I’ve been avoiding this article for a while now but I decided that this particular cup of coffee this morning provided me enough inspiration to get through it, so I’m going to share my thoughts on the matter since I have some time to kill before getting started on the day’s tasks ahead.
If you don’t know the Kim Davis story by now, crawl out from under your rock and get some sunlight. Kim is the Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky that refused to provide marriage licenses to gay couples on grounds that it conflicts with her religious convictions.
It went to court. She lost.
She took it to the Supreme Court. She lost again.
She still refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because she says she’ll go to hell for it.
Why isn’t she simply fired yet?
Even as a Christian that shares some of her beliefs I find myself flabbergasted that this woman hasn’t simply been fired yet. Christians, like gun owners, are under enough fire lately without Kim trying to martyr herself in some backwards attempt to stand up for religious beliefs, a belief that while I might share on a personal level I also know has no place in a government office.
She works for the county, a government position, in an office that is required to offer marriage licenses to anyone that qualifies. It’s simple. Do it. Signing the piece of paper has nothing to do with your religious convictions; absolutely nothing. It’s a government document, not a religious one. Further, it’s your job; a job you are tasked to perform under the laws of the state of Kentucky, not under the laws of God.
Author’s note 09/03/2015: To those of you who commented that she’s an elected position and can’t be “fired,” I realize this. However corrupt officials can be removed from office through the recall process. They can also be removed for failing to do their job – which would be the case here; failing to do her elected job. Recall traditionally requires an application for recall election, followed by circulating it to get the required amount of signatures, then submitting that to election officials for verification. If sufficient signatures are present, they WILL have a recall election and she can be replaced mid-term. I hope this clarifies what I meant by “fired.” I didn’t think an in-depth analysis of the political process was required to make my point, but apparently I was wrong.
The consequences if she were to win?
Let’s say Kim won her argument just for the sake of conversation. A government employee was exempted from performing the duties of their job because of their religious convictions. What’s the next logical step in the progression of this precedent in statutory law? Allowing statutory responsibility or civil responsibility to be affected by personal religious beliefs has tremendous and long-lasting side effects that could ripple through our country on both a state and federal level. The local judge recognized that and the Supreme Court did as well.
There are a few places this could go if she were allowed this right. You might find these extreme, but two weeks ago this story itself seemed extreme to some of us and yet it’s still not been settled. I’ll stick to a few of the simple legal examples that come to mind:
- A sitting judge could refuse to allow arraignment of an abusive husband that likes to beat his wife – on the grounds that beating your wife is allowed under certain circumstances in both the Muslim and even some backwards Christian sects of religion. “My bible tells me I can beat my wife, so I won’t allow prosecution of this defendant.” Yeah – sounds crazy right? Why? It’s the same principle. You think I’m joking? We already had a case in New Jersey where a judge refused to give a restraining order to a wife that had been repeatedly beaten. Why? Because the judge deferred to Shariah law under which the punishment was acceptable under standards of the husband’s religion. Thankfully an appellate court overturned that decision. Simply allowing a religious exception like Kim’s could overturn that decision in an appeal, or would definitely give grounds for the defense the next time it came up in court. It’s sad that we live in this world, but it comes down to a ridiculous statement like that. “Sorry Kim, if I allow you not to give out marriage licenses, I have to say it’s ok to beat and rape your wife. You choose….”
- Shariah law would have to be accepted in the US. After all Sharia law is a religious one. Kim Davis is arguing that religious beliefs (laws) prevent her from performing her task. If we accept that we are going to support religious conviction over constitutional law, the door is opened for Shariah to be just as accepted as Christianity. But let’s not stop there. Any recognized religion would have to have their laws and beliefs supported. Muslim family law (Sharia) would allow some fairly heinous acts to be forced to be allowed under law.
- A male civil employee could claim religious backing that his religion states that women should be subservient to men; therefore a woman can’t be his superior in a civil job setting. This too is backed under a variety of religions.
- A judge during a divorce hearing could choose to ignore secular law in place of his religious affiliation. If he were of the Islamic faith, he could flatly deny the woman anything in the divorce, regardless of any divorce agreements, because his religion states that all assets remain with the man. That’s a religious law too, but I don’t see Christians fighting for that one.
It’s ALL or NOTHING people. That’s what you have to understand.
Secular Standards Have To Apply – Or All is Lost
God, I hate to ever have been the one to say that, but it’s true. America is a multi-faith nation. If we were to purport to be a Christian-only nation, then some of these issues wouldn’t be an issue, but we aren’t. As much as I hate to say it, we never will be again. Though our founding principles for this great nation were Christian, our current secular legal system is built upon what is best for all, based on laws elected by those we put in place to create those laws, and supported by officials elected to enforce those laws.
Sure, religious accommodations within the work place are allowed to the extent that it provides for a person to do their job (elected or chosen) and still follow their conscience. However those accommodations stop at the performance of one’s job. You may have a bible at your desk and you make take as much time as your religion calls for to pray each day. You can claim under the religious accommodations law that you require Christmas day off in observance of Christ’s birth. You may weary your religious head coverings because your religion says you should and that doesn’t affect your ability to pass out a piece of paper to someone across a desk. Ok, sure. You may not however blast Christian music through the office radio or put up signs at the office that say “God hates gays.” You can perform your job within the confines of your religion to the point that it still allows you to do your job. If you can’t fulfill the duties of your job, it’s time for you to either step down or be terminated with cause.
Trying to bring religious exemption into the argument about performing your job duties is incompatible with a multi-faith, multi-cultural civil society. Our nation REQUIRES laws that apply equally to all people in all situations, all of the time, without question. Otherwise they aren’t laws.
In Kim’s case, the law says this is your job. Give them them piece of paper they need to get their secular marriage ceremony underway within the requirements of the legal system. You aren’t “supporting” gay marriage by signing a legal document. You WOULD be supporting gay marriage if you chose to be the pastor that wed the couple since that would be a religious observance of ceremony. Since she’s not, this isn’t an argument about religion. It’s a woman that just wants to martyr herself for a cause she doesn’t apparently understand and with consequences she doesn’t seem to care about.
Kim Davis is paid $80,000 a year to be the county clerk. That is a very generous salary for a government employee where I come from. There are surely hundreds of people without the rigid religious compass she professes to maintain that would gladly take that position. While I, as a Christian myself, find her personal feelings on the matter are certainly within the guidelines of what the bible teaches, that has no place in the laws governing our legal system.
Just fire her…