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“The Obvious Remedy”: Why Kentucky’s Kim Davis Won’t Find A Different Job

One of the oddities of the Kim Davis story in Kentucky is the obvious remedy. The Kentucky clerk has a job in which she’s supposed to issue marriage licenses, but Davis doesn’t want to issue licenses to couples she deems morally inadequate. So why doesn’t Davis find some other job in which her responsibilities won’t conflict with her religious views?

Indeed, given her public notoriety, if she asked far-right leaders for a paid position somewhere, Davis probably wouldn’t have much trouble landing another gig – one which her conscience would be comfortable with.

Last night, the clerk explained her perspective.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis on Wednesday night explained to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly why she has still refused to resign despite numerous failed attempts to receive an accommodation for her religious beliefs.

 “If I resign I lose my voice,” Davis said. “Why should I have to quit a job that I love, that I’m good at?”

I imagine that was a rhetorical question, but the answer isn’t exactly complicated. If you have a job that requires you to do things you consider morally objectionable, you have a choice: meet your professional obligations anyway or find a different job. Davis’ argument is that she should continue to be paid to perform duties she refuses to do – to the point that she’s comfortable defying court rulings, her oath of office, and court orders.

As for Davis’ belief that she’ll lose her “voice” if she gets a different job, I have no idea what that means. She can continue to speak her mind on whatever topics she chooses, whether she’s a county clerk or something else entirely. Davis need not receive taxpayer money in order to have a “voice.”

Meanwhile, in the courts, the Kentucky clerk continues to strike out. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this morning:

U.S. District Judge David Bunning refused to grant Davis an emergency stay that she requested for the preliminary injunction he issued last month, ordering her to resume issuing marriage licenses. […]

At a hearing Sept. 3 in Ashland, where Bunning sent Davis to jail for five days for contempt of court, the judge expanded his mandate to include all eligible couples in Rowan County, rather than just the couples who sued Davis…. In a five-page order Wednesday, Bunning denied the stay motion that Davis subsequently filed with him. The judge said he had no intention of letting Davis grant marriage licenses to eligible couples who are plaintiffs in the case while denying licenses to others.

Note, the ACLU filed a motion with Judge Bunning this week, accusing Davis of defying a court order from two weeks ago. He did not address that motion yesterday.

As for last night’s interview, Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked Davis, “You’re prepared to go back to jail if that’s what it takes?” The clerk replied, “Whatever the cost.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 24, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Elected Officials, Kim Davis, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Liberty Does Not Mean Taking Away Others’ Rights”: Kim Davis’ Beliefs Have Not Been Criminalized; Her Actions Have

Just after Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was released from jail, she appeared at a raucous rally to thank a throng of cheering supporters.

Her stance on same-sex marriage has attracted the high-profile attention of other ultraconservative political figures, including GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz, who attended the rally, and Mike Huckabee, who organized it.

They seem to believe that Davis has a constitutional right to discriminate against other citizens and to violate the laws of the land. Defending her on CNN, Huckabee said, “We have the first example of the criminalization of a Christian for believing the traditional definition of marriage. It is very, very shocking, to say the least.”

Though he mentioned such luminary historical figures as Jefferson and Lincoln, Huckabee has completely misunderstood the First Amendment and its protections. Davis’ beliefs have not been criminalized; her actions have been. She has every constitutional right to oppose same-sex marriage, to attend a church that denies those marriages, to organize opposition to marriage equality.

But she has no constitutional right to hold the office of Rowan County Clerk and deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Succeeding her mother, who held the office for 37 years, Davis was elected just last year. Still, she has a very easy solution at hand: If her religious views are so rigid, she can resign her office. (A handful of clerks have done that rather than give licenses to same-sex couples.) As a private citizen, she may freely practice her brand of Biblical fundamentalism.

It’s important to get that distinction right.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the government cannot deny marriage to homosexual couples, county clerks around the country were ordered to issue licenses to all couples who wanted the legal bonds of matrimony. A few refused initially, but most came to their senses.

