Religion

Kentucky Clerk's Jailing Shows Religious Freedom Will Not Protect Discrimination

| by Will Hagle

Considering how Republicans have been battling against the Roe v. Wade ruling for decades, it should have been obvious that religious conservatives would resist the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized same sex marriage nationwide. The situation involving Kentucky’s Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, however, remains appalling. Davis was recently imprisoned in Carter County jail for her decision not to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Throughout the duration of her resistance, which became a media sensation, Davis cited her religious beliefs as conflicting with the new Supreme Court ruling. “My conscience will not allow it,” Davis said, according to USA Today. “God’s moral law convicts me and conflicts with my duties.”

Despite Davis’s attempts to justify her bigotry as a constitutionally-protected exercise of religious freedom, the court’s reaction has shown that discrimination will not be tolerated. Davis was sent to jail after U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning found her in contempt of court. Her incarceration was also intended to set an example for other clerks that might attempt the same type of resistance. “Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said. “Oaths mean things.” The law of the United States, Bunning seems to be saying, is more important than the "God's moral law" that Davis follows. 

Davis’s adamant refusal to issue marriage licenses was a calculated choice. By choosing to go to jail rather than quitting or retiring, she knew she could make headlines in what she believes is a fight to spread God’s message. “I would have to either make a decision to stand or I would have to buckle down and leave,” Davis told The Kentucky Trial Court Review. “And if I left, resigned or chose to retire, I would have no voice for God’s word.”

Hardcore conservatives are going along with Davis’s thought process, viewing her as a type of martyr for religious freedom. She’s become a symbol of the anti-gay marriage resistance, as well as a way for presidential candidates to make their bigotry well known. According to CNN, Mike Huckabee is planning on visiting Davis in jail next week. Huckabee has framed Davis’s jailing as the criminalization of Christian beliefs. “We must defend religious liberty and never surrender to judicial tyranny,” Huckabee said. “I am proud of Kim for standing strong for her beliefs. Who will be next? Pastors? Photographers? Caterers? Florists? This is a reckless, appalling, out-of-control decision that undermines the Constitution of the United States and our fundamental right to religious liberty.”

In fact, it is reckless, appalling and out-of-control that politicians like Huckabee still advocate denying gay and lesbian Americans their fundamental right to liberty. The United States was founded in part on the principle of freedom of religion, sure. All Americans should be able to practice whatever faith they want. When it comes to the issue of civil rights, however, religious freedom cannot be used as an excuse for discrimination. That’s all Davis’s imprisonment shows, and hopefully other Christian clerks around the country will choose not to follow her lead.

Sources: USA Today, The Kentucky Trial Court Review, The New York Times, CNN

Image Source: NBC News