Kim Davis may be out of jail, but conscience conflicts remain (COMMENTARY)

Print More
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, flanked by Republic presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, left, Attorney Mathew Staver, second right, and her husband Joe Davis, right, celebrates her release from the Carter County Detention center in Grayson, Kentucky on September 8, 2015. U.S. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Tilley
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MARSHALL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on September 10, 2015.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, flanked by Republic presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, left, Attorney Mathew Staver, second right, and her husband Joe Davis, right, celebrates her release from the Carter County Detention center in Grayson, Kentucky on September 8, 2015. U.S. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Tilley *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MARSHALL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on September 10, 2015.

Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content by logging-in here.

(RNS) Now is the time to seek out the solutions that can help us all coexist peaceably and avoid the drama being played out in Rowan County, Ky.

  • Quoting George Takei

    Well this is a bit of a circus. So let us be clear: This woman is no hero to be celebrated. She broke her oath to uphold the Constitution and defied a court order so she could deny government services to couples who are legally entitled to be married. She is entitled to hold her religious beliefs, but not to impose those beliefs on others. If she had denied marriage certificates to an interracial couple, would people cheer her? Would presidential candidates flock to her side? In our society, we obey civil laws, not religious ones. To suggest otherwise is, simply put, entirely un-American.

  • Quoting George Takei

    The First Amendment has two clauses that are relevant here. One is the Establishment Clause, and the other is the Prohibition Clause. Congress may not prohibit free worship, and that is what so many claim, wrongly, is being violated. But it is also not empowered to establish any religion, nor to enact any laws favoring one religion over the other. Permitting a state employee to foist her religion upon others, denying them a fundamental right as articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell, would be to give government, through this agent, the power to impose religious doctrine and viewpoint. That it cannot do. Ms. Davis is in effect establishing religion by using her governmental powers to impose her religious views.

  • Jihadi Jimmy

    http://imgur.com/H7KVvdZ

    “With respect to our Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) we will no longer be issuing drivers licenses to women. Thank you for respecting our religious beliefs”

  • Shawnie5

    Retire marriage licensing altogether and replace it with self-executed declarations that will go directly into the registries. It will save time and effort, and if the state simply has to have its revenue off the event it can demand it upon recordation. Poof — another difficulty disappears.

  • larry

    Why bother?

    The people who are objecting here have no reasonable basis worth considering, so we don’t have to do ANYTHING for them. Your faith commands you to deny others access to the resources of government they are entitled to, tough crap. Their problem. Its not free exercise of religion. Its establishment of your own in government. A violation of the 1st Amendment.

    They can either follow the laws and notions of civility and morality and do their job or they can find some other form of employment better suited for their temperament. Another difficulty disappears..

    If the people involved were not Christian or they were discriminating against another group there would be no discussion. Nobody would be making the claim of accommodating their religiously inspired desire to discriminate.

    All we are talking about here is a special pleading for treating Christian belief greater than all others. Even to the point of attacking the rights of others.

  • Ben in Oakland

    Or, rather than changing the way it is done everywhere in the west, and has been for at least 200 years, all to accommodate a handful of people whose motivations are suspect, at the very least…

    We don’t change anything. If they cannot find it in the hardness of their hearts to do their jobs and treat other people the way they would like to be treated, to stop judging the sinfulness of other people when they are expressly commanded NOT to…

    and let’s just say that Davis is a prime example of that…

    Then maybe they should find some employment where their delicate consciences will not be violated. The judge who refused an interracial marriage a few years ago did, I believe, just that,

  • Shawnie5

    “Or, rather than changing the way it is done everywhere in the west and has been for at least 200 years…”

    Oh baloney. Marriage licensing is not a requirement “everywhere in the west” –Europe has many different procedures — and in the United States it was begun in the latter part of the 19th century in order to prevent interracial marriage. There is nothing magical about a license. It’s only a document, the same as a declaration is.

    You, for one, have already said you’d be fine with such a plan.

    But thank you for the comic relief here…funny indeed to hear you opposing a supposedly 200-year old American procedural formality to accommodate a few when you were all for changing a 6000 (at least) year old tradition of marriage, universal to human civilization, to accommodate even fewer.

  • Shawnie5

    “we don’t have to do ANYTHING for them.”