Davis, however, chose to defy the specific order of U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, and she was jailed for six days for contempt. She was released only after deputies in her office started to issue marriage licenses to “all legally eligible couples,” as the judge put it. He further ordered Davis not to interfere.

If she wants to continue as clerk, she should recognize the generous compromise that she’s been offered. She can continue her bluster and Biblical traditionalism on the speaking circuit if she chooses. But, as Rowan County Clerk, she represents the government. And the government may not discriminate. The First Amendment was adopted by the Founders to ensure that the government did not legitimize any particular set of religious beliefs over another.

Think of it this way: While marriage is often a religious ceremony, it is also a civil rite. Couples get married in city halls and before justices of the peace every day. Those ceremonies may not be offered to one group of citizens — heterosexuals — and withheld from another — homosexuals.

Churches, meanwhile, are free to follow their own theological traditions, which in this country are many and varied. There are churches that endorse, bless and perform same-sex marriages, while others are abhorred by the idea. That’s one example of the nation’s vibrant religious pluralism.

After the high court’s marriage ruling, conservative preachers around the country panicked, insisting that their beliefs were under attack, that they were being persecuted, that they would be ordered to perform marriage rites for homosexuals. Not gonna happen. For centuries, clerics have chosen to perform those ceremonies — baptisms, weddings, funerals — they believed appropriate. No law has ever challenged their decisions.

But the United States is a secular democracy, not a theocracy. We are committed to protecting religious liberty, but the nation cannot allow any group’s religious ideology to strip away another group’s human rights. Sometimes, those conflicting ideals require a delicate balance, as when Catholic hospitals are allowed to refuse to perform abortions — even when doing so jeopardizes a woman’s health.

But Davis’ intransigence requires no Solomonic decision making. She has no right to be Rowan County Clerk. If she won’t do the job, she needs to step aside.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, September 12, 2015

September 14, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Kim Davis, Religious Beliefs | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Little Late To The Party”: Why Kim Davis Has Missed Her Moment

Years ago, I remember Christian right leaders fretting about pastors going to jail if they expressed their anti-gay views; when that didn’t come to pass, they fretted about churches losing their tax-exempt status. These worst case scenarios never happened, because we have this thing called the First Amendment, which protects peoples’ and churches’ right to say gay people are going to hell, or shouldn’t be able to get married, or should be cured by divine redemption.

Years later, the Christian right finally has its martyr in Kim Davis. Thanks to United States district judge David Bunning—who, despite having other options for securing marriage licenses for all Rowan County, Kentucky residents, ordered Davis to jail for six days—a new heroine was born.

Yet while Davis is most obviously a symbol for a Christian right bent on claiming its religious freedom is under siege, she is really a symbol of something else entirely. The Republican Party, and even its most reliable base of support, the Christian right, is being forced to move on when it comes to the marriage issue. According to a 2014 Pew survey, 58 percent of Republican millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) favor gay marriage. A Public Religion Research Institute survey conducted last year found “white evangelical Protestant Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same-sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43% vs. 19%).” That’s not a majority of millennial white evangelicals, but it’s certainly significant, given that this demographic has long been one of the staunchest opponents of marriage equality.

Davis, then, is a little late to the party, an anachronism delivered to the doorstep of the party’s most desperate presidential candidates. Her host and chief supporter Mike Huckabee reminded us at yesterday’s rally in Grayson, Kentucky, that Davis came to Christ just four and a half years ago. To her, everything is new again, but to evangelicals who have either embraced marriage equality or acquiesced to its inevitability, her rebirth as a celebrity victim of Rowan County’s gay and lesbian betrotheds and of the judiciary’s “tyranny” must feel a bit stale.

The Davis phenomenon has some Republicans worried, as Sahil Kapur and Greg Stohr report at Bloomberg. “I think the longer this lingers, the worse it is for the Republican Party and for the conservative movement,” John Feehery, a Republican strategist and lobbyist, told Bloomberg, adding that Davis’s stance “smacks of bigotry.”

