Time to Give Conscientious Objector Status to Bakers and Clerks

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Published on: July 16, 2015

My father grew up in the pacifist Mennonite tradition. When it came time for him to serve in the U.S. military in World War II, he was granted conscientious objector status and allowed to serve as a medic rather than bear arms. He served his country nobly and well, and in fact was exposed to considerable risk as he provided medical care to wounded soldiers near the front.

But in classic American fashion, he was not compelled to violate his own conscience and his own deeply held religious convictions. Such concessions to Christian principle have been a part of our system of American values from the founding. Quakers, for instance, were exempt from being pressed into militia service as far back as 1757.

Not only Quakers and Mennonites, but the Amish, the Church of the Brethren, and the Seventh-day Adventists have been known as non-combatants.

And the provision has not even been limited to Christians. Jehovah’s Witnesses have historically claimed CO status, and the Supreme Court in the end even allowed Muhammad Ali to avoid military service altogether on the grounds of conscientious objections based on his newly acquired Islamic faith.

Such accommodations to conscience are even embedded in the Constitution itself. In three different places, it allows the use of an “affirmation” in the place of an “oath,” out of respect for the deeply held Quaker conviction that Jesus prohibited the taking of oaths in Matthew 5:34-37.

With regard to the cultural conflict over marriage, It’s long past time that we grant conscientious objector status to Christians who bake cakes and Christians who serve as county clerks. In fact, the same CO status must be made available to every wedding vendor, whether he bakes cakes, shoots photographs, arranges flowers, prints invitations, or hosts receptions.

And the same CO status must be granted to county clerks, magistrates, judges, and justices of the peace who may be asked to dispense licenses or perform ceremonies for homosexual or lesbian couples.

Regrettably, many in the wedding license business have chosen to resign rather than resist when asked to participate in the same-sex marriage process. While resigning is certainly understandable in today’s climate, it represents a dangerous lurch in the direction of creating a society in which Christians are not allowed to serve in public office of any kind.

No American should be compelled to violate his own conscience as a condition of participating in American society, whether economically or politically. Until natural marriage is restored to its rightful place, allowances based on deeply held Christian conviction must be made.

Ohio showed us how such an accommodation can be fashioned, when Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell politely declined to perform a same-sex wedding based upon his “personal and Christian beliefs.” Because performing such weddings is not a problem for presiding judge Michelle Wagner, she stepped forward and offered to perform all requested wedding ceremonies. Judge McConnell’s conscience thus is protected, and homosexuals get to have the weddings the Supreme Court in all its benighted wisdom has authorized.

A Christian objection to participating in a ceremony creating a counterfeit marriage based on abnormal sexual behavior is clearly rooted in Scripture. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness,” the apostle commands us in Ephesians 5:11. From a biblical perspective, solemnizing a sodomy-based wedding is clearly taking part in an unfruitful work of darkness.

Conscientious objector status for wedding vendors and wedding officiants is an idea whose time has come.

Bottom line: if a student cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in violation of conscience, a baker must not be compelled to bake a cake nor a judge to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. It’s the American thing to do.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

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