Sincere, But Just Plain Wrong

Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis remains in jail over her contempt of court citation for refusing to issue marriage licenses in her county.  She refuses because she does not want to issue them for same-sex marriages.  Doing so, she believes, would violate her Christian convictions. However one views the issue of same-sex marriage, we should respect Ms. Davis and her willingness to go to jail for what she believes.  Likewise, regardless of how we view same-sex marriages, we should be very concerned about the way her case is being used by politicians shouting about separation of church and state and stating that she is being denied her rights and that she is being persecuted for her religious beliefs. Shame on them.  She is absolutely not being persecuted for her religious beliefs and it shows that those politicians (I’m looking at you Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and others) are either using her for blatant political reasons, or are shamefully unaware of the Constitution they say they support, and indeed would be obligated to follow should they win the election.

If Ms. Davis has true religious beliefs that prohibit her from fulfilling her duties (and I have no doubt that she is sincere), then as an elected official sworn to uphold the law, she should resign.  End of discussion.  She has exhausted her ability within the law to keep from issuing the licenses that it is her duty to do.  Protest all she likes.  Work to change the law.  Carry out her privileges as a citizen, but do so as a private citizen, not a sworn official of the county.  Tellingly, the United States Supreme Court chose not to hear her appeal.  They did so without comment, which means  that none of the nine Justices thought that she had any legal ground to stand on — including those Justices that voted against allowing same-sex marriages under the Constitution.  Game over.

The deputies to the County Clerk began issuing licenses last week after Ms. Davis went to jail for contempt of court for refusing to follow the law and the instructions of the judge.  It is undetermined how long she will stay in jail, but she could be out today if she would either agree to carry out the duties she swore to uphold, or resign.  If one takes her logic to its end, then we would ultimately be a nation without laws.  She claims that she answers to a higher power and therefore does not have to follow the law of the land as it is superseded by her religious convictions.  It takes very little imagination to think what would happen should everyone of every conceivable religion take the same position.  Our country would fall into chaos.

As a reminder, the First Amendment was written to keep the state (in this case Ms. Davis, I’m sorry to inform you that the state is you) from imposing a particular religion or religious belief on any citizen. It was a reaction to the British crown imposing the Church of England on its citizens in the original thirteen colonies.  By the early 1700’s in those colonies, for example, there was no recognized Catholic parish or church.  They did not re-appear until 1789 (the ratification of the Constitution).  Here is what the amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

No one is keeping her from exercising her religious beliefs.  They are only keeping her from imposing her religion on others.  This is a huge difference.  Those that argue that freedom of religion is being inhibited by our government should visit China, Iran, North Korea or a dozen other countries to find out what it really means to lose one’s ability to practice their religion.

Statements such as this one from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — posted on his campaign website — show that Ms. Davis’ situation is being deliberately distorted, or else Senator Cruz really did not learn much from his Ivy League law school and time as clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist on the Supreme Court.

Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny. Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. This is wrong. This is not America.

I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally. I stand with every American that the Obama Administration is trying to force to choose between honoring his or her faith or complying with a lawless court opinion.

Using words like “tyranny” and arresting a “Christian woman” for her faith may be red meat to his ardent supporters, but they do little to promote either the rule of law or religious freedom (oh by the way Senator,  there may be other devout followers of one God who are not Christian).  What is he saying? That we should do away with the Supreme Court?  That no one has to follow their decisions if one doesn’t agree with them?  What is he really saying?  And he will “support and defend the Constitution” by telling people to ignore it?  If he, and others, have a strong view that laws need to be changed, then use the system to change them.

Mike Huckabee — the former governor of Arkansas and running for president — said yesterday that one only has to follow the court’s orders if “it’s right.”  Who decides if it is right?  Mr. Huckabee?  Kim Davis? Me?  While I understand his concerns and those of others about defending the right to freedom of religion in our country, I have to say that as an individual, I do not feel threatened in the practice of my religion.  We truly need watch dogs that continually challenge the government on issues fundamental to our freedoms and our way of life.  But touting anarchy and setting themselves up as the sole judge of what is right and wrong — as Mr. Huckabee, Senator Cruz, and others do — seems to me to be a greater threat to my freedoms than anything the Supreme Court has done.

Ms. Davis may be sincere, but she is just plain wrong. She should resign and then she may protest and work to change the law in any legal way that she can.  I, for one, will work against the demagogues that set themselves up as arbiters of what is right and wrong for the rest of us based on their personal beliefs — or based on what their political ambitions tell them will “sell”.  That to me is a far greater danger.

2 Comments on “Sincere, But Just Plain Wrong”

  1. says:

    Resign. She cannot do her job. Geez. Thanks, Tom.

  2. Bruce Hargus says:

    Agreed, she needs to resign. I guess I believe she is sincere, but she has a pretty arbitrary set of standards based on her past behaviors.

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