Monday, June 16, 2014

Shame on You, Franklin County, Virginia!

I am a resident of this great Commonwealth, but there are very few things that make me more angry than when people in power deny rights to others because of their own biases. 

This is one of a number of articles on this topic, but here is the bottom line: A couple in Franklin County, VA, went to the county courthouse to be married, only to be told by a court-appointed officiant--yes, someone paid by the county to marry people--that he wouldn't marry them because neither of them believe in God. 

You'd think with a plot line like this one, it would have appeared in the Onion, right? WRONG. 

Sadly, this really happened. A county official denied the right of marriage to two people who legally have the right to do so because of the official's religious beliefs. What makes it worse is that the officiant originally agreed to marry them, but only at his church and not in the courthouse. And then he refused to marry them. SUCH BULLSHIT! 

The couple contacted the county clerk, who was stunned, and the clerk asked the couple to contact the judge who appointed said officiant. The judge did not see any problem with the officiant's behavior. Luckily, the county courthouse has a second officiant who has no hangups with agnostics, and the couple will be married in the next few weeks. 

What is scary about this whole incident is the simple fact that the officiant said the couple "did not have the right" to be married because they did not believe in God. The couple recorded the officiant saying it, so while not everything you read on the Internet is true, they've got this on tape. Smart move on the part of the couple, actually. 

Every person has a right to marry if they choose. Here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, homosexuals hopefully will be able to marry soon, but it is not legal yet. That aside, however, if you are unmarried, divorced, or widowed, and you want to marry someone, and obtain a license to marry that person, then the county should have no trouble performing a civil ceremony. 

What does this mean for non-Christians? Well, I would be hesitant working with the Franklin County Courthouse on anything, and I'm very glad I don't live there, because I wouldn't want to face the discrimination that this couple had to deal with. And we're not just talking about Witches or Wiccans, folks, or even Pagans of any kind. There are plenty of non-Christians out there. 

I had the same reaction to this story as I did when I heard that pharmacists can choose to not fill prescriptions for  birth control or the morning-after pill. If that's how you feel, then perhaps this isn't the right career for you. It's easy to say "find another officiant" or "find another pharmacist", but if people don't speak up, then these people will continue to get away with bigotry. 

And what about the judge, who believes this kind of behavior should be tolerated? Would anyone who is not Christian want to go before his court and trust that they would not be discriminated against? We don't have any evidence of bigotry on his part, of course. But could you trust his judgment if he allows discrimination to occur in his jurisdiction? I don't think I would. 

There is a simple solution to this problem: Both the officiant and the judge should be removed. There's no place for bigotry in any government--municipal, county, state, or Federal. 

I hope the citizens of Franklin County send a strong message by not re-electing this particular judge, and by firing this officiant. 


  1. The fact that, in this day and age, people still have hang-ups about religious beliefs or people's personal life choices is beyond maddening. I agree, John, the officiant and the judge should be removed from office as soon as possible.