Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The clerk goes to court and Christianity loses (updated)

The Rowan KY county clerk, Kim Davis, believes that her religiously-founded disdain for same sex marriage entitles her to refuse to do her job.  Her office is refusing to provide marriage licenses to any couple, straight or gay.  Religious freedom, you know.

Think about that.  She is saying that her religious beliefs entitle her, a public servant, to deny her fellow citizens legal civil rights.

Susan Russell writes, 
What if I'm a Muslim and my understanding of my religion is that women shouldn't drive? Can I refuse to issue drivers' licenses to women? Or if I'm a Hindu and a vegetarian -- can I refuse to issue fishing licenses because killing/eating fish is against my religion? Of course not. Likewise, your personal opinions and beliefs about who should or should not be getting married has absolutely no bearing on who you issue marriage licenses to as a county clerk. Period.
Exactly.  And just to make it sweeter, Ms Davis has been divorced three times.  But wait, there's more!
She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second.
She has since found JAYSUS and has been absolved of sin.  Wiped clean.  Like it never happened.  Of course it doesn't work that way for the Roman Catholics, who consider a couple married following divorce to be living in adultery.  Good thing she's not Catholic, then.

But regardless of her past, even if she were pure as snow, that would not justify her actions.

She has lost in federal court.  While her appeal is pending, she asked for an extended stay of the decision so that she didn't have to sign the licenses.  The 6th circuit said, no, no stay.  The Supreme Court said no, no stay.  You have to start giving out the licenses while your appeal is pending.

GOD! cries Davis and won't do it.  Clerk Davis is facing contempt charges, fines, maybe jail.

Even anti-gay Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation thinks she's nuts.  Quoted in Think Progress, 
“The citizens of Rowan County have a right to receive in a timely and efficient manner the various government provisions—including licenses—to which they are entitled,” Anderson writes for one of Heritage’s websites. 
He adds.... that “[s]aying your religion requires your entire office to stop issuing marriage licenses to everyone . . . cannot be reasonably accommodated without placing undue hardships on the citizens unable to receive their licenses in their county and forced to drive to another.” 
.... the fact that as prominent an anti-gay luminary as Anderson believes that Davis has gone too far is a sign of just how thin a limb the Kentucky clerk now finds herself upon.
Joe Childers makes the constitutional point:
Religiously neutral civil mechanisms are the only possible way for true religious freedom to exist for multiple religions simultaneously. Civil servants who are religious ought therefore to be even more scrupulous about preserving religious neutrality in their duties than non-religious servants, for they are more directly enjoying religious freedom in their own lives and have more to lose from threats to that freedom.
 So what's up?  Everyone agrees that this is wrong at many levels.

Is she merely a puppet of the lawyers who are fundraising wildly? Mark Stern in Slate:
I’m growing a bit concerned about Davis’ lawyers. Davis is being represented by the Liberty Counsel, a far-right fringe group that specializes in anti-gay litigation. (Naturally, it is also a Christian ministry and a tax-exempt nonprofit.) Founder and Chairman Mathew D. Staver has used Davis’ case to raise money and boost publicity for his group, going so far as to hold a rally for Davis..... 
When a federal judge ordered Davis to issue licenses or be held in contempt of court, the Liberty Counsel advised her to disobey the ruling. Good lawyers don’t usually tell their clients to defy lawful court orders, especially when jail time is a real possibility. Yet the Liberty Counsel didn’t mind putting their client at risk—perhaps because the idea of a middle-aged woman being hauled off to jail for purportedly following her conscience would send thousands of anti-gay Americans reaching for their pitchforks (and checkbooks).
Liberty Counsel, which gallingly is funded by tax-deductable donations and grants, stands to gain.  The  Lexington KY Herald-Leader agrees:
So, why is Liberty Counsel marching alongside Davis in this losing cause? It takes a lot to keep that marketing machine humming and those executives paid, and the only way to keep those donations coming is to stay in the news. For that purpose a losing cause is just as good as, perhaps better than, a winning one.

