01 September 2015
A theocratic insurrection in Kentucky
Ever since the right to refuse service to gay weddings was equated with religious freedom, I've challenged religious homophobes to prove that their religion and their salvation require them to repudiate gay weddings, my own position being that, whether I really like it or not, religious believers should not be compelled to do anything that would discredit them within their religion or condemn them, according to that faith, to Hell or its equivalent. My hunch had been that no religious homophobe could prove that their souls would be jeopardized by catering to gay weddings -- but I had not reckoned with Kim Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County, KY. Citing religious grounds, she has refused to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples in her county, and continues to refuse even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that she had no right to refuse. Davis announced her defiance today and explicitly stated that she refused "under God's authority" to issue the licenses. She elaborated on her stand in a press release, explaining that, in fact, for her at least, whether or not to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals is "a Heaven or Hell decision." Davis believes that she is as securely protected against reprisal as a public official as private businesses are under the federal and state constitutions and Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but she faces prosecution as gay couples have sued her for contempt and will be subject to financial penalties, at least, if found guilty. Whether the county government will hold her accountable depends on the political and religious environment there, but her refusal to resign disqualifies her from any claim to leniency. It would be one thing, and perhaps questionable at that, if she challenged the requirement to issue the licenses on constitutional grounds, but the Constitution is at best her second line of defense. Instead, this public official claims the prerogative to put "God's authority" before the word of the Supreme Court. If a Muslim tried this a mob would be out with torches and pitchforks, and people in some states have even proposed legislation against such a possibility. Kim Davis is doing nothing different from what many fear Muslims want to do. She is claiming that a Christian shari'a overrides the supreme law of the land. Worse, instead of resigning with some vestige of honor, she is claiming a right to override the supreme law of the land herself, while in a position of public responsibility, based on a personal interpretation of her religion that we have to take on faith, since she cites no scriptural authority for her implicit claim that allowing gay weddings is a mortal sin. The lines can hardly be drawn more starkly. It may be that no one has the power to remove her from office immediately, but whatever due process is required to remove her is by now overdue.