Right Opinion

On the Magistrate and Narrow...

Tony Perkins · Jun. 3, 2015

If the government wants to boost jobs, it ought to stop driving people out of the ones they have! In places like North Carolina, help is wanted — but conscience isn’t. At least six offices are scrambling to find new magistrates now that the state has made violating personal beliefs a condition of employment.

When the courts struck down the Tar Heels’ 2012 marriage amendment, North Carolina’s Administrative Office of the Court decided to chuck the First Amendment along with it, issuing a decree that officials would either perform same-sex “marriages” or clean out their offices. Of course, the great irony here is that liberals have always encouraged the courts to impose their personal views on the law. Now, when judges want to recuse themselves because of them, the Left screams “prejudice!”

Like other states, North Carolina is desperately trying to strike a balance between court’s order for same-sex “marriage” with religious liberty. And so far, the biggest obstacle is their own governor. In a gutless move, Pat McCrory (R) vetoed a perfectly reasonable opt-out for the state’s officials. Under the measure passed by the House and Senate, magistrates could exempt themselves from same-sex “weddings” if they agreed to recuse themselves from all weddings for at least six months. If a judge declined to officiate, another one would be brought in to perform the service — meaning that no harm would be done to the state or the couples by this law.

As the bill’s sponsor, state Senator Phil Berger (R), pointed out, “If a same-sex couple wants to get married in North Carolina, they will have the opportunity to get married in North Carolina.” But, he qualified, “Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean they give up their First Amendment rights.”

Apparently, Governor McCrory disagrees. In a garbled statement after his veto (which, not-so-coincidentally, came hours after Cargo Transporters threatened to take $20 million of business out of the state), he used some flimsy excuse about state officials needing to uphold their oath of office. “We are a nation and a state of laws… No public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath.”

First of all, natural marriage was the law in North Carolina, as decided by a whopping 61% of voters. The only people ignoring that law are the activist judges who overturned it! Secondly, the Constitution McCrory claims to be defending is built on the religious liberty that his veto bulldozes! As if it weren’t enough that the courts stripped the people’s voice, now the government wants to punish their belief as well. “What this bill does is provide a balancing act,” Rep. Dean Arp explained, “that ensures that marriages are performed in a blind fashion.”

It’s the perfect solution — or so leaders thought. Unfortunately for America, the Left isn’t satisfied with compromise, even genuinely sensible ones like North Carolina’s. Their goal is to tyrannize and terrorize until the country fully submits. As a result, 2.3% of the population gets 100% of the protection. Once again, liberals want “tolerance” but refuse to give it. It’s like driving around with a “coexist” bumper sticker while you run over people with different beliefs.

“For many people, marriage is a religious institution and weddings are a religious sacrament,” the University of Illinois’s Robin Wilson writes. “For them, assisting with marriage ceremonies has a religious significance that commercial services that are subject to non-discrimination bans, like ordering burgers and hailing taxis, simply do not.”

The North Carolina Senate understands that, which is why they voted 32-16 to override the governor’s veto. The failure, they say, is on the part of the government for not making an effort to shield everyone. As early as [today], the House is expected to try to clear the hurdle they need to make S.B. 2 law. But they need your help. The North Carolina Family Policy Institute has been working around the clock to find members bold enough to do what the people asked: respect their beliefs.

If you’re a Tar Heel — or know someone who is — ask them to call or email their state representatives today. “Conscience,” James Madison said, “is the most sacred of all property.” Don’t let the government steal yours.

Weighing Graham against the Field

“Sometimes it seems as if they are in a contest to see who can be the most stalwart defender of ‘traditional marriage,’” a frustrated Mary Cheney wrote about the GOP candidates. And aren’t we relieved that they are! If you want to know where voters are on the issue, look at the candidates — including the latest one: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Jumping into the pool hours apart from Senator Rick Santorum, the South Carolina conservative knows he has his work cut out for him. But a solid record should help. Like most of this year’s field, the former Air Force lawyer and judge cares enough about America to want to defend it. After seven years of President Obama’s foreign policy, nothing is more urgent than restoring the trust and credibility we have on the global stage. That seems to be priority number one for candidate number nine. To a hometown crowd, Graham said, “I’m afraid some Americans have grown tired of fighting [ISIS].” But, he went on, “I have bad news to share with you: The radical Islamists are not tired of fighting you.”

Apart from defense issues, Graham has a long record of fighting for key values — including life, marriage, and religious liberty. He’s the major sponsor of the Senate’s version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortion after 20 weeks when babies feel excruciating pain. For years, Graham has also fought online gambling, Common Core, and for abstinence education. In the last Congress, he was the main sponsor of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. Some pundits think the Republican field is too crowded — but if the choices are as solid as these, what do voters have to lose?

Petal Pushers: Left Digs in on Florist’s Rights

Washington State hasn’t exactly been kind to Barronelle Stutzman. The longtime florist and grandmother risks losing her shop, her home, and her freedom under the state’s strong-arm tactics. Running out of options, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers is asking Washington’s Supreme Court to take up her case. In a brief just filed by her attorneys (and our friends) at Alliance Defending Freedom, Stutzman is urging the judges to overturn a lower-court ruling that could destroy the life she’s spent decades building.

Even after all she’s been through, Barronelle stands by her decision not to arrange the flowers for a customer’s same-sex ceremony. (Watch her story here.) “I waited on Rob for nine years and created flowers for him on all types of occasions, but when it comes to my faith, marriage is between a man and a woman, and that’s where the line is drawn. I cannot create something for him in good faith; I wouldn’t be honoring God’s Word.”

ADF hopes the court sees that the real victims of discrimination are Christians with sincerely held beliefs. “Barronelle regularly serves gay and lesbian clients, and will continue to do so. She gladly served Robert for nearly a decade. Her only objection is to using her artistic abilities to create artistic custom arrangements celebrating a particular event, i.e., a marriage ceremony that her religion teaches is contrary to God’s plan and spiritually harmful to her. This religious objection extends to any marriage that is not between a man and a woman, not just those involving two persons of the same sex.”

Forcing Barronelle to use her talent to celebrate a ceremony that violates her faith “under threat of personal and professional liability for fines and ruinous attorneys’ fees awards” is wrong, the brief explains. As the same court has already ruled, “Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak or to have one’s [resources] used to advocate ideas one opposes.” Join us in praying for Barronelle — and all of the courageous Americans who are standing for their faith no matter what it costs them. To read other stories, click over to FRC’s Free to Believe site.


This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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