Then there is the matter of the law. Yesterday Davis embraced Huckabee and lawyer Mat Staver, both of whom have pronounced the Supreme Court to be without authority to decide constitutional questions like whether bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Even Fox News host Gregg Jarrett called this view “stunningly obtuse” and his guest Sharon Liko, a lawyer, called it “ridiculously stupid.” Piling on, the network’s Shepard Smith described the entire spectacle as a “religious play” and criticized Davis’s refusal to accept an accommodation, adding, “Haters are going to hate. We thought what this woman wanted was an accommodation, which they’ve granted her, something that worked for everybody. But it’s not what they want.”

While not a majority view among a group of evangelical thought leaders interviewed for the web site Breakpoint, Hunter Baker, a lawyer and political science professor at Union University, opined, “Kim Davis’s office is obligated to perform the state function of issuing wedding certificates. She disagrees that marriage can exist between two people of the same sex. I agree with her.” But, Baker maintained, “the state of Kentucky has little choice other than to respect the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

Who else agrees with that statement? None other than Donald Trump, who called the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges “the law of the land.”

Trump’s perch atop the GOP field is, of course, driving his adversaries in search of a potent boost from the fractured evangelical base. At yesterday’s rally, a Huckabee aide did the Christ-like thing of blocking Ted Cruz from a key photo opportunity with Davis; after all, the Bible does say those polling in the single-digits shall reap the glory of exploitative publicity stunts.

While Trump’s summertime standing with evangelicals was thought to be a blip, it has persisted into September—along with continued analyses of why. “Mr. Trump’s criticism of the Obama administration and of Republican Party leaders has many social conservatives cheering for him,” the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Writing on the Fox News website, Robert Jeffress, the Texas megachurch pastor who in 2011 called Mormonism a “cult,” maintains, “No Evangelical I know is expecting Trump to lead our nation in a spiritual revival.” But, he goes on, President Barack Obama has “drastically lowered the threshold of spiritual expectations Evangelicals have of their president. No longer do they require their president to be one of them. Evangelicals will settle for someone who doesn’t HATE them like the current occupant of the Oval Office appears to.”

Do evangelicals need Kim Davis, political motivator? She may very well have missed her moment.

 

By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, September 9, 2015

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Kim Davis, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Kentucky’s Kim Davis Is Out Of Jail, But For How Long?”: Her Defiant Stand Seems Likely To Land Davis Right Back In Jail

At a distance, it’s understandable why U.S. District Judge David Bunning agreed today to release Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from jail. Bunning locked Davis up last week after she brazenly defied a court order, but in the days since, the clerk’s office has begun honoring the law and issuing marriage licenses to all couples, not just those Davis finds morally acceptable.

With this in mind, the Kentucky clerk, who believes she has “God’s authority” to ignore laws she doesn’t like, walked out of a detention center this afternoon, to the hearty applause of an assembled group of conservative activists. MSNBC’s Emma Margolin reported, however, the next question is how long it might take before Davis is jailed once more.

[Davis’] attorney said that Davis would continue to abide by her conscience, which cannot condone same-sex nuptials, and that all licenses issued since her incarceration were not valid.

The defiant stand seems likely to land Davis right back in jail….

In this morning’s court order, Judge Bunning, a George W. Bush appointee and the son of a former far-right senator, said he is “satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples,” consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. As a result, Bunning lifted the contempt sanction against Davis and she was free to go.

So, problem solved, right? Wrong.

Bunning’s order specifically said that Davis, her religious beliefs notwithstanding, “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”

But as the MSNBC report added, Davis’s lawyer, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, suggested she’s likely to defy this order, too.

“She cannot allow a license authorizing same-sex marriage to go under her authority or name,” Staver said in an interview with NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez, ahead of Davis’ release. “That’s been her position from the beginning and that will be her position, I assume, on any subsequent occasion. She’s asking for a simple fix, a simple accommodation.”

 “We’re back to square one,” he added. “She’s been released. But there has been no resolution.”