    No, but we can if we wish.

  • Larry

    Shawnie, the “why”s here are more important. There is no religious freedom issue at stake. Nor is there an issue of convenience. You certainly are not bringing this up out of a good faith need to streamline civil marriage.

    The only people who have problems with the current system were looking for ways to keep it from others. All in violation of 14th Amendment equal protection. Their needs are not worth consideration.

    The marriage license was so unimportant that people like yourself supported measures to deny them to gay couples. If it was such a minor thing, we would not be having this conversation. We would not be seeing clerks and judges making such effort to deny access to them. Frankly whatever sanctions they receive are well justified. Problem solved. I don’t need to accommodate their overwhelming urge to discriminate. Remove them and move on. Problem solved.

  • Larry

    But there is no pressing need. The current system works. Frankly the need to keep civil servants in line when it comes to their duty to the public is far greater than the need to appease their bigotry.

  • Shawnie5

    Your opinion, irrelevant though it may be, is duly noted.

  • Shawnie5

    “You certainly are not bringing this up out of a good faith need to streamline civil marriage.”

    Who made you the thought police? Nobody’s “whys” are any of your business if you and your ilk are getting your “equal rights” nevertheless. It would indeed streamline the process and completely remove the occasion for difficulties of the sort being reported on ad nauseum here — which are not going away any time soon.

    And that difficulty has nothing to do with the importance of the license or lack thereof. It has to do with no Christian who is faithful to God’s word wanting to sign their name to any document “authorizing” such a travesty. The same reason why Christians refused to throw a pinch of incense into a fire and affirm Caesar as Lord although knowing full well what a farce it was.

  • beth

    YES! Her refusal to issue marriage certificates won’t win her a hallowed place wherever she ends up. What happened to “do unto others” and “Judge not lest ye be judged” or “love thy neighbors” even the ones you don’t agree with. I don’t know which bible she reads, but she needs to keep reading.

  • Greg1

    This is the most SENSIBLE article I’ve read here on RNS in quite some time. There is a reason why the Supreme Court did not deem this a Civil Right. And that reason is clear: religion is a “Constitutional Right,” and this SC knew quite well that they were stretching the 14th Amendment far beyond its clear and intended focus: equality of race and national origin. Jennifer makes a good point that hunting licenses can be refused by Animal Rights advocates. So how much more should the Wounded Conscience exception for Religious, which is a First Amendment Right, be afforded to those who believe that participating in any aspect of gay marriage is a grave sin before God Almighty! Great article Jennifer; keep up the good work. You stand out among your peers.

  • beth in SF

    We can get people to do anything, if we wrap it the American flag, and/or carry a cross.

  • Larry

    We are to going to pretend you never opposed marriage equality and still do? Of course not.

    Christians are not entitled to special rights above all others. If they want to discriminate and abuse public power, their presence in that position is unnecessary. Upholding laws and protecting recognized rights are more important than your bigoted desire to discriminate.

    If “no true Christian” can sign a marriage license, then they can resign. Nobody else had to suffer for your faith. Equal protection means all people have to play by the same rules.

  • Shawnie5

    This plan has does nothing to affect “equality”, nor does it present any equal protection issue.

  • Larry

    So you say. But given your motives, it lacks credibility. More importantly, it lacks a rational basis. The need for Christians to treat gays badly is not a reason to change a system that works well.

  • Garson Abuita

    I’m all for legislative solutions eliminating the possibility of any one individual being able to control who can get married in any given county. Similarly, if customers truly aren’t being inconvenienced, religious accomodations in this area might work. It seems like it would’ve in Rowan County, where the deputy clerks seemed willing to grant the licenses.
    Your example about the in vitro fertilization, however, is a problem. That doctor is the doctor the couple came to see. I suppose if he can send them to another physician in the practice — and here you see the analogy to the Davis case.

  • Shawnie5

    Except that retiring marriage licensing will put an end to such situations arising at all. That should appeal to everyone

  • Shawnie5

    The basis is even more “rational” than requiring licensing was to begin with. Since interracial marriage is no longer against the law, what reason is there for licensing marriage? There isn’t one.

    Rational basis amounts to almost no review at all. The state can do virtually anything it wants if it works to no one’s detriment. Preventing conflicts of conscience in the operation of state functions is an entirely legitimate purpose that NO ONE would, or could, attack.

