I just received an “URGENT ACTION!” alert to spare theologically conservative magistrates in our state from needing to perform civil unions between same-sex couples. I can appreciate their discomfort, but not the idea that “religious liberty” is at issue.
SB 2 (Magistrates Recusal of Civil Ceremonies) was introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and passed by the Senate on February 26. It would allow magistrates and assistant registers of deeds to opt out of issuing licenses and performing marriages between same-sex couples. This became a concern in 2014 following the legalization of marriages between same-sex couples in our state. Several North Carolina magistrates resigned their positions rather than violate their religious beliefs.
I find many verses in the Bible that urge us to endure persecution for the sake of our faith. I do not find any that recommend public quarrels on behalf of a claim to “religious liberty.” The text on missionary cross-cultural communication I am currently editing for an InterVarsity Press author specifically notes that “religious liberty” is a concept foreign to the biblical text.
When we try to contextualize, I do understand that the Apostle Paul noted his rights as a Roman citizen to force a certain kind of trial when he was imprisoned. Still, going to original intent, our Second Amendment was not written to give every kind of religious freedom. My own ancestors were slandered as tax evaders when they were called by the Spirit in a Methodist revival, because they then sought liberty from the tax that at the time and place supported Congregational ministers.
The Second Amendment was carefully drafted to allow those among the several states which had state religions to continue enforcing them — thus my ancestors’ dilemma — but none to suffer a national religion.
North Carolina does not have a state religion. Those of us who are Christians must expect persecution and God expects us to endure it, peaceably. We would do better to prepare alternative employment for those magistrates who need to leave their jobs.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2