In a May 22 commentary, retired history professor James L. Hood argued for the right of public officials to refuse to carry out their duties if they have religious objections.
He mentioned specifically Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue a marriage license to gay couples and Family Court Judge Mitchell Nance’s refusal to hear applications for child adoption by gay couples.
Can workers at the Department of Motor Vehicles refuse to issue driver’s licenses to women if the workers’ religious beliefs say women should not drive? Where does one draw the line on what constitutes a religious objection to doing the job of a public official?
Many churches around the country have declared themselves sanctuary churches to protect undocumented immigrants from being deported.
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These are clearly decisions based on religious and moral belief, often based on keeping families together in which one parent may be undocumented.
There is one important distinction between the actions of the public officials and the clergy, however.
Public officials have sworn to uphold the laws of government as a condition of their job, whereas the clergy and others of conscience have not.