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Valhar2000

Well, Greta, at the risk of being lambasted by liberal Christians for telling God's Honest Truth (tm): there is no lie on god's green earth so big that a christian somewhere won't tell it.

Sam

Or you could just try a bit of hurt-religious-feelings grandstanding before you've even got the job...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2144714/Muslim--hairdresser-awarded-andpound4,000-for-'hurt-feelings'-over-headscarf.html

TheNerd

I have refused job interviews once I've done further research into what their company stands for. (In most cases they are for-profit insurance companies, an industry that is in essence parasitic.)

I would hope that instead of performing their jobs to a lesser ability, most others would join me in simply choosing a job that they can do whole-heartedly.

Jon Berger

Not that I disagree with your essential point, but one slight difference between the clerk and the principal is that county clerks are elected officials. That sort of changes what "doing their job" means: elected officials are accountable to the electorate, and the electorate gets to weigh in on whether or not they're doing their job properly every four years, so at some level their actual job is to make the electorate happy. I suspect that that's what the Kern and Butte County clerks think they're doing, and they may very well be right. Much as it pains me to defend these folks, I think there's a case to be made that standing up against a law they strongly disagree with and they think their constituents strongly disagree with IS a demonstration of the courage of their convictions, comparable to the principal quitting. In effect, they're telling their constituents "Here, look, I'm doing this for you because I believe that you believe that I should. If I'm wrong, vote me out next time. If I'm right, vote me in." I think the rules really are, and should be, a little different for people who are directly accountable at the ballot box than they are for the pharmacists and the teachers and so forth.

Tracy Canfield

I think you've cast this issue in a black and white way - "If there's a conflict between personal religious beliefs and your employer, your employer always wins, and that's as it should be". US laws are more nuanced on this point, and I personally prefer the current system to what you seem to be proposing.

Under federal law, employers must make reasonable accommodations for religious belief. (The world being what it is, "reasonable" usually means "inexpensive".) That might mean arranging schedules so that Orthodox Jewish employees don't have to work on the Sabbath (even if employees don't normally get Saturdays off) or allowing Muslim women whose beliefs require modest clothing to wear scarves (even if they're not normally part of the employee uniform).

But "reasonable" is a subjective term, and there's a continuum from "reasonable" to "unreasonable". Last year there was a flap about Target allowing Muslim cashiers to ask customers to scan their own pork products - I would have considered that a reasonable accommodation, but after public outcry, Target transferred the cashiers to other jobs within the store. At the other end of the spectrum, an ASL interpreter was fired for refusing to sign the word "damn", and the courts concluded that her beliefs couldn't be accommodated because her job was to interpret, not to editorialize.

And then there's a gray area in the middle - How expensive does something have to be to be unreasonable? What if the employer proposes one reasonable accommodation, but the employee wants something else? (The employer generally wins that one.)

If you were just arguing that Kern and Butte Counties shouldn't be able to stop performing marriages, that this goes far beyond reasonable accommodation, I'd agree with you. But when you say "When your professional obligations conflict with your religious convictions, don't your convictions themselves require you to piss or get off the pot?", you seem to be saying something much stronger - that the employee manual is as unchallengeable and unchanging as any sacred text, and that if you don't like it, you should "make a sacrifice" and "accept the consequences". Either you stand up and resign, or you're in "the First Church of the Weasel". And that's not a position I can agree with.

paul

I think that the SC principal has more in common with these counties than you thought, I'm surprised you didn't bring it up. The principal is resigning after next year, he hasn't resigned yet. And in the meantime, the school is deciding whether or not to ban ALL clubs so that it won't have to allow the GSA club. Kind of like stopping ALL weddings. These people are all the same.

Greta Christina

Jon:

With all due respect, I don't agree. If the Kern County Clerk had been concerned about the will of the people, I think she would have acted differently. She could have taken a poll, she could have started a ballot initiative. And it's not like her actions will stop same-sex marriages in Kern County. They just mean that she, personally, doesn't have to participate in them.

When you read the details of the news stories about her actions, they don't look like an elected official trying to act in accordance with the will of the people. They add up to an individual using her position in government to impose her personal prejudices on everyone else.

Greta Christina

Tracy: I agree that reasonable accommodations should be made by employers for religious convictions. (Although it does somewhat pose the question: Why should accommodations be made for religious convictions and not any other kind of convictions?) But as you point out, that doesn't apply in either of these cases.

I guess I thought that was obvious. But if it wasn't, I'll apologize and clarify. In cases where professional obligations and religious convictions conflict, AND where no reasonable compromise or accommodation can be reached, then an employee needs to piss or get off the pot, and not inflict their beliefs on everyone else.

And my main point still stands. Which is that the actions of these county clerks is totally weaselly. They're supposedly trying to stand up for their convictions, but they're doing so in a dishonest and cowardly way, telling transparent lies about their motivations and refusing to accept any personal risk or consequence for their actions. That's not part of any religious convictions I know about (except maybe the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition).

Leonb

Good one, Greta. I was in an analogous position once. I was a serious, committed vegetarian (for ethical reasons), and really needed a summer job (I was in college), so I took what I could get: I worked for Arby's. Not only that, but my job was to be the one making the roast beef sandwiches. (For anyone not familiar with Arby's, that's just about all they sell.)

So, what does a committed vegetarian do when he's supposed to make roast beef sandwiches for the business? I kept my mouth shut and made sandwiches.

Aaron Brown

Leonb:

> I kept my mouth shut and made sandwiches.

And presumably ate a lot of potato-based foods on your meal breaks!

Porscha

Right on... The end of this bull$#!& will be the greatest day...

Melissa

Hello! I've been reading (and mostly agreeing with) your blog for several months now. I haven't really felt compelled to comment (though I have linked to specific posts in various ways) so far. Today is different. Mostly because I wanted to commend you for not bashing (not that you do that in the normal course of things) Eddie Walker-the-person while still disagreeing with his religious views.

I can personally appreciate that because I know Mr. Walker. He was my elementary school principal and he's been a friend of my family for many years. I've read too many 'news' stories and other opinion pieces that don't agree with him and proceed to completely belittle him-as-a-person, when they don't know him at all.

Not that I agree with his views; I'm an atheist myself. And when I found out about this whole controversy, it shook me a bit. I'm used to thinking of him as a pillar of strength and enthusiastic encouragement for everyone. After he became principal of Irmo High, I overheard some theatre kids talking about how nice it was that their new principal was involved enough and cared enough to attend almost all of their shows.

But, he's just a man. It's rather sad when someone you respect (even if you used to make fun of his big booming voice and ubiquitous eager handshakes) goes down quite a few notches in your head. I can admire his standing by his convictions, though, even while completely not agreeing with those convictions.

Yes, he's resigning. And, it's true he's not resigning right away. (As paul said in an earlier comment.) He can't - he's contractually bound to serve out his term. It's possible that he and his employers will come to an amicable parting arrangement, but they do need to find a new principal. And no one that I know seriously believes that there's any way he could ban all school clubs.

Mainly, though, I wanted to thank you for (yet another) well-thought out piece of writing, especially since it hits so close to home for me.

Leon
I kept my mouth shut and made sandwiches.

And presumably ate a lot of potato-based foods on your meal breaks!

Why yes, as a matter of fact. I made whoppin' big baked potatoes with extra extra cheese. But that wasn't in protest or anything--just personal greed and opportunism. ;)

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