Rowan County

Kim Davis and the ‘authority of god’

Kim DavisUpdates: 9 September | 4 September

In Rowan County, Kentucky of the United States of America, a public servant, County Clerk Kim Davis invoked the ‘authority of god’ in refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This devout, three-time divorced Apostolic Christian of four years asserts she is acting ‘under god’s authority’ to save her soul from hell. She insists, for her, this ‘is a Heaven or Hell decision.’

Kim Davis’ lawyer, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, an organisation listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, conveniently argues in respect of Davis’ divorces that ‘it’s not really relevant, it’s something that happened in her past.’ Apparently, her conversion to Christianity just over four years ago wiped her spiritual slate clean. How convenient …

By refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she is defying the laws of the United States of America and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

On Monday, 31 August SCOTUS had expressly denied her application to stay a decision of the US District Court ordering her to issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of their gender, in a single sentence: ‘The application for stay presented to Justice Kagan and by her referred to the Court is denied.’

That denial made it clear SCOTUS was not swayed by the First Amendment and ‘religious freedom’ arguments presented by Kim Davis. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan did not take the decision upon herself. She chose to send the request to the full court, and the consequent denial indicates the decision represents the views of the majority of SCOTUS judges.

In the meantime, the Founding Fathers of the United States of America are, without doubt, turning in their graves, as the separation of church and state and the rule of law are disregarded by a few self-righteous Christians.

Kim Davis is an unlikely self-appointed Christian ‘martyr’. Given her failings in her personal life, and the fact all anyone asks her to do is her … job, as a public servant, she’s doing no favour for the regressive cultural crusade conducted by America’s Christian right.

Admittedly, Kim Davis is not the only Kentucky clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Casey Davis, unrelated to Kim, is also taking the same course of action. There are also clerks in Alabama and Texas who are engaging in the same rearguard tactics against marriage equality.

Despite these incidents of bigotry, perhaps the real story is how little active resistance there has been to marriage equality across the United States of America following the landmark SCOTUS decision in June, further highlighting people such as Kim Davis are on the outliers of American society. Nevertheless, they are in breach of the law and the Constitution, and are denying the fundamental rights of fellow Americans, a situation which cannot be allowed to persist.

The other Kentucky clerk, Casey Davis, starved of public attention by all the spotlight on Kim Davis, gave an interview on the subject recently. As measured an interview as an unhinged religious extremist could give:

It’s a war on Christianity.

There is a travesty taking place with that Supreme Court ruling was completely unconstitutional, completely unconstitutional. They have no right to tell us, the state of Kentucky, that our law that was voted with what was 70 percent of the people that it was wrong, they had no right.

Our law says ‘one man and one woman’ and that is what I held my hand up and took an oath to and that is what I expected. If it takes it, I will go to jail over; if it takes my life, I will die for because I believe I owe that to the people that fought so I can have the freedom that I have, I owe that to them today, and you do, we all do. They fought and died so we could have this freedom and I’m going to fight and die for my kids and your kids can keep it.

Yes, seriously …

The quote above starts at 1:52

Kim Davis’ support base is limited to a minority group of right-wing Christians with their selective and literal interpretation of the bible. However, she does not enjoy wide public support, not even in Kentucky.

If her conscience really won’t let her issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she should resign the $80,000 a year post that has long supported her family.
Rowan clerk faces big decision on job, Lexington Herald-Leader (27 August 2015)

Kim Davis rose to national prominence in July by denying to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after SCOTUS held marriage equality is a Constitutional right.

Consequently, the American Union of Civil Liberties (AUCL) filed a case against her in the US District Court to secure her compliance with the law. In August Kim Davis countered with a lawsuit against the Governor of Kentucky, claiming her religious liberty was violated by the Governor’s instruction to all county clerks to obey the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality.

Imagine, the Governor of a State instructing public servants to obey the law! Well, I never …

On 12 August, in the case filed by the AUCL, US District Court Judge David Bunning ordered Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

Davis is bound by her duties as a public servant to obey the law. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk.

