Religious Liberty and The Law of The Land
In following the saga of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed last week for being in contempt of court after ignoring a Federal judge's order to resume issuing marriage licenses in Rowan County, to both hetero- and homo- sexual couples, I found myself becoming more and more intrigued by the public's reaction to this situation. As expected, there are two camps occupying the issue: those who support Kim Davis and those who do not. I'm hearing all this discussion about religious liberty and the matter of how far it can be taken. Some people are saying that Ms. Davis was singled out because of her faith and her devotion to it. Others believe she was discriminating against same sex couples and using her office as a platform to flex her religious liberty. This has become a hot button issue that is playing itself out in the glare of the media spotlight.
One thing most people are ignoring is the simple fact that Kim Davis is in jail for breaking the law. She is not incarcerated for being a Christian or for exhibiting her dedication to her religious beliefs. She hasn't been chosen as an example of anything other than what can happen when a person chooses to break the law. So many people are using her situation to exploit their own agendas, whether for or against same sex marriage, and bending and twisting the facts to suit their needs. It is yet another case of sensationalized journalism making more out of this than is actually there. Kim Davis willfully ignored the order of a Federal judge, even after the Supreme Court declined to stay his order, and in doing so she put herself in a position to be jailed. Contempt of Court is a crime. Plain and simple. And Ms. Davis is suffering the consequences of her actions.
I will typically applaud anyone who stands up for what he or she believes in. I think exercising our privilege of being a free nation is one of the most fundamental rights we have as American citizens. Our Founding Fathers designed a country where those who call themselves Americans can be at liberty to believe in whatever we choose, so long as it doesn't violate the law. And this is where my support for Kim Davis ends.
I think it is admirable of her to state her opposition to same sex marriage due to the teachings of her faith but she has no right whatsoever to use it as a means to prevent other Americans from receiving their civil rights. And just weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry is something all Americans have and can enjoy at their own discretion. No one can say: 'Well, I don't agree with that because my religion is against it, so I won't obey that law.' You don't get to pick and choose which laws you're going to follow. Our legal system doesn't work that way. Not even for the religious. I wonder if Kim Davis refused marriage licenses to Jewish people because they don't accept Jesus as the messiah. I'll bet she didn't.
Yet she did use her position to support her opposition to same sex marriage by deciding that her office wasn't going to issue any marriage licenses at all. This is where she overstepped her bounds. As an elected official, elected by the tax paying citizens of Rowan County, Kentucky, she has certain obligations to fulfill no matter what religion she practices... and issuing marriage licenses to the people who live in Rowan County is one of those obligations. It's in her job description. Not only has she broken the law by placing herself in contempt of court but she has also given the Kentucky state legislature all the ammunition it needs to impeach and remove her from office. She did all this to herself.
What it boils down to is this: Ms. Davis has confused her Freedom of Religion with her duty as an American to obey the law. In doing so, she stubbornly refused to be redirected by a Federal judge and it cost her her freedom. The judge even offered her a way out of getting locked up by telling her that she could go free if she wouldn't prevent her deputy clerks from obeying the law and still she wouldn't accept that the law is the law no matter who you are or what religious beliefs you hold. She seems to think that because she is against same sex marriage she has the right to impose her values and ideals on everyone else in Rowan County due to her position. The only example she's setting is showing the rest of the world what happens to people in the United States who choose to break the law.
Kim Davis is not a martyr. She isn't a champion of Christian morals. She's not Joan of Arc. What she is is a person who's in jail because she ignored the order of a Federal judge to follow the letter of the law. She didn't take into consideration that everyone has the same Freedom of Religion that she does or that hers doesn't supersede anyone else's. She tried to get away with breaking the law and look what happened to her because of it.
Hers is an example of an exercise in futility. It is a classic case of why a person shouldn't try to do a job that their conscience can't accept because it conflicts with their religious ideals. Kim Davis had the chance to avoid jail by preserving her beliefs while also allowing her deputies to provide a service she felt she could not. And she chose to use her office to deprive others of their civil rights. In plain terms, she committed a crime. Now she has to pay for it.
Religious liberty and the law of the land don't always complement each other. When they conflict for someone on a personal level, common sense should prevail. If your religion doesn't permit you to do something then stay away from whatever it may be that offends you. It's not that difficult to reconcile the two when you get right down to it.
But to get back to my original intent in writing this piece, I reiterate that Kim Davis is not in jail for being a Christian.
She's in jail because she broke the law.