Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Rights of Civil Servants

When does an individuals relgious freedom trump that freedom of a civil liberty? This is the question that the Saskatchewan Court System will be deciding on over the coming months. The Sask Party has brought forth a Bill in the Legislature that would allow commissioners to refuse couples asking to be married, on religious grounds. This legislations was introduced because the story of Orville Nichols, a commissioner who refused to marry a same-sex couple in 2005, even though Gay marriage is legal in Canada. The couple, though getting married by another commissioner, brought Nichols before the SK Human Rights Council, which then fined Nichols a pretty penny for his refusal.

So where do we cross the line? When does a religious feeling trump government law? Though I respect the commissioners belief against gay marriage, he is legally required to perform ceremony's that the Government of Canada has deemed legal. Supporters of the Sask party's bill claim that this bill is a necessity because if it is not implemented it requires commissioners to put their rights to religious freedom at risk.

Opponents on the other hand, claim that this bill would allow for many other forms of discrimination. Let me give two examples. First, a Jewish Commissioner is asked to perform a ceremony that would unite a Jewish woman and a Christian man. Under this proposed bill, the commissioner would be able to deny his services, because in Judaism for a Jew to marry someone outside of Judaism is a grave offense. Or lets say that black man and a white woman want to get married, a commissioner might be able to claim that the "Bible does not allow me to sanction inter-racial marriages". Though these examples seem outlandish based upon cultural norms of the day, why are gay people any different?

So in my opinion, if the government of Canada has recognized the right of gay couples to get married, any civil servant - those who provides a government service and is financed by taxpayers should be required to uphold the law regardless of personal belief. If a commissioner does not want to abide by the legal LAW of the land he should not be allowed to be involved in a civil service. On the other hand, if said commissioner wants to abide by religious law, he should become a member of the clergy.

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