Judge Bunning declined to stay his ruling, but given her time to appeal the decision. Consequently, Kim Davis filed a Notice of Appeal in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The three judge panel of the Court of Appeals rejected that petition for a stay on 26 August. The next day she petitioned SCOTUS, however that approach was slapped down with the usual brevity in such circumstances.

Yesterday Kim Davis continued to defy the order of the District Court, and again refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple as she continues to appeal the ruling of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the refusal of SCOTUS to intervene in the matter.

Helpfully, that bastion of oozing Christian love, Pat Robertson also stepped in and declared Kim Davis a victim of ‘sodomy as the law of the land’.

Of course, this comment is very much in line with the extremist, verging on the insane, views of some right-wing American Christians on the LGBTI community.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

The Kim Davis saga is yet another example of the mind-blowing hypocrisy and intellectual shortcomings of some Christians, and their inability to accept the rule of law, and separation of church and state.

Some even see Kim Davis as a modern-day … Rosa Parks! What a psychotic alternate-universe such people must occupy.

In reality Kim Davis represents nothing more than the 21st century homophobic version of the racists who thought Rosa Parks belonged at the back of the bus … in the name of Jesus, and the words of the bible of course.

Marriage is the new bus, and the people to be kept on the other side of the divide are the LGBTI community.

To compare Kim Davis to Rosa Parks is an incredible insult to the memory of Rosa Parks, and the entire civil rights movement that fought to eliminate bigotry, and promote equality.

‘Religious freedom’ in the hands of right-wing Christian extremists has been perverted into something it was never intended to be – a weapon. The reaction of this segment of the Christian faith to the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality was revealing of their bigoted, hateful, ignorant mindset.

Some within this segment of the Christian faith goes as far as lamenting the loss of ‘religious freedom’ as exercised by ISIS in executing gay men … by stoning them to death. Thankfully, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, and our secular democratic institutions continue to hold such extreme views at bay. Although, one could argue that society, governments, and the religious institutions involved, fail to make sufficient public efforts to unequivocally rebuke such violently hateful and totally unacceptable views.

It’s important to highlight the views of these extremist Christians are not the only interpretations of what it means to be a Christian. Millions of Christians around the world, including in Ireland, illustrate that homosexuality and marriage equality can be reconciled with the Christian faith.

Religions, including Christianity, cannot single-mindedly hold back human cultural and social progress. They have no authority, divine, moral or otherwise, to do so. Anchoring themselves to ‘holy texts’, reflecting the outdated morality and limited intellect of the writers of those texts, is a personal lifestyle choice. There are very good reasons why many of the ‘social norms’ espoused by those ‘holy texts’ are considered immoral, and even illegal today. To try to hold a 21st century humanity hostage to selective, literal interpretations of such texts, misinterpreted and misrepresented over millennias by a collection of well-meaning fools, self-serving frauds and criminal charlatans, is an intellectual crime against humanity.

It’s not that god’s authority over humanity ended. Such authority never existed.

There is no such thing as ‘god’s law’, and never has been. There were only ever the ‘laws of man’. Laws established and modified in accordance with the parameters of evolving and prevailing cultural and social norms, and the intellectual development of societies.

Religion is faith.

But blind faith is ignorance with no room for reason.

And where there is no reason, there is no room for humanity.

Update – 4 September 2015

On Thursday, 3 September US District Court Judge David Bunning found Kim Davis in contempt over her refusal to comply with the orders of the court, requiring her to comply with the laws and the Constitution of the United States of America.

Kim Davis mugshotJudge Bunning made an attempt to keep Davis out of jail by asking her to give an undertaking she would not interfere with her staff issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Her refusal to agree to this condition highlighted her actions were never about observing her conscience, but rather forcing that conscience on others.

