Anyone who wants to work as an independent contractor in Idaho has to be registered in the state. That involves giving the government some contact information, proof of insurance, a “self-certification of good standing,” and your social security number.
For most people, this isn’t a problem. For George Ricks, it’s a dealbreaker.
That’s because he’s a Christian who interprets Revelation 13:16-18 to mean you shouldn’t participate in any government-run identification system… which means he will not hand over his social security number. (These are also the verses that suggest 666 is the mark of the beast.)
He offered the state his birth certificate instead, but they said it wasn’t an acceptable substitute. That meant he couldn’t be hired as a construction worker, which meant he missed out on a lot of money.
Do his religious beliefs make any sense? Of course not. They’re crazy. Even other Christians would agree.
Does that matter to the courts? Nope. As long as your beliefs are sincerely held, then that counts. (It’s the same rule that allows people to get away with wearing strainers on their heads by calling themselves Pastafarians.)
But in Idaho, where Ricks sued, the courts said the state’s requirements were neutral — none of the requests they made were discriminatory in any way — so judges didn’t care that Ricks said they were in violation of his faith.
… providing religious exemptions to dissenters does not loose anarchy upon the world, but is instead a workable solution for a religiously pluralistic nation. The experience of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, state RFRAs and constitutional protections, and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act shows that governments can usually accommodate religious minorities; they just have to try.
It’s not likely that the Supreme Court will take up this case since what happened in Idaho wasn’t legally controversial. But it’s disturbing that someone could, in all seriousness, make up any kind of rule based on a flimsy interpretation of bad scripture and demand to be taken seriously.
Saying that a belief is part of your religion shouldn’t be a loophole for everything. And yet that’s what Ricks’ attorneys want. They say this is hardly a burden on the government, and that may well be true, but they’re really arguing for the courts to lend credence to faith-based insanity. Anything goes, as long as you say it involves your God. It’s a horrible way to create precedent.
Perhaps the upside here is that the more these people use “religious freedom” as their workaround for whatever rules they want (even if it involves Christian business owners discriminating against their customers), the less seriously society will take it. At some point “religious freedom” will become as useless a phrase as “thoughts and prayers,” all because certain people toss it out at every opportunity.
There’s no reason for the Supreme Court to step in here. This case is a waste of everyone’s time. Ricks wants special treatment because he’s Christian even though the current law in Idaho applies to everyone equally. There’s no anti-Christian motive in asking for contractors’ basic information, and no one should be allowed to claim otherwise just because the voices in his head say so.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)