In this case, the “simple accommodation” will not include Davis honoring the law, or following court orders, or fulfilling her oath of office, or even finding a job where her responsibilities aren’t in conflict with her religious principles. When Staver says “simple accommodation,” he effectively means “the legal authority to block marriages Davis doesn’t like.”*

If you read MaddowBlog over the weekend, you know that Staver leads a right-wing legal group created by the late Jerry Falwell. Staver has argued, more than once, that Kim Davis is comparable to a Jewish person living under Nazi rule. He wasn’t kidding.

As for the politics of all of this, while we wait for Davis to end up in jail again, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – two second-tier Republican presidential candidates – went to almost comedic lengths to exploit the Kentucky controversy to advance their own personal ambitions.

* Update: One other possible accommodation that’s come up is removing Davis’ name from licenses issued by this clerk’s office. That said, if Davis interferes with her colleagues fulfilling their official duties, this may prove insufficient.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 8, 2015

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Kim Davis, Marriage Equality, Rule of Law | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservatives Wrapping Noxious Notions In Code”: ‘Religious Liberty’ Looks A Lot Like Intolerance From Here

To me,” she said in a statement, “this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s word. It is a matter of religious liberty.”

It’s telling that Kim Davis chose those words to defend herself last week. Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, a rural, impoverished, and previously obscure patch of northeastern Kentucky, made international headlines for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She had, should it need saying, not a legal leg to stand on, the Supreme Court having ruled in June that states may not bar such couples from marrying. On Thursday, Davis was jailed for contempt. The thrice-divorced clerk had said she was acting upon “God’s authority” and fighting for “religious liberty.”

The political right has long had a genius for wrapping noxious notions in code that sounds benign and even noble. The “Patriot Act,” “family values,” and “right to work.” are fruits of that genius. “Religious liberty” is poised to become their latest masterpiece, the “states’ rights” of the battle for a more homophobic America.

A few months ago, you will recall, “religious liberty” was claimed as the rationale for failed laws in Indiana and Arkansas that would have empowered businesses to refuse service to gay people. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Georgia lawmakers will introduce a new “religious liberty” bill there next year. Last week, Mike Huckabee praised Davis for “standing strong for religious liberty.” Chris Christie, while conceding the need to obey the law, spoke of the need to “protect religious liberty,” as if religious liberty were seriously in danger in one of the most religiously tolerant nations on Earth.

Of course, like all good code, this one hides its true meaning in the banality of its words. Most of us would likely support the right of Native Americans to ingest peyote in their religious rituals, or Jewish or Muslim inmates to grow beards. Some of us even believe no religious order can be required to ordain a woman, admit a congregant of a proscribed race or, yes, perform a same-sex marriage. We understand a core American principle that, within certain broad parameters, one’s right to practice one’s faith as one pleases is inviolable.

But “religious liberty” as defined by Davis and her supporters is about what happens in the wide world beyond those parameters, about whether there exists a right to deny ordinary, customary service and claim a religious basis for doing so. And there does not.

Davis is wrong for the same reasons Muslim cabbies in Minneapolis-St. Paul were wrong some years ago when they claimed a right to not carry passengers who had alcohol on them and Christian pharmacists were wrong when they claimed a right not to fill birth control prescriptions. You have a right to your religious conscience. You do not have a right to impose your conscience upon other people.

And if conscience impinges that heavily upon your business or your job, the solution is simple: Sell the business or quit the job. Otherwise, serve your customers and keep your conscience out of their affairs.

Taken to its logical conclusion, it is not just gay men and lesbians who are threatened by the “religious liberty” movement, but all of us. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that most of us probably run afoul of somebody’s reading of their religion in some way or another? Who would welcome a future where you couldn’t just enter a place and expect service but, rather, must read the signs to determine if it caters to people of your sexual orientation, marital status, religion or race?

We tried something like that once. It didn’t work.

Sadly, if people like Kim Davis have their way, we may be required to try it again. They call it “religious liberty.”

It looks like intolerance from here.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 7, 2015

 

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Kim Davis, Religious Liberty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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