Posted By Levi
I’m sure many you are familiar with the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was sent to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on religious grounds. She said that because she is a Christian she cannot issue these licenses because gay marriage is against “God’s laws.”
For me the case against Davis is pretty simple. She is the county clerk. It is her job to issue marriage licenses to anyone who needs it.
As an elected official she has an obligation to follow the law. She took an oath to uphold the law. The law now says gay people have a right to marry and such a right is protected by the Constitution.
She says that she cannot carry out the law because of her religious beliefs. I have no problem with that and she has a right to her beliefs. But she cannot allow her personal religious beliefs to override her public duty.
The right thing for her to do is to step aside and give the job to someone else. Freedom of religion means that you have a right to believe what you want to believe. But it also means that you cannot enforce your beliefs on others.
Was she imposing her religious views on others? Yes, not only was she refusing to issue licenses to gay couples, she was also preventing her deputies from doing so as well.
Make no mistake, the judge sent Davis to jail, not for her religious beliefs, but for refusing to carry out her public duties.
In fact, this is the whole point of religious liberty, you have the right not to take a job if it might violate your religious convictions. But once you take the job you can’t decide to serve some customers and not others.
The Constitution strikes a delicate balance when it comes to religious liberty. The trick here is that you have to be careful that, in exercising your freedom of religion, you do not prevent others from enjoying their freedom. When you refuse to serve gays simply because of your religious beliefs, what you are actually doing is imposing your religious beliefs on others.
The idea of using religious liberty to discriminate against people you dislike is a dangerous one. We have been here before.The United States has had a long and ugly history of discrimination against certain groups. During the Jim Crow period in the South, some businesses refused to serve blacks. They posted signs in their windows that said, “No blacks served.”
There was a time when it was illegal for white people and black people to marry each other. Religion was often used to prevent this type of marriage. Theodore Bilbo, two time governor of Mississippi and who believed that blacks and Jews were inferior, wrote that the
“purity of race is a gift of God . . . . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed.” Allowing “the blood of the races [to] mix,” according to Bilbo, was a direct attack on the “Divine plan of God.” There “is every reason to believe that miscegenation and amalgamation are sins of man in direct defiance to the will of God.”
Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, fell in love but it was illegal for them to marry in Virginia where they lived. Instead, in 1958 they went to Washington DC, got married and returned to Virginia. Shortly after, the police raided the couple’s home in the middle of the night and arrested them for breaking the state’s anti-miscegenation laws.
The judge gave them a choice – one year in prison or leave Virginia and never to return for 25 years. Here’s what the judge told them, using the Bible as his reference:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
It is this type of religious bigotry why many people object to the demands by conservative Christians that they must be allowed to discriminate against gays on the basis of religious liberty.
I see some Republicans and conservatives are comparing the actions of Kim Davis with those of heroes such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and others for disobeying unjust laws. This is wrong. There is a big difference between what Davis is doing and what these civil rights giants did.
Dr. King and Rosa Parks fought the government. They fought against unjust laws. They fought for the rights of individuals to live in dignity and not to live as second class citizens. They had to endure police brutality, water cannons, vicious police dogs and, in the case of Dr. King, went to jail frequently.
On the other hand, Davis represents the government, she is a government official and she is using that position to discriminate against individuals. She is violating the law that she sworn to uphold. She is denying individuals rights granted to them by the Constitution.
So, no, Kim Davis is no Dr. King, she is no Rosa Parks.