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Archive for December, 2015

A few months ago it seemed I couldn’t go through my newsfeed without seeing a post about Kim Davis. Given the fact that I’m a college student and I live in New England, it should come as no surprise that almost all of the shares were very negative (I’m actually not sure if I saw a single positive one, but since I can’t remember all of them, I want to hedge my bets…).

 

The issue of religious freedom in the context of more right-wing causes has always been something I’ve tried to take seriously. I’ve struggled back and forth regarding whether a Catholic school should have to pay for insurance that provides birth control for their teachers.  I’ve felt strongly that ministers who are against gay marriage shouldn’t be required to marry a same-sex couple, just like I don’t think they should be required to marry a couple who are living together outside of marriage or basically really anyone, I think it’s the minister’s discretion.  A little part of me has even wondered about whether maybe someone does have a right to not make a wedding cake for a gay couple.  I mean, wouldn’t we support their right to not bake a cake that had a swastika on it?  I enjoy playing devil’s advocate.  I want to make sure that I’m not jumping one way or another because I disagree with a person.  There’s a difference between something being illegal and something just being wrong and obnoxious.  Religious freedom is something that does need to be protected, and we do have to be careful with the increasing secularization of our society.  However, too often many people overreact and take the fact that their religion is not the default as an attack.

 

Despite all of this, the case of Kim Davis is one that I don’t in any way find to be a gray area. She clearly either needs to issue the licenses or be removed from office.  Here is how I look at it.  Accommodations need to be given for religious freedom, and similarly, accommodations are also needed for disabilities.  I want to emphasize here that I’m not saying that religion and disability are the same, just that legally there are a lot of parallels in the case.  Those accommodations are all protected.  However, the key fact that decides whether or not an accommodation is reasonable is whether or not it affects the essential functions of the job.  As an example, say I take a job as a secretary.  I have neck problems.  If I can answer the phone, do the filing, set up appointments, work the computer, et cetera, that’s great.  If my boss asks me to move some file boxes down the hall, I have a right to explain that I have a disability and could someone else please move them for me.  That is a reasonable accommodation because moving a file box is not an essential function of the job.  However, if I took a job at a shipping company and my job was to unload and load crates, I couldn’t claim that I was unable to do that because of my neck issues, because carrying crates is an essential function of the job, it is the job, and if I can’t do that, I can’t do the job.  I think the same standard needs to apply to the religious freedom questions.

 

One of the first articles I wrote on this blog was in defense of a girl who had been fired from her job at Abercrombie because her hijab wasn’t part of the company dress code, even if she wore it in appropriate colors. That was unjust, because wearing a headscarf does not affect her ability to do her job as a salesperson.  Kim Davis held a job that, as one of its essential functions, required her to issue marriage licenses.  That was what the job was.  Either she has to perform the job or she needed to resign.  I’ve felt the same way about the so-called religious freedom clauses that allow magistrates or other workers to not perform ceremonies or file paperwork related to gay marriages.  Their job isn’t to pass judgment on who is getting married, it’s to do the process and allow the people to be on their way.  We don’t give clerks in divorce court an option to opt-out if they don’t agree why the person is getting divorced.  People need to do their jobs.  They are not obligated to be in those jobs if they feel uncomfortable, but the jobs have to get done.

 

Religious freedom is incredibly valuable in this country, and we owe it more than this.

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