Read more here:
It's always about money.  Dan Savage sees a method to Kim's madness: t he greed of martyrdom:
....this isn't about Kim Davis standing up for her supposed principles—proof of that in a moment—it's about Kim Davis cashing in. There's a big pile of sweet, sweet bigot money out there waiting for her. If the owners of a pizza parlor could rake in a million dollars just by threatening not to cater the gay wedding no one asked them to cater... just imagine how much of that sweet, sweet bigot money Kim Davis is going to rake in. I'm sure Kim Davis is already imagining it.
Regardless of who is using whom, money and martyrdom go hand in hand.  But Dan goes on,
.... This pathetic bullshit is what passes for Christianity in America today. Thanks to the efforts of hate groups like the American Family Association, the Family Research Council ....,, the 700 Club, the Moral Majority, the National Organization for Marriage, the National Association of Evangelicals, etc., and the mousy, near-complicit silence of left-wing and progressive Christians, "Christian" is now synonymous with "anti-gay bigot."
"Mousy, near complicit silence of left-wing and progressive Christians".  Yup.  Because if you don't defend the brand, the brand becomes Kim Davis.  Dan continues,
To be a good American Christian like Kim Davis—or a good Alaskan Christian like Bristol Palin—you don't have to stay in your first marriage, don't have to deny marriage licenses to straight people who are remarrying or marrying outside the faith or obtaining marriage licenses for Godless secular marriages. Nope. You just have to hate the homos. ....You don't have to feed the sick, clothe the naked, house the homeless—you don't have to do any of that shit Jesus actually talked about—you just have to hate the homos hard enough to go to jail for for your beliefs cash in on your bigotry.
That, my friends, is Christianity in America today.  And all the gay friendly mainlines, the ELCA, UCC, PCUSA, TEC, you all are being so NICE about it, while your brand is going down the drain.   You quietly wring your hands or comment on Facebook, so politely, "you know, we're Not All Like That (NALT)."  Oh, but remember, you pretty much don't have any friends on Facebook who don't already agree with you.

Why isn't anyone saying assertively and publicly, "this woman DOESN'T SPEAK for Christianity"?  Why isn't anyone speaking out?  Why are you letting this once more be cast as the mediatainment narrative likes it, as a battle between Teh Gayz  and the Christians?

Can anyone wonder why the Nones are the fastest growing religious group in the country?

Update:  Found in contempt of court, Ms Davis was taken into custody.  She apparently intends to stay there, and refuses to allow her clerks to administer licenses.  The fundraising no doubt will pick up, until it doesn't,  and no one will marry in Rowan County.


Erp said...

i wonder if a judge can throw a lawyer in prison for contempt if they advised their client to disobey a court order?

Kevin K said...

While I certainly have no first hand information, the information seems to indicate that the Clerk is sincerely motivated. I disagree with her position that religion forbids her to issue the licences. As Christ said, give unto Caesar but if this is what she believes, she should resign. As for her past events, she seems to acknowledge that these transgress the religious tenants she has adopted. It is not hypocritical to change your ways.

JCF said...

KevinK, I believe IT would characterize you (probably me, too) as "fiddling while Rome burns."

I feel many contradictory things at once. My parish is trying to develop an approach of "Radical Welcome" (but had to rethink, when older/white parishioners objected to the term "radical" }-X ). I suggested that our BEST (or at least, FIRST) effort at Welcome would be to have an "Office of Denunciation", *precisely* to "say assertively and publicly, 'this woman DOESN'T SPEAK for Christianity'".

At the same time---I was talking to Doug (Counterlight) last night---I said the feeling of being trapped in a No-Win situation (as a Queer Christian, I mean, Jesus-Follower), is to throw myself into the Everlasting Arms (and NOT the Queer Nones. Sorry, they won't save me.)

I'm just wee me. That's all. IT, I can't take this burden you want to put on me, *merely* because I call my highest value "ˈdʒiːzəs". I don't have super-powers (even if Dan Savage seems to think I might!).

P.S. Have you seen my inbox lately? It's filled w/ Christianist responses from my DENUNCIATION of homophobia on YouTube. I DO WHAT I CAN.

Kevin K said...


As I was reading IT's report again I was reminded of those who condemn Islam for failing to sufficiently condemn ISIS and others. Christianity is an enormous group and is sadly divided on many issues. There is no one Church that can speak for all Christians and even those Churches with a hierarchy have disagreements within their bodies. Christianity has been "dying" for 2,000 years. Believers must seek to live faithful lives and we will see where God takes us.

James Pratt said...

Erp, I did see a judge jail a lawyer for answering his cell phone in the courtroom while court was in session. Generally, however, judges will only cite lawyers for contempt for conduct which takes place in the courtroom, or for deliberate and unreasonable conduct obstructing litigation (failure to show up for a hearing without adequate cause; repeatedly not responding to discovery requests).

Actively counseling a client to break the law or to deliberately defy a court order could in many cases subject a lawyer to disciplinary action by the state bar, possibly leading to suspension or loss of license to practice.