Saturday, September 5, 2015

On the nature of the law

Recently, a county clerk in Virginia was refusing to issue (and to allow to be issued) marriage licenses.  She refused so far as to end up in prison for contempt.  Some people think she was justified because of her religious beliefs (although she kinda missed the one where women aren't supposed to make these kinds of decisions, because women aren't supposed to hold offices). 

I'm not going to comment on the actions further, except to provide a parallelism.

Hey, I wonder if this photo is relevant to this discussion?
No, I don't wonder.  It's relevant.
So let's imagine, you go into the DMV (BMV, license office, whatever they call it now) because you need to get your license renewed, or perhaps you need tags on that new car you bought, or maybe you simply need a new copy because you lost your old one.

Cars.  Aren't they lovely things?
You happen to notice a bearded man standing behind the clerks.  Maybe he's Amish, maybe he's Jewish, perhaps a Quaker or Mennonite, maybe he's of a sect of Buddhism.  Maybe, just maybe, he's worships Thor, or perhaps Apollo.  You walk up to take care of your business, but the clerks inform you that they can't help you.  You see, this religious fellow who's running the lines decides that it's his religion that technology is an abomination before his religion, and he cannot in good faith issue a car license/tag/et cetera.


Being rightfully concerned, you demand this fellow do his job.  He turns you and everyone who wants to get a license away, because his thousand-year-old book says he can't do it.  Never mind that it's the law, and he has to let people get licenses, he's not going to go for it.

But you don't understand, I love my car.  We have a good relationship.
We aren't hurting anyone. It's a legal relationship.  Why can't I get my license?
Where would you stand on this issue?  Would you take the clerk's side on either issue?  I should hope this brings some clarity to the issue at hand.  Of course, I don't expect many Amish or Jewish folk to hold a public office with the sole intent of enforcing their religion, because they actually follow the part of their religion that tells them to respect the laws of the land, whether they like them or not.  It's really a reasonable thing, and it's part of that other county clerk's religion, too.

See you all next time!