I didn’t see much sense in making a lady in Indiana (or anywhere else) cater a gay wedding if she didn’t want to, so I said the Religious Freedom Act sounded like a fine idea – which turned out to be like lighting the fuse to a stick of dynamite.
Before I knew it I’d been accused of wanting to allow restaurants to refuse to serve African Americans – after all, I was told, if a fellow could say no to catering a gay wedding (because of his religious beliefs) he could say no to serving an African-American in his restaurant for the same reason.
In a way, it sounded oddly logical – until I thought of Alvin York.
Back in 1917, when Alvin York was drafted he wrote back he was a Pacifist. A Conscientious Objector.
Back in those days, before we got entangled in modernism, folks had a pretty sensible way of solving those kinds of problems – when one fellow’s religion ran head-on into another fellow’s law.
First, they asked: Was York’s Pacifism a genuine religious belief or a scam to avoid the draft?
What happened next was simple too: If York’s religious belief was genuine he’d still be drafted but he’d be working in someplace like an army hospital. He wouldn’t be shooting Germans.
And if his belief wasn’t genuine, well, he was off to Flanders Fields.
In fact the powers-that-be decided Sergeant York’s Pacifism wasn’t genuine. Because his tiny mountain church – the Church of Christ in Christian Union – was not recognized as a legitimate Christian denomination. So off he went to boot camp in Georgia where his commander convinced him shooting Germans wasn’t sinful after all and, well, the rest is legend.
Right now, in North Carolina, we have a similar problem – with religious beliefs and new laws colliding head-on.
After a federal court in Richmond ruled gay marriage was the law of the land, six magistrates said they couldn’t in good conscience marry gay couples and what happened next was a far cry from how folks treated Conscientious Objectors back in 1917 – the magistrates were told they could either perform the marriage ceremonies – or be fired. Or prosecuted. And, even, sent to jail.
Faced with a choice between keeping their jobs and keeping their faith – all six magistrates resigned.
Which was a pretty harsh outcome.
So State Senate Leader Phil Berger stepped in to offer a compromise: He said the law was the law and gays had a right to marry but if a magistrate had a religious objection he could be excused and another magistrate could take his place. Then Berger went a step further and gave judges the power to perform gay marriages if there was a shortage of magistrates.
Of course, that didn’t suit some folks. But, on the other hand, it was a lot like allowing Conscientious Objectors to serve as medics.