  • Larry

    Of course it won’t. People like yourself are constantly looking for opportunities to discriminate. Reasonable solutions do not exist for unreasonable people. If the Christian bigots were reasonable, we would not have these situations in the first place. 🙂

    You would rather waste time and resources to placate unreasonable Christians (you would never defend people of other faiths who act the same way) who want to abuse public power and discriminate than simply adhering to rule of law and democratic principles. We get that already.

    There is no problem here requiring changes in the system. Simply use the procedures government offices have already for removing people who abuse their position and think the laws don’t apply to them.

    As the resistance to segregation had demonstrated, situations like this are a necessary part of demonstrating the commitment of our democratic society to civil liberties.

    If we do not work to uphold them, then nobody is protected.

  • Shawnie5

    “You would rather waste time and resources to placate unreasonable Christians” Retiring marriage licensing would require far less time and resources than what is already going on.

    “There is no problem here requiring changes in the system ”

    Your opinion has already been expressed and recognized. It does not matter in the least to anyone in the states considering the plan.

  • Eric Charles Smith

    I had exactly the same reaction. To deny people their human and civil rights is not an act of “conscience,” it is simply an act of bigotry.

  • Shawnie5

    Except that the situation in Colorado involved what was arguably a detriment to a given group. The plan being proposed does not impact anyone’s rights or equality in the slightest.

    How much longer would you like to continue this? You’re being quite entertaining, stamping your little footsies over bullies possibly losing the opportunity to bully. You’re showing what you’re all about — and that’s a good thing. Those tempted to throw in with your side need to know exactly what kind of malicious people they’re aligning with. Dr. Gushee, are you listening?

  • Larry

    “The plan being proposed does not impact anyone’s rights or equality in the slightest.”

    Of course it does. It lends credence to the illegitimate attacks on the public by civil servants who are deliberately trying to frustrate constitutionally protected rights. The principle of the matter.

    A far better solution is to simply apply the rule of law and democratic principles to just remove those civil servants.

  • Larry

    And yet it fails to sink in.

    Rather than legitimize breaches of the public trust, civil liberties of the public and rule of law. It is far better to simply remove those people who are willfully frustrating access to the resources of government.

    To change the system is to accept that civil liberties of the public must be abridged in order to placate people bent on abusing power.

    It sends the wrong message to the public.

  • Larry

    -Some white supremacists have a problem issuing voter registration forms to black people, so lets change the whole system in order to avoid a problem

    -Muslim DMV clerks refuse to issue licenses to women. So lets do away with the whole driver’s license system anyway and replace it.

    -Hindu majority town planners in Iselin NJ refuse to issue building permits to people building places where beef can be consumed. Lets change the whole permit process.

    Oh right, it only matters when your Christian. 🙂

  • Shawnie5

    Again, your opinion has been duly noted. Again, it does not matter. “Sending a message” is not a valid objection to legislation that eliminates conflicts and works to no one’s detriment.

  • Shawnie5

    “Credence” is not the concern of the state. Rights are.

    You do realize, don’t you, that you are using the exact argument that you recently attacked when the subject was Colorado legalizing marijuana in the face of federal drug laws — lending “credence” to the defiance of federal law. You argued that Colorado’s law involved to no harm to anyone. Kind of like retiring marriage licensing…

    This is too much fun! All this lefty hypocrisy is making my sock puppet antsy…

  • Shawnie5

    Wrt your four bogus hypotheticals, all of those issuances serve an important purpose. Marriage licensing does not — and never legitimately did. Its abolition would never be missed.

    So what else have you got?

  • Larry

    If marriage licensing served no real purpose then Christians like yourself would not be opposed to issuing them. Of course this only was being said when the licenses went to gay couples.

    If there was no purpose at all for them, proposals to change the system would have come long before marriage equality being law of the land.

    Funny how no objections to that allegedly useless system didn’t come out until now.

    Reality clearly refutes your assertion.

    I stand by my examples. Government clerks acting badly to the public is not cause to change a working system.

    Again you only stand by your position because the bad actors are Christian and share the same prejudices as you do.

  • Larry

    BTW how is upholding the law by punishing people acting badly not a good reason for government action?

