No refusal allowed for civil servants in Groningen

Three civil servants in the city of Groningen, the city on whose edge I live and where I go to Church, have been in the news lately for their refusal to marry same-sex couples. The city council has decided that all civil servants who are able to perform civilian weddings should do so for both same-sex and different-sex couples. The three aforementioned people are unable to do so in good conscience. The city will now allow them to continue until the end of their contract in 2014, but then they will not be retaining them.

In essence this story is pretty straightforward. If an employee in any job does not perform as expected, they most likely will not be kept on. But in this case there is more to it.

The news story breaks about a month after Groningen hosted Pink Saturday, a gay pride event, and mere days before Amsterdam’s big Gay pride event. COC, a gay interest club, has been protesting via posters against government policy to not immediately fire civil servants who refuse to marry same-sex couples. There is therefore a strong lobby against the legal and human rights of people to act according to their conscience.

A matter of contracts and job performance has now become a much larger issue of freedom of conscience.

My personal opinion about the case may be quite clear. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman (including the civilian one, since that flows directly from true sacramental marriage), so I agree with the three civil servants who will have to find other work in three years time. That is not an expression of hate or intolerance, but mere fact. Just as I will never be able to fly by flapping my arms up and down, two people of the same sex can not marry. It is an impossibility.

But that’s as may be… Even if you don’t agree with the above statement, this case should still be worrying. We live in a society which prides itself on freedom and liberty, and that includes freedom of conscience, religion and speech. Increasingly, various lobby groups, of which the pro-gay lifestyle lobby group is one of the strongest, are willing to deny these freedoms for anyone who does not agree with their own freedoms*. This, I believe is an example of that.

The opinion that same-sex marriage is supported by everyone, and that therefore these three civil servants are the exception, is not true, I believe. But it is used as a reason to suppress any and all contrary opinion. Our free and liberal society should be open to all opinions, except those that are politically incorrect. That is something we see more and more, and that should worry us.

In Groningen, there is now no choice between who will be marrying you. Everyone believes in all things, and so essentially, no one believes in anything anymore.

* And that’s not a strictly Dutch problem, either. In Brazil, a proposed Hetero Pride parade has been attacked by pro-gay groups as ‘discriminatory’… I too think it’s nonsense, but I also think that of all pride parades. We don’t pick our own sexual orientation, so where’s the achievement to be proud of?

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I'm a 36-year-old lay Catholic from the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. I write about the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. I not only enjoy bringing selected developments to the attention of readers, but I also think that it is sometimes important to allow a wider audience to read about the state of the Church in the Netherlands. That's why a fair number of posts about that topic will be translations of Dutch articles, episcopal writings and whatever else.

3 thoughts on “No refusal allowed for civil servants in Groningen”

  1. This is a development I’m very concerned about. What we see is a breach with a tradition The Netherlands has long taken pride in: making accommodations for conscious objectors. This is ushering in something new: a ban for orthodox Christians (and Jews and Muslims as well, since also for them same sex marriage is as much an impossibility as an abomination) to become a registry clerk. Which of our freedoms is next to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness?

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