Religious Liberty: For Better or Worse

In, “We Don’t Need Kim Davis to Be in Jail,” my colleague Ryan T. Anderson recommends that public officials who oppose same-sex marriage should be able to choose which public they will serve based on their religious definition of marriage, so long no couple is “inconvenienced.”

I appreciate his willingness to find a middle-way, however, a balance has already been struck.

That balance is found in the fact that religious liberty has two principles for one freedom: free exercise and disestablishment.

Religious groups have historically used the disestablishment principle to protect religious organizations from government overreach. That is why today, private, religiously affiliated schools that have traditional marriage clauses can legally, and do, terminate the employment of single pregnant women and openly gay teachers. Although I think it’s morally repugnant to kick single moms and gays to the curb, I do understand why it is legal.

For better or worse, the constitution does not consider those teachers to have the right to work at the private religious school any more than a county clerk, like Kim Davis, has the right to employment by the state.

The constitution protects the religion from the state and protects the government from elected officials who put their God’s law above civil laws.

If a citizen chooses to work for a private religious school they serve that private population, under the rules of that private religion. A citizen who chooses to work as a public official serves all members of the public indiscriminately, under the rule of law.

Those who break the law, and deny others equal protection under the law, should accept the consequences, so as not to “inconvenience” classes of people whose rights have historically been denied.


Reverend Nathan C. Walker is executive director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, DC and co-editor of Whose God Rules? with foreword by Tony Blair.

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