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Conscientious Objection and Religious Freedom

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/10/2015 Joseph B. Kadane
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We have a long history of discussion about which things are governmental and which are religious. This question has come again over the refusal of Kim Davis, county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Ms. Davis has every right to her religious principles. As an elected official, she has every right to hold her office. However, gay couples also now have the right to obtain marriage licenses in Rowan County. As a result, Ms. Davis has several choices:
i.She can issue marriage licenses to gay couples. She may not approve of their marriage, but she could issue licenses nonetheless.
ii.She could allow her deputies to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
iii.She could resign her office.
iv.She could refuse to issue the licenses, refuse to allow her deputies to, and refuse to resign. In that case, it is likely she would be jailed again.
All four of these are honorable paths she might take. I can understand why (i) and perhaps (ii) are compromises with her beliefs that she rejects. I do not understand why (iii) is not a solution for her. Holding public office is not usually seen as a religious obligation. Freed of her office she is no longer in danger of contempt of court, as she would have relinquished her power (and obligation) to issue marriage licenses.
Going to jail is her other choice. Others before her have made similar choices, including conscientious objectors to the draft, and civil rights demonstrators. As a political matter, she is unlikely to persuade the country to reverse its recent endorsement of gay marriages. But she certainly has the right to try by choosing jail as a method of protest.
I wish her well.

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