Designated Driver of North America

Saskatchewan man wants state to become church – i.e. refuses to marry a gay couple

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan marriage commissioner Orville Nichols thinks the government of Saskatchewan should allow him to refuse to perform marriages of two other citizens — even though the right of those two citizens to marry is the SECULAR law of the land and he is the representative of that SECULAR law.

In this article of November 25, 2008, he (through his lawyer) makes his argument:

Philip Fourie, Nichols’ lawyer, said the lawsuit demands the province give marriage commissioners the legal right to not perform same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.


“This is clearly a horrible violation of Charter rights,” he said in a release Tuesday


“This problem can be easily fixed by simply allowing the commissioners a right to decline and pass on the ceremony request to another commissioner.”

Nope. Nuh uh. Noway, nohow.

By this same argument, a police officer can refuse to protect the safety of people he considers immoral, like prostitutes and junkies, because their lifestyle violates his religious beliefs and to protect them would be “condoning” how they live. By this argument, a surgeon in the ER can refuse to save the life of a gang member who has just been shot after he himself killed someone (eek! murder! a sin!).

Religious arguments cannot, can not, can NOT be used to justify a member of a secular profession refusing to follow the law of the land.


“The government promised to be different but they are not acting any differently at all on this issue,” he said.

“The pendulum has swung too far in favour of same-sex people and against people of faith.”

Nuh uh, buckaroo. That whining “we’re being picked on, waaaah!” argument just doesn’t fly.

This man is a representative of the SECULAR law of this country. He doesn’t want to represent the SECULAR law of his country, he is perfectly, perfectly free to align himself with a religious institution, and perform marriages of only those people he approves of.

And to say that treating every bloody citizen in the country equally is “against people of faith” is an outrage and a lie. I invite both him and his lawyer to read one of my essays about why anti-gay people cannot use secular law to discriminate religiously against fellow citizens: “Arguments against equal marriage: #2 Same-sex marriages harm the ‘sanctity’ of marriage.”

The law is secular explicitly for the PURPOSE of protecting everyone in this country – including Orville bloody Nichols — from having their rights violated by someone of faith, someone who might have some kind of power over him and who might think his deity wants him to prevent Nichols from doing something that is his right to do. The only reason Nichols doesn’t notice the benefits he dervies from secular law is because his faith is still the majority faith in this country.

But his faith, majority or not, still does not allow him to violate the law when he represents it in a secular capacity. He is perfectly free to perform all the marriages he approves of, as a minister or religious representative. The fact that he wants to extend his religious right in the secular realm demonstrates that he is either an idiot (the charitable interpretation) or that he’s whining because he can’t also be a tyrant. Which is, unfortunately, the more likely interpretation.


November 27, 2008 - Posted by | * Anti-democracy, * Canadian Cons' Skulduggery, * Equal marriage, * Theocracy, * War against Homosexuals | , , , , , , ,


  1. Exactly right, Phyl.

    Not. One. Inch.

    Every one of these louts who insist it’s their rights being infringed forgets that one of the core teachings of their own faith recognizes that the public, governmental sphere is separate from religious strictures — render unto Caesar etc.

    So at rock bottom it’s really all about their own wounded pride, not an insult to their deity.


    Comment by Mark Abbott | November 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. I wish to present a differing opinion.

    The current law in Canada allows any two individuals above a certain age, who are not closely related, to marry; it does not allow them to select a specific government employee and demand that he conduct the procedure. There is no law which compels any government employee to do every action commanded of him by any citizen, even if that action is legal.

    Nichols was intentionally selected for this marriage request because the applying party knew him to be morally opposed to homosexuality. It was a premeditated entrappment. Nichols has the right to refuse to engage in any activity which runs counter to his moral, religious, or ethical points-of-view.

    This, in fact, is the essence of the separation of Church and State. Neither shall have an undue influence over the other. Nichols can not prevent the marriage from taking place, (indeed, he provided the name of another commissioner, who then married the couple). Nor can the State impose any restriction upon a person’s religious beliefs, or the reasonable execution thereof.

    Your analogy with the police officer would be more precise if the job required the officer to do something contrary to his faith. I am not aware of any religious group which forbids coming to the assistance of a person in need — enen if that need is the result of behaviour that is either illegal, immoral, or just stupid. Police officers know what they are signing up for; but many years ago, when Nichols chose to be a marriage commisioner, he didn’t likely foresee today’s dilemna. I expect that over time we will see an attrition in the number of commisioners who are uncomfortable with being involved in the newly legal forms of marriage.

    But right now, Nichols has the same right to the consideration of his personal theology in carrying out his work as do Sikh police officers (with their turbans).

    The couple had no right refused to them. They were legally married by a marriage commisioner. Contrarily, Nichols has the right to defer to another commissioner if the union is problematic for him. In this case, I think he knew it was a mischief directed specifically at him in an effort to create a ’cause celebre’. Nichols has the legal right to recuse himself from such mischief, on the basis of his faith. The main point here is that such recusal did not impede the marrige ceremony.

    Similar legal precedence in Canada permit a doctor or a nurse to refuse to perform an abortion on moral grounds.

    You say: “Religious arguments cannot, can not, can NOT be used to justify a member of a secular profession refusing to follow the law of the land.” But the law of the land simply allows same-sex partners to marry; it does not allow them to compel one specific person to perform the marriage. The law must only insure that the facilities and individuals are available (en les deux langues).

    You say: “The only reason Nichols doesn’t notice the benefits he dervies from secular law is because his faith is still the majority faith in this country.” Nichols is a Baptist. The majority faith in this country is Roman Catholicism.

    In your final paragraph you reach into some of the basic principles separating the main opinions on this subject. I’m not a Baptist, but would guess that Nichols sees marriage as a type of sacrament (like the Catholics and many others). In the last century or so the State saw a need to co-opt the concept of marriage and make available (for the public good) a brand of marriage which would fulfill the needs of couples in society who wanted the same imprimatur that a religious marriage carries with it, without the religious baggage.

    Some people feel that the State has no more business being involved in marriage, than it would have if conducting or licensing baptism. True separation of Church and State would permit people in any number or gender to register a marriage conducted either at an altar or at a judge’s bench. And neither would be required to recognize the agreements of the other; nor would they be permitted to press their marital viewpoints on the other.

    Give Nichols a break; as long as the government provides a commissioner to perform the ceremony, then the rights of same-sex couples are being met, and everyone should be happy.

    Comment by Craig Schindler | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Nope. Doesn’t fly. A representative of the civil government can NOT pick and choose which laws of the land to enforce.

    No cop can refuse to give protection to a prostitute, against her pimp, because he considers her lifestyle immoral.

    We do NOT live in a Shari’a style system of law in this country. Whether it’s Christian Shari’a or Muslim Shari’a. Period.

    Nichols is there as SOMEONE WHO PERFORMS LEGAL MARRIAGES. That’s his actual *JOB*, as a government representative, for goodness’ sake! He doesn’t have the discretion there. That’s what he’s actually THERE for.

    If he doesn’t want to do his complete job, he should be fired, like any other government representative should be if THEY don’t do their job as it’s described in the job description.


    And pick your species — Christianity *IS* the majority faith in this country.

    Comment by kashicat | November 28, 2008 | Reply

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