Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Kentucky Fried Crisis

Photo by the Associated Press

Think back over your childhood. Were there not times when your parents told you to do something that you didn’t like and didn’t want to do? It could be anything from taking out the trash, picking up your room, or maybe they told you that you had to play with a baby brother or sister, or go to a social event and interact with kids you didn’t really like. That last one is an especially difficult thing to do if you’re an introverted child. But nonetheless, your parents or parent, made you do something. You did it, and you survived.

There’s a situation that has been brewing in some places where those with the authority and the office that empowers them to distribute marriage licenses have decided that they don’t want to do it if it means giving a license to same-sex couples. They oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell on June 26th which found the state laws banning lesbian and gay people from marrying their beloved were unconstitutional. The most notable case of this protest is Kim Davis, Clerk of Court in Rowan County, KY, who has now told a gay male couple on four separate occasions since that date that she will not give them a marriage license. Never mind that a federal judge, and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the 6th Circuit, has ordered her to issue David Emrold and his partner, as well as all lesbian and gay couples, a license. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to intercede on her behalf. None of that matters to Ms. Davis because this is—for her—a matter of “God’s authority.” In a statement released through the Liberty Counsel, the right-wing Christian legal advocacy group, Ms. Davis stated:

“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” Davis said. “It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”

There are those who see Ms. Davis, an Apostolic Christian, as taking a noble stand and one where she is seeking the freedom of a conscientious objector. However, as this crisis unfolds in Kentucky, I, too, am drawn to the words of Jesus:

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.—Mark 12:13-17

In this case, we aren’t talking about a coin, but a piece of paper bearing the watermark of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ms. Davis may object to having her signature on said paper, but that paper is the Roman…I’m sorry Rowan…County document that grants the civil rights and privileges of marriage. It is a legal document and a secular form. God doesn’t dwell in that document; God dwells in the love manifested between the people being married.  

In fact, one could say that “God’s authority” has spoken in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling from June. Some of us hold a belief that the “life-giving and liberating love of Jesus” that Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry talks of came rolling down like a waterfall of justice on that June day.

No one is objecting to Ms. Davis, or anyone else, holding a particular religious viewpoint. But we live in a nation that has not only granted the people free exercise of religion; our Constitution specifically prohibits the government from establishing ONE religious belief. We are a nation of laws which are there to maintain order. Ms. Davis, under the laws of our country, must follow through and provide marriage licenses to those who are legally able to get married. If she cannot do this, then she needs to resign or be removed from office. She can consider it “the cost of discipleship.”


Wayne Helmly said...

It appears to me that Ms. David is being portrayed as a Christian martyr by her attorneys, the Liberty Counsel. This ultra-right wing group specializes in anti-LGBT litigation. It is also a tax-exempt nonprofit “Christian” corporation that solicits donors.

A middle-aged lady going to jail ostensibly for following Jesus will send thousands of heterosexists for their checkbooks (made payable to the Liberty Counsel) and their lynch mobs.

Good attorneys rarely (if ever) advise their clients to disobey a federal judge. But if they can get press out of it and compare her to Dr. King writing from the Birmingham jail, why not?

She is no martyr for Christianity, just a martyr for bigotry, much like Gov. Wallace in the the 70's. Do you ever wonder if Jesus get embarrassed by all of these shenanigans?

SCG said...

Wayne, I have a pretty strong suspicion that Jesus weeps at the sight of this stupidity.

I'm wondering if Ms. Davis has realized that she is still in jail, and that no angel of the Lord in the form of a GoFundMe campaign will be allowed to spring her free? I can now only hope that Ms. Davis might take these moments of quiet solitude to consider if she has in fact been following Jesus or a tempter in her own mind.

Wayne Helmly said...


Unfortunately, I doubt she will have some jailhouse epiphany. Yesterday a group (reportedly numbering in the triple digits) congregated outside of the jail where she is incarcerated. Reportedly, they shouted words of encouragement and thanksgiving, and then prayed to God that Ms. Davis could hear them in her cell. Kind of hard to have an epiphany when those who are using you as their pawn are outside shouting.

So, what's next? Can public school teachers (who also serve their state, just as Davis does hers) decide they are not going to teach children of LGBT, divorced, and mixed-race parentage because to do so is a violation of their religious freedom? Or can they refuse to teach Little Johnny because he acts too much like Little Jill or vice versa?

How about the Muslim gentleman who works at the DMV, but does not believe women should drive. May he also refuse to issue driver's licenses?

Religious persecution is when you are prevented from exercising your beliefs, not when you are preventing from IMPOSING them. The First Amendment is about freedom of and freedom from religion.

I thought we lived in a democracy, not a theocracy.

If Christians with common sense don't speak out about this, the public is going to think that we are all Kim Davis and the Liberty Counsel!

SCG said...

Agreed all points. I think Ms.Davis should sit in jail for a very, very long time. I'm not convinced that upon release, she will just go back to denying licenses and the deputies who defied her "authority" will suffer retribution from this zealot.

Until she vows to uphold the constitution, which she swore on a Bible no doubt to do, then she must stay in jail, or resign.

And I'm doing my part to be a voice of Christianity who acknowledges her right to believe however she wants to, but she does not have the right to impose that belief on others. There's a world of difference between approaching someone who is non-Christian with a "let me convert you" message vs. a "let me love you" message.