Civil Service “can refer to either a branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed (hired) on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations; or the body of employees in any government agency apart from the military” (Wikipedia)
In other words, Civil (or Public) Service is a branch of the Government – Federal, State or Local – or the employees who make up that branch of the Government, and who are representatives and employees of that Government or governmental body.
This is important, because now we run into specific responsibilities and legal requirements. I know. I was a civil servant, at the City, County, State and Federal levels (US DOJ / US DHS) during my 30+ year career – and I took my job and my responsibilities very seriously.
Civil Service is actually Public Service. You are there to serve the public as a part of its elected government, not the other way around. The public is not there to serve you, but to be served by you. As a part of the Government, you hold a sacred trust to “faithfully discharge the duties to which assigned” on behalf of and in service to the public. The very Constitution of the United States says so, in several areas.
What you do NOT have the right to do is to put your own agenda, beliefs, or other non-assigned or non-delegated “duties” or influences into your job performance. As a Civil Servant, you give up some of your “rights” while on the job with the Government. Government employees do NOT have automatically protected 1st Amendment rights that the general public has – per the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court uses “the seminal Pickering balancing test governing public employee speech. The Court described it as the balance “between the interests of the [employee], as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.” Pickering v. Board of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968).
In Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), the Court described a two-step inquiry into whether a public employee’s speech is entitled to protection. The first step under Garcetti was for the Court to determine whether (the defendant) spoke as a citizen or as a government employee. If a public employee speaks “pursuant to [his] official duties,” the Court said, he is not speaking as a citizen for purposes of the First Amendment, and his speech is therefore not insulated from discipline by his employer.”
But the Constitution and the Supreme Court are Federal, not State or local. How do they apply to non-Federal governments? Specifically, we’re talking about the 1st Amendment, in this case – the trending story of Kim Davis, County Clerk, the right to free speech and the right to freedom of religion.
First, the Supreme Court decision was on a State case, and holds as a precedent for cases at all levels of Government. Secondly, although the Constitution is a federal document / law, and governs federal Government entities, it is mainly a document to protect the public, the citizenry from an overbearing federal government, and the amendments thereto further that protection, closing some holes that were overlooked or became evident as time went on.
Since it protects the public, it is a document that is relevant to all citizens and residents of the United States, not just to the federal Government. To remedy the issue that technically the Federal Government was the only governmental body bound by the Constitution and its Amendments, the Court held that the 14th Amendment has clauses that make State and Local governments subject to most of the same restrictions as the Federal government.
The 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause prohibits state and local government officials from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without legislative authorization. This clause has also been used by the federal judiciary to make most of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states, as well as to recognize substantive and procedural requirements that state laws must satisfy.
Additionally, the Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction.
So what does all this mean? It means the same thing I learned the very first day I was hired as a Civil / Public Servant…and held true whether I worked for the City, County, State, or Federal Government.
As a government employee, my job was to serve the public, and obey the laws. My right to believe what I want, say what I want, and do what I want (within the law) on my own time did NOT hold true when I was on duty as a Civil Servant, representing myself as a Civil Servant, or in any ways performing the duties of a Civil Servant. My job was to “perform the duties to which assigned”, and not interject my own beliefs, feelings, or non-assigned duty interpretations into that performance of my duties.
Furthermore, as a government employee, I was a part of the government…and SPECIFICALLY prohibited by the 1st Amendment from interjecting my own beliefs… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” If Congress cannot make any law respecting the establishment of religion, then any law that causes the government (at any level) to establish or mandate religion (any religion) is illegal. That is where the separation of Church and State comes from. As a representative of the government, no Civil Servant can legally interject their personal religious beliefs into the performance – or failure to perform – their “duties as assigned” in accordance with law.
Here are the choices:
1) Hold true to your faith, and resign your position or transfer to another position that does not put you in conflict with your personal faith.
2) Hold true to your faith, refuse to perform those duties, and get fired.
3) Hold true to the law and your sworn duty, and impartially perform the lawful duties you are assigned, putting your personal beliefs and feelings aside if need be, while on duty.
Anything less dishonors you, your sworn oath and/or your beliefs – and is beneath the dignity of a true Public Servant.