Judge Bunning is an unlikely enforcer of marriage equality. He is a devout Catholic, and he was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush. He comes from a distinguished Republican family. His father was a Republican United States Senator. It is understood he personally disagrees with the SCOTUS decision legalising marriage equality, but he is known as a black-letter judge, who will uphold the law regardless of his personal or political views.

I would like to remind those who feel jailing her is an affront to ‘religious liberties,’ she is not in jail because she’s a Christian.

She’s in jail because she broke the law. Clearly she had very bad legal advice. There is a lesson to be learned here – never get your legal advice from a hate group … Nevertheless, it’s highly regrettable the matter couldn’t be resolved without jailing her.

The First Amendment does give Kim Davis the right to believe that homosexuality is ‘a Heaven or Hell decision.’ But, the First Amendment that protects her religious freedom, bars the government from holding any official religious beliefs.

The First Amendment does not give her the power either to decide whether same-sex marriage is lawful in Kentucky. That question was determined by SCOTUS in June, by holding the Constitution guarantees the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in all 50 states.

Once Kim Davis walks through the doors of the Rowan County Clerk’s office, she is a public servant, an agent of of the government, and she is obliged to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States of America. If she can’t do that, there is a very simple solution – she must resign. She can’t be dismissed from her position because she is an elected official. Her removal would require impeachment by the Kentucky legislature, which won’t be in session until January 2016, unless a costly special session is convened. She could also be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

She is no Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Those comparisons are offensive to the memory of those two great civil rights heroes.

She’s not fighting for a more inclusive society, to break down barriers – she’s seeking to exclude, to discriminate.

She’s not seeking equality and justice for all – she’s seeking to deny justice for same-sex couples by denying their legal rights and equality.

This is Kim Davis’ George C. Wallace moment, standing in the metaphorical door of marriage, trying to keep out the gays. Her actions don’t make her a civil rights hero, but a Christian bigot.

She’s no more a hero than George C. Wallace was, and she can expect no better treatment from history either.

And, at the end of the day, given she is incarcerated on a contempt charge, she does have the choice to walk out of jail at any time.

Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General released a one-line statement in response to Judge Bunning’s decision:

I understand that passions are high on both sides of this issue, but we are a nation of laws, and no one can defy an order from a federal judge.

At 8.15am on Friday, 4 September Smith and James Yates, together for nearly ten years, finally obtained their marriage license in Rowan County, from Deputy Clerk Brian Mason. This was the sixth time they sought a license.

Later in the day Tim and Michael Long, together for nine years, were next to receive their marriage license in Rowan County. Sadly, not without ugly name-calling from loving Christians …

This opposition has nothing to do with ‘god’s love.’ It has everything to do with misguided Christian bigotry, hate, homophobia and ignorance.

The true perversion here is the perversion of Christianity by misguided fools.

Update – 9 September 2015

On 8 September 2015 Judge Bunning ordered the release of Kim Davis after the filing of a status report by those who complained about her refusal to issue marriage licenses. The status report confirmed the complainants have obtained their marriage licenses, leading to Judge Bunning being satisfied the Rowan County Clerk’s Office was fulfilling its ‘obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples,’ leading to the lifting of the contempt sanction against Kim Davis. (emphasis added)

However her release is subject to a number of conditions, the breach of which could see her sanctioned again, including a return to jail:

  • she must not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputies to issue marriage licences to all legally eligible couples, i.e. same-sex couples; and
  • counsel acting for her deputies must file a report with the court every fortnight, until excused by the court, reporting on the deputy clerks’ compliance with the court’s order to issue marriage licenses as ordered by Judge Bunning.

Judge Bunning has run this case to the letter of the law, from beginning to end, no doubt recognising the immense public interest and scrutiny attaching the matter. Judge Bunning must be commended for his handling of this matter in extremely difficult and unusual circumstances.

Despite her reprehensible conduct, it is good to see Kim Davis freed from jail. Hopefully she will continue to conduct herself in a manner that won’t cause her being jailed again.

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