Kim Davis makes for very strange bedfellows

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Westboro Baptist Chuch member protesting Pope Benedict XVI outside the United Nations in New York City in 2008.

Photo by David Shankbone

Westboro Baptist Chuch member protesting Pope Benedict XVI outside the United Nations in New York City in 2008.

Westboro Baptist Chuch member protesting Pope Benedict XVI outside the United Nations in New York City in 2008.

Westboro Baptist Chuch member protesting Pope Benedict XVI outside the United Nations in New York City in 2008.

I’m sure there were not a lot of people who expected the notoriously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church to picket Kim Davis for her multiple marriages and tell her to obey the law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Now comes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints likewise criticizing Davis for what she did.

Public officials “are not free to apply personal convictions — religious or other — in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices,” LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks said in a speech in Sacramento, Calif. “A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle.”

This puts the Westboro Baptists and the Mormons on the same side as the ADL, which takes the position that public officials who cannot perform their duties because of religious scruples should resign. Taking the opposite position, meanwhile, are an array of prominent evangelicals, Catholics (up to and perhaps including Pope Francis), and a couple of days ago, it seems, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow.

What explains the collection of strange bedfellows on either side?

Well, the one side links minority religious groups who are well aware of the dangers of permitting public officials to inject their religious beliefs into their jobs. These groups have learned the hard way that their rights depend on a government that is religiously neutral.

The other side includes majoritarian groups conditioned to believe that their religious rules should prevail in society at large. They are distressed when these views are rejected by civil law, and so are led, in the name of religious liberty, to embrace the cause of a government official who seeks to preserve them.

There is a certain irony in religious minorities opposing a strong claim of religious liberty and religious majorities supporting it. It’s emblematic of the meaning of separation of church and state.

  • Larry

    “There is a certain irony in religious minorities opposing a strong claim of religious liberty and religious majorities supporting it. It’s emblematic of the meaning of separation of church and state.”

    There was never a strong claim of religious liberty here. It was always a sort of last ditch effort to salvage a right to discriminate which never existed.

    The key notion within the Bill of Rights, 14th Amendment and the notion of judicial review is that the will of the majority cannot justify attacks on the rights of a political minority. If the majority feels it is being somehow persecuted, it is probably a phony claim. In most cases they are just annoyed that a privilege of attacking the rights of others has been curtailed.

  • BradK

    “Taking the opposite position…Catholics (up to and perhaps including Pope Francis)”

    I wish the media would stop propagating this notion that the Pope somehow endorses or supports Davis’ stand. The Vatican could not have been any clearer that he does not. And that the meeting was not per-arranged with the Pope and he had no idea of who she was when he (allegedly) shook her hand in a public receiving line. They all but said that he was sandbagged.

    The account given by her pathologically lying attorney, Mat Staver, was a complete and total fabrication intended to drum up support for his adulterous, hypocritical client. In a pique of Freudian projection Staver is calling the Pope a liar for denying his fictional rendering.

    So we have the Pope, essentially the Pope of the LDS, and the wingnuts at WBC all in unison in condemning Kimmy Bo-Bo’s actions. Three groups which never see eye to eye.

  • Jeff Brown

    That headline made me gag …

  • samuel johnston

    Hi Brad,
    This is an illustration of morality verses mere opportunism.
    So, the Pope did not know/realize? “..the Pope and he had no idea of who she was..” He did know (or should have known) about the separation of church and state.
    “These groups (the minorities) have learned the hard way that their rights depend on a government that is religiously neutral.”
    Or one could merely read the American Constitution. I am sure the Pope is aware of the document.

  • David Lloyd-Jones

    This article will be incomplete until the Scientologists are heard from.

    -dlj.

  • Betty Clermont

    The pope himself endorsed Davis on the flight back to Rome. He said “government employees” have a “human right” to make a “conscientious objection.” After meeting in private with Davis, it’s the only time the pope specifically referred to “gov’t employees.”
    As Crisis Magazine reported: “First, a few largely uncontested facts: it was Vatican personnel who invited Davis to meet the pope in Washington DC. Neither Kim Davis nor anyone connected to her requested the meeting. What’s more, Kim Davis met privately with the pope. Whether you call it an audience or an encounter or any other thing, it took place in private. To put an even finer point on it, she was not on a rope line to shake his passing hand, neither was she in a line of people to meet him one by one. Lastly, while Vatican personnel wanted the meeting to be private, Davis was told at the meeting, the secrecy of the meeting was to last only until the pope left the country.”