Do I have to pass some bureaucrat’s religious test?

Rob Tisinai

July 20th, 2011

Occasionally Jon Stewart compiles a montage of far-right-wingers using some little phrase to push the party line (death panels, or shoving it down our throats). These phrases are obviously contrived and distributed. They’re usually empty or false. And they sometimes “work” — sort of.

But the tactic isn’t always dishonorable. A good talking point can have a great and lasting impact and still be true. We could use one like that now, when a few New York state Town Clerks are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses while our opponents hail them as heroes of religious freedom.

I’ve come up with something. How does it sound?

In New York, you’ve got state employees demanding you pass their personal religious test before they’ll help you. That’s not religious freedom. In fact, it’s the opposite.

It’s quick, to the point, and true. If I were to point out a key phrase, it would be pass their personal religious test, as in:

  • Should you have to pass some bureaucrat’s personal religious test before you get the services your tax dollars paid for?
  • Where in the Constitution does it say a government employee can make you pass their personal religious test before getting service?
  • Government officials aren’t gods, they’re public servants — they can’t force me to pass their personal religious test before doing their job. 

And if you want to take the conversation further, offer hypotheticals that have nothing to do with gays.

  • Do you want a Town Clerk refusing a marriage license to an interfaith couple because they don’t pass his personal religious test?
  • Do you want a city official turning down your permit for a public gathering because you’ll have dancing and that doesn’t pass her personal religious test?
  • Do you want the zoning committee to turn down your church’s building permit because your faith doesn’t pass their personal religious test?

If you like this approach it, take it. Post it. Share it. Pass it on.


July 20th, 2011

What about an atheist official refusing permits to religious groups? I wonder if the Christian fundamentalists would support that persons decisions…


July 20th, 2011

It is so simple yet spot on!

Mary in Austin

July 20th, 2011

Rob, you hit the nail on the head.
Plenty of women seeking oral contraceptives or emergency contraception have failed various pharmacists’, or even pharmacy clerks’, religious tests. (The hateful Jeebusites have been grooming susceptible drugstore employees for over a decade, and a coupe of years ago their results started hitting the headlines.)

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011


I love your new catch-phrase. Apparently we both were writing at the same time so I didn’t include it in my commentary but I’ll go back and see if I can work it in.

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011

Ah yes, I worked it in. Much better.

Tim Stewart

July 20th, 2011

Nice, short, to the point, and perfectly indestructible. Your mention that multiple clerks were doing this made me think “Again?”.. so I checked.. and found this:

Read it carefully. If “Official marriage officer” is a role of Town Clerk, and not a separately identified position of employment, then she has a problem here I think. Tim, Rob, et al, what do you think?


July 20th, 2011

Are there actually any “state employees” (as in your red-highlighted sentence above) demanding that applicants pass their personal religious test? or is it the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue insisting that applicants pass state employees’ religious tests?

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011


Other articles make it clear that Cinti kept her job as Town Clerk and will issue licenses to gay couples, but will no longer conduct marriages herself.


July 20th, 2011

If it doesn’t prevent me from getting my marriage license, I don’t care if a bigoted clerk has to leave the window and call someone over to process my paperwork. If they were actually trying to make it impossible, or even harder, to get a license, that would be unacceptable. But I haven’t seen any instances of that yet.

Donny D.

July 21st, 2011

What you’ve come up with is great.

Mark F.

July 21st, 2011


So it’s OK if a KKK member refuses to issue a marriage license for a mixed race couple and sends the couple to another clerk or window, as long as it’s not too big of an inconvenience for the couple?

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