What your workplace does should be in accordance with your belief systems. Buddha speaks about this in his concept of “right livelihood.” It is a smart idea to get a job at a place that does things that are harmonious with what you practice. So what do you do if their policies change and are suddenly opposite to your values? Thus we enter the idea of the “conscientious objector”. You must not do anything that is in violation of your religious beliefs. Sure, you answer to your boss, but more so, you answer to your God.
So what do you do? Do you stay, do you quit, or do you find a middle ground?
There are people who were drafted into the army during the Vietnam War who were pacifists. Because of their religious beliefs, they could not kill anyone. So they trained to do something else other than being a soldier, such as being a medic or a radio technician. They did not apply for that job. They were drafted. So they couldn’t quit, but they found a way that appeased them and their commanding officers. They didn’t attempt to prevent other people from killing. It was simply important that they not kill.
You should never do anything that is against your belief system – but you must remember that others do not share your belief system and thus are not under the same rules you are.
I just read a news report about a mob of a hundred Hindus who killed a Muslim man they accused of eating beef. The man they killed does not share their belief system. He is under no obligation to avoid eating a cow. They accused him of doing something that is against their belief system. The crowd came to his house, broke down his door, and killed him by throwing bricks at him. There is evidence that he was eating mutton, not beef, so it is even more nonsensical. There was no trial, just mob rule.
It is perfectly acceptable to refrain from doing something that is against your beliefs. It is not acceptable at all to expect others to follow your belief system’s rules. They have made no such vows.
The Kentucky marriage license clerk who is in the news is not being asked to marry a woman. She herself will not have to engage in any homosexual acts. If she feels that homosexuality is in opposition to the teachings of Christ, then it is logical that she should not engage in homosexuality. However – there is nothing in those teachings about not allowing other people to be homosexual.
Consider this. There are plenty of Hindu sandwich-store owners who serve beef every day to their non-Hindu customers. There are plenty of people who are opposed to premarital sex for religious reasons who own hotels – yet they don’t check the marriage licenses of each couple that check in.
Your religious practice is yours. Theirs is theirs. You should police yourself, and nobody else. In exactly the same way you don’t want them to force their beliefs on you, you should not force yours on them.
Being a conscientious objector is about you not doing anything against your belief system – you, and only you. It has nothing to do with not allowing others to do things that are against your belief system. Being a conscientious objector does not mean that you have a right to tell other people how to live their lives. It does not mean that you have a right to expect them to live according to your religious beliefs.
Interestingly, according to that clerk’s own belief system, she is a sinner because she has married someone else while her ex-husband is still alive. In the very words of Jesus, this makes her an adulteress, and her current husband is an adulterer.
In the words of Jesus – “I tell you that any man who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And if a person divorces their spouse and marries another person, they commit adultery. Everyone who marries a divorced woman is also guilty of adultery.” LK 16:18, MT 19:9, MK 10:11 (combined)
She is simply not doing the job that she is required to do at this point. If you are paid to do a job, and you do not perform it (for any reason) it is reasonable to expect that you would be fired. Another option is that you can quit and find another job that is in line with your values. But you can’t be expected to continue to be employed if you choose to not do the job you were hired for.
I support the clerks’ right to not be forced to do anything that she thinks is wrong. However, she has taken it too far by expecting other people to follow her beliefs. She should quit and find another job.
What if an Amish person was employed by the DMV? Since he is not allowed to drive, should he have the right to deny other people driver’s licenses? He is not being forced by his job to drive. His beliefs are not being violated.
What if a Seventh-Day-Adventist was working as a waitress and a person ordered an alcoholic beverage? Since she is not allowed by her religion to drink, should she have the right to not serve alcoholic beverages to her customer? She is not being forced by her job to drink. Her beliefs are not being violated.
The only time when a workplace is allowed to tell other people what to do is when it directly affects the health and safety of others, as in the case of smoking or drinking. Secondhand smoke has been proven to be harmful to others, so it is reasonable for a business to not allow smoking in their building. Drunk driving has been proven to kill people, so it is reasonable for a restaurant to stop serving alcohol to someone if they appear inebriated.
But it is not reasonable for a person to deny other people’s legal rights because they feel that that person is going to break a rule that they have not agreed to. It is not the business of religion to police other people. In fact, Jesus says repeatedly that the individual must make sure that s/he is following the rules, and leave out everyone else. Other people’s business is not our business.