Moore: Judges, Clerks Should Resign Over Marriage Rulings

Moore: Judges, Clerks Should Resign Over Marriage Rulings February 19, 2015

Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has made a highly controversial statement over the question of what Christian public officials should do in response to court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage. In short: They should resign.

“The citizens of Alabama are rightly concerned about the non-action–action by the United States Supreme Court in refusing to stay same-sex marriages in the state until the Court hands down its decision this June on the matter. The same Court that ruled in 2013 that marriage should be a state, not a federal matter, is now imposing a federal definition of marriage on a state. I suspect that Justice Thomas is right in saying that the Court is signaling where they want to go on marriage.

“As citizens and as Christians, our response should be one of both conviction and of respect for the rule of law (1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13). Our system of government does not allow a state to defy the law of the land.

“In a Christian ethic, there is a time for civil disobedience in cases of unjust laws. That’s why, for instance, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail. In the case of judges and state Supreme Court justices, though, civil disobedience, even when necessary, cannot happen in their roles as agents of the state. Religious freedom and conscience objections must be balanced with a state’s obligation to discharge the law. We shouldn’t have officials breaking the law, but civil servants don’t surrender their conscience simply by serving in government. While these details are being worked out, in the absence of any conscience protections, a government employee faced with a decision of violating his conscience or upholding the law, would need to resign and protest against it as a citizen if he could not discharge the duties of his office required by law in good conscience.

“Given the high bar required for civil disobedience, the way to address same-sex marriage in this circumstance is not by defying the rule of law, but by making our case before the legitimate authorities. If we lose, our responsibility is to advocate as citizens for our views, even if that project is (as in the case of the pro-life movement) a long-term project, while we work for our constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience and religious liberty.”

I am all for this. If a judge, court clerk or other public official whose job involves issuing marriage licenses or performing marriages is so bigoted that they think they have the right to refuse to comply with the laws and offer government services on an equal basis to all citizens, they shouldn’t be in that job. They should resign.

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