Saturday, September 5, 2015

Religious Right Reacts to Kim Davis' Incarceration

Kim Davis was recently taken into custody after refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples in her capacity as Rowan County (Kentucky) clerk. Predictably, the Religious Right is enraged, depicting Davis as a martyr for religious freedom. The fact that Davis' religious beliefs do not absolve her of the responsibility to perform her job escapes them.

First, in an August 13th statement, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver defended Davis while sneering at the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. In Staver's eyes, Davis' job responsibilities were changed by "five lawyers" who exceeded their authority. "Kim Davis did not sign up as a clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses," he wrote. "Her job duty was changed by five lawyers without any constitutional authority. At a minimum, her religious convictions should be accommodated."
"Judge Bunning’s decision equated Kim’s free exercise of religion to going to church. This is absurd! Christianity is not a robe you take off when you leave a sanctuary ... The First Amendment guarantees Kim and every American the free exercise of religion, even when they are working for the government."
With no hint of irony, Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance decried the supposed "lawlessness" of the Supreme Court for putting Kim Davis in jail.
"We support Kim Davis’ right to act according to her conscience and face the consequences.  Her predicament is the direct result of the lawlessness promoted by the Supreme Court of the United States itself with its unconstitutional Obergefell decision. It’s flippant, and frankly insulting, treatment of religious liberty and Obergefell is a disgrace to that great institution.

Same-sex ‘marriage’ supporters are chastising Mrs. Davis now, but they were the same group of people that applauded with glee when public officials forced the granting of marriage certificates to same-sex couples in direct violation to their state constitutions, before the Supreme Court’s decision.  They are not concerned about the law or the constitution but simply want to promote their activism through it.

We believe the law should provide reasonable accommodation to any person who does not want to participate in a same-sex ‘marriage’ union because of their deeply held religious beliefs, as has been done in other areas throughout our history."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins released a statement warning readers that religious liberty is in "grave danger". Perkins ignores the fact that Americans can still practice their religion freely in favor of a tiresome persecution narrative.
"Today we are witnessing what the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices warned of in the Obergefell decision: religious liberty in America is in grave danger.

While five justices on the Supreme Court created this dilemma, it is incumbent upon Congress, and in this case legislatures, to ensure orthodox religious beliefs are accommodated. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear could solve this court-created conflict by immediately calling for a special legislative session and establishing statutory accommodations for clerks like Kim Davis.

Ultimately, this is about more than same-sex marriage licenses in Kentucky. It is about the ability of Christians and other religious people to serve in positions of public trust. If this is not resolved in a manner that accommodates the orthodox religious beliefs of Clerk Davis, this will, in effect, establish a reverse religious test barring those who hold biblical views of marriage from positions of public service. Such a religious test by proclamation or practice is wrong.

Now a court is jailing someone over this because the governor failed to act. How hard is it to change a simple form to remove her name from it? Isn't that worth doing to keep someone out of jail because of what they believe? Governor Beshear must call for a special session of the legislature and grant an accommodation to Kim Davis."
Even political leaders chimed in. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal defended Davis in an interview with the Huffington Post, accusing the government of discrimination. The fact that Davis violated the law by discriminating against same-sex couples did not seem to perturb him.
"I don't think anyone should have to choose between following their conscience and religious beliefs and giving up their job and facing financial sanctions. I think it's wrong to force Christian individuals or business owners. We are seeing government today discriminate against whether it's clerks, florists, musicians or others. I think that's wrong. I think you should be able to keep your job and follow your conscience..."
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has loudly supported Davis. The Associated Press reports that Huckabee plans to visit Davis in jail next week and arrange a rally in support of her cause. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, he called Davis' incarceration "the first example of the criminalization of a Christian for believing the traditional definition of marriage". Huckabee complained that Davis was "not accommodated for her faith, but was jailed without bail". In another interview with MSNBC, Huckabee blasted the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that triggered the controversy, criticizing the ruling as an affront to God.
"I believe that it's time for us to have a real clear understanding of what should be something that we learned in ninth grade civics, that the Supreme Court is not the supreme branch. It's the Supreme Court, and it certainly is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule the laws of nature and nature's God."
However, not all conservative leaders have defended Davis' actions. Huffington Post and Washington Blade report that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and presidential candidate Carly Fiorina weighed in on the controversy during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. Graham admitted that Davis should "comply with the law or resign" in keeping with the rule of law, and Fiorina said that any further defiance of the courts "is not appropriate". Fiorina explained that as an elected county clerk, Davis is expected to act as a arm of the government, and if she is unwilling to do so, she must consider another job.
"...this woman now needs to make a decision of conscience — is she prepared to continue to work for the government, be paid for by the government in which case she needs to execute the government’s will, or does she feel so strongly about this that she wants to sever her employment with the government and go seek employment elsewhere where her religious liberties will be paramount over her duties as a government employee?"
Graham and Fiorina notwithstanding, many right-wing figures are having difficulty understanding that Christian faith does not trump the law. Kim Davis' religious beliefs did not entitle her to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite what the Religious Right believes. Religious liberty is not under threat; Davis is not being persecuted for her faith; and America has not descended into lawlessness. Davis simply refused to do her job.


  1. I suppose none of this is surprising. But it is disturbing how some on the religious right misunderstand the concept of the separation of church and state. When I lived in TX I remember hearing local politicians say: "Separation of church and state means keeping the state out of the church, not the church out of the state."

    1. Donna -- They fail to realize that the wall of separation protects church and state from EACH OTHER. Religion must be kept separate from government, for the well-being of all citizens.

  2. It cannot overrule the laws of nature and nature's God.

    The problem is that since religions are arbitrary taboo systems supported only by unverifiable supernatural assertions, anybody can claim that "the laws of nature and nature's God" prohibit anything at all (someone could easily claim his interpretation of God will forbids paying taxes, for example), and there is no objective basis for judging among such claims. If we make exceptions to civil law every time somebody advances such a claim, civil law effectively ceases to exist.

    Mrs. Davis is entitled to refrain from signing licenses she seriously objects to, but in that case, she's not entitled to continue drawing a paycheck for a job whose duties include signing those licenses. She needs to find another job.

    1. Infidel -- Spot-on. Why is all of this so difficult for Religious Right figures to understand? We do not live in a theocracy. The wall of separation protects both church AND state. Personal religious beliefs do not trump the law, and allowing them to do so would create chaos. This isn't rocket science!


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