Kim Davis won election to County Clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky this year replacing her mother who had done the job for 27 years before her. Once elected, Davis took an oath swearing to do her job “without favor, affection or partiality, so help me God.”
On July 6th, James Yates and William Smith, Jr., who had been together for nine years, applied for a Rowan County marriage license following federal marriage equality expansion to same-sex couples on June 26th. Davis refused to issue a marriage license to them that day.
Convinced marriage should only be between a man and a woman, thrice divorced Davis resolved to both protect her religious beliefs and not be found guilty of discrimination. She instructed her office staff to refuse the issuance of marriage licenses to anyone in Rowan County.
Soon, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver became Davis’ attorney. Staver advised his client to break the law and continue to not issue federally mandated licenses to same-sex couples.
Some information about Liberty Counsel is essential to this drama. Constantly jockeying for position and prominence with similarly missioned Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Liberty Counsel is technically a non-profit organization providing pro bono legal representation for “religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family.” Liberty and ADF seek out opportunities to represent conservative Christians in potentially high-profile religious liberties cases. This accomplishes two necessary tasks: keeping their organizations in the news, and for Liberty Counsel, it ensures yearly donations and grants exceeding $4 million will continue to flow in.
Both organizations are guilty of markedly flawed accounts of “persecuted” Christians who are most often simply people who discriminate and break the law using their beliefs to validate the wrongdoing. The entire charade garners the attention, sympathy, and financial support of conservative segments who rarely dig into the details and seem so easily manipulated by a narrative in alignment with their fears.
Staver’s counsel to Davis has simply been bad advice; there was no way her religious beliefs about the exclusivity of marriage as between a man and a woman would absolve her of the duties of her elected office. But, even bad advice successfully keeps religious liberties in news and subsequently, the money coming in.
Following Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses, District Court Judge David Bunning issued an injunction requiring Davis to resume her legal duties again.
Under Staver’s counsel, Davis again refused. Liberty Counsel then issued a statement: “Kim Davis did not sign up as a clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses. At a minimum, her religious convictions should be accommodated.” One can always count on Staver to throw up a legal-sounding smoke screen.
The law does require that employers, in this case the State of Kentucky, reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless, that is, doing so would cause significant burden on the business (or state office). By not issuing marriage licenses, a regular duty of a county clerk, Davis’ refusal is more than a significant burden. Clearly, or it should be clear to Staver, accommodation for religious beliefs cannot be used as an excuse to not do your assigned job.
If Davis’ religious convictions do not allow her to do her job, she certainly had an option. She could maintain her dogma and quit her $80,000/year job. She has not quit however. She is determined to “stand strong.” Davis cannot be fired from an elected position; she must be impeached by the KY legislature during next years regular session or sooner in a costly special session.
Bunning’s District Court ruling was not enough to stop or satisfy Liberty Counsel from pressing the issue further. Staver filed an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court on Friday, August 28th asking for “asylum for her (Davis’) conscience.” Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the 6th Circuit, took Davis’ request to the full court panel of three judges who unanimously denied the stay with no comment.
The case was again passed back down to District Court Judge Bunning who is now able hold Davis in contempt of court. She may be subject to a fine and/or sentencing to jail if she refuses to do her elected job which she swore to uphold “without favor, affection or partiality.”
Kim Davis, elected County Clerk from Rowan County, KY continues to break the law.
This morning, September 1st, she denied issuance of a marriage license to Yates and Smith for the fifth time, and denied another gay couple and lesbian couple as well. Defying several federal court rulings in her case, Davis was asked under whose authority she was operating. Davis, an Apostolic Christian responded, “Under God’s authority.”
It should be noted that Davis’ Christians beliefs are not universal Christian beliefs.
There are many Christian denominations which have long sought the right to marry same-sex couples. A growing number of Christians with otherwise traditional tenets, me included, do not agree with Davis’ restrictive view of Christian marriage. Most importantly, in the constitutional democracy in which we live, Davis’s beliefs that marriage is between only a man and a woman do not trump the civil rights of LGBT citizens. The Supreme Court of the United States already decided that.
Staver’s advice to Davis has been ridiculous and obviously unjustifiable legally all along. Liberty Counsel did however create another public “martyr” who they can only dream will be carried off in shackles, photographers snapping away, for her faith. Ca ching, ca ching.
In the end though, it is County Clerk Kim Davis who will suffer the longer term consequences of her misguided actions. Sadly, many well-meaning Christians, Davis included, are the victims of the unholy merger of faith and politics over the past four decades that has so horribly diminished the Gospel and the public integrity of the faith.
No worries. It’s all good in the bigger picture for Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel, and ADF. They continue to lurk and look for the next high-profile conservative Christian(s) offering a potentially money-raising “persecution” story.
These lawyers will do as they always do — create faux Christian martyrs out of those who break the law, tell partial truths about the drama, couch their endemic discrimination against the LGBT community in biblical terms, all while asking for donations to fight the encroaching “gay agenda.”
As long as there is money to be made and power to be had, the creation of Christian “martyrs” out of those who discriminate will be jammed in the public eye.