Although on its face the story of Kim Davis is one of a county clerk deciding not to do her job according to its description, this situation is, in reality, much more nuanced and brings to the surface some very basic questions which need to be addressed.
There are legal and religious aspects at play which are being highly debated by people of good faith on both sides of the issue.
Understanding history and our system of government is vital. Additionally, understanding the religious aspect and balancing it with the legal aspect is even more precarious.
Since we’re limited in space here, I’ll go quickly. The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is either 1) unconstitutional, 2) irrelevant, or 3) both. Why? The courts are not allowed to make laws. Even if they pass an opinion which is contrary to the current law, it doesn’t change the law. Only Congress can make or change laws, and as far as I can tell that hasn’t happened in the case of same-sex marriage. Checks and balances between the branches are being ignored.
The argument goes: “If the Supreme Court said it, it’s law, and it must be obeyed.” But what about Dred Scott? That ruling by the Supreme Court held that blacks were not human, but property. Abraham Lincoln ignored the decision because it was unconstitutional – and wrong. The same goes in this case.
Even if you accept the ruling as law, Kim Davis’ actions were still justifiable. Kentucky law and the Kentucky Constitution both forbid same-sex marriage licenses. That law and that state constitution haven’t changed. For her office to issue the licenses is still a direct violation of Kentucky law.
For example, marijuana is illegal by federal law, yet Colorado and other states have made it legal within their borders. How is this permissible if federal law always trumps state law?
Finally, we have a long history of “accommodations” for religious beliefs in this country. Conscientious objectors can be drafted for military service but don’t have to wield a gun or be put in a situation where they may have to take a life. Recently, the president told us that Muslim truck drivers don’t have to deliver alcohol or pork even if their employer requires it. Despite popular opinion, this allowance also applies to public employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967 if they are local or state employees (which Kim Davis is).
The Double Standard
Additionally, President Obama refused to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act — the law of the land. Then-Attorney Eric Holder refused to enforce it. None of these have been imprisoned, not even scolded. Kim Davis is a target because religious freedom is a target, and because the federal government — and those who are true believers in it — will continue to expand their power until they are forcibly stopped.
We cheered the Chinese students at Tiananmen Square for standing up to oppressive government power. But we condemn Kim Davis and say “she should have done her job”? I remind you that she had been doing the same job for two decades as a duly elected official. The only thing that changed was a court opinion – again, not a change in law.
In truth, there are two actions Davis could have taken which are in line with Scripture: face the consequences, which she chose, or resign.
Some critics have tried to make her divorces a side issue. But those came before she became a Christian, not after. No, she is not a hypocrite.
There are numerous examples in the Bible of people standing up for God in the face of “legal” oppression. Paul was in and out of jail more than Otis in Mayberry, all for the sake of Christ and for refusing to choose Roman law over Truth. The three young men that were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t give in to a law that defied God, either. Daniel did the same and faced the lions. Peter and the apostles answered when they were told not to preach the Gospel: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
When you are asked to do something which is immoral by an employer, you are not obligated to do it. Make no mistake: All of us who claim to be believers will have to make a similar stand in the coming months and years, whether big or small. Religious liberty is under direct and constant attack right now, and that battle will intensify before it eases.
We all have to choose at some point where our ultimate allegiance falls. Kim Davis made that choice in the face of a media firestorm, and she should be applauded for it.
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