “There is another way of thinking about things.”
It’s a shame that Laura Fotusky had to give up her yearly salary. But, the fact is, it’s fair to expect a clerk (i.e. civil servant) to uphold the basic tenet of civil service: which is to serve without discrimination. Doesn’t it seem that as the government adjusts its values to respond to the shortcomings of the system, the religious sector might also update it’s value system?
After all, the practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to a marginalized community, the emphasis on togetherness over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—through a different lens, all these biblical values could be interpreted as an argument for, not against, gay rights.
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