    Oh right, Christians should be allowed to do anything they want in the Shawnie States of America. 🙂

  • Shawnie5

    “If marriage licensing served no real purpose then Christians like yourself would not be opposed to issuing them.”

    Please do not go in circles. A Christian’s objection consists in placing their name upon an authorization for an immoral union. Just like they objected to burning a pinch of incense to an emperor they knew quite well was not a god. We’ve been over this.

    “If there was no purpose at all for them, proposals to change the system would have come long before marriage equality being law of the land.” If there was any purpose to gay marriage, there would have been some recognition of it at some point during several millenia of civilized human history. You’re making the same arguments from tradition that you’ve attacked elsewhere.

    “Funny how no objections to that allegedly useless system didn’t come out until now.” Because now we have a difficulty that makes the system more trouble than it’s worth. Scrap it.

  • Shawnie5

    “BTW how is upholding the law by punishing people acting badly not a good reason for government action?”

    A better reason for government action than simply “punishing people” (geez, what a bully!) is to provide for fewer people being punished where it is able to do so without abridging anyone’s rights. That is what liberalism in its classic sense is all about.

    BTW, I’m looking forward to seeing you here making these same arguments on the next thread about illegal immigration. Because if I I don’t, I’m going to have to turn the mike over to my sock puppet. 😀

  • westcj

    Very well said Larry. I find it very distasteful that the author is looking for legal loopholes that will allow Kim Davis to practice her bigoted Christian beliefs.

  • ASF

    I think I love you, Shawnie. Thank you.

  • Sam

    The First Amendment has never been interpreted as merely protecting the freedom to “worship.” It’s says “free exercise.”

    Second, there are ways to ensure that no one’s rights are being denied them that also respect the clerks’ faiths, as Ms. Marshall points out. That seems to be what Marshall is advocating for. If they followed this tract, no one would be imposing his or her faith on anyone else.

  • Larry

    If the clerk was not Christian, you would not be so vociferous about changing a system to meet their religious need to discriminate. You would not be so quick to defend her actions to the point of claiming an overhaul of the marriage recording system is necessary or warranted.

    Sectarian biases are very obvious from those supporting Ms. Davis.

    “I don’t know about you guys, but when I see a group of people from the South with white crosses cheering to not allow people their constitutional rights, it kind of just gives me a tingly, lynch-y feeling.”
    -Karry Wilmore, the Daily Show
    🙂

    “Because now we have a difficulty that makes the system more trouble than it’s worth. ”

    Hardly. Only a difficulty for people with a disregard for the rights of others, the judiciary, religious freedom, and a compulsion to discriminate. A very small group who are not asserting actual rights are being restricted here.

  • Sam

    Do you never judge other people’s behavior Beth?

    While I don’t agree with Davis’ actions (I think she should have just resigned if she can’t do her job), I don’t see her actions as “judging” others. She’s merely saying “I don’t want to be a participant in their sin.” That’s not “judging.” Jesus’ admonition against judging doesn’t mean a Christian should go along with things she believes are sinful. Neither does His admonition about love or “doing until others.” You’re twisting Jesus’ words to mean something they didn’t mean. Try thinking about them in terms of an action you consider sinful. What would Jesus have you do?

  • Sam

    track, not tract.

  • Larry

    No I didn’t. I actually distinguished the Colorado laws and immigration laws when it was brought up by Greg1.

    But its interesting you are recycling other people’s arguments now. Whatever. 🙂

  • Larry

    Marshall is full of crap here.

    She is looking for excuses for Christians to discriminate against gays. This is why she uses dishonest euphemisms like “declined to affirm a gay wedding ceremony”, instead of the more honest discrimination in public accommodations.

    Free exercise of religion is not license to attack others. It is not license to abuse public power to deny civil liberties to the public.

    This kind of behavior would not be tolerated by her or you if the actor was not Christian. Davis was not looking for an accommodation, she was looking to attack gays.

    If she had moral fiber and some measure of conscience, she would not have bullied her office into not issuing any licenses. She would have stepped aside. Her actions violate the Establishment Clause by compelling her office to accept her religious views as the official one.

    So in there is no 1st Amendment issue here at all. No issue of “conscience”. Just people behaving badly looking for excuses.

  • Pingback: How to Avoid Another Kim Davis Situation, Without Surrendering on Religious Freedom()