Religious Freedom? Not so much.

Religious Freedom? Not so much.

Kim Davis, the county clerk for Rowan Count, Kentucky, got the media and the Left in a frenzy when she asked, like others in similar situations, for an accommodation for her religious beliefs. In other circumstances, she may have received it, but there are just some political issues on the Left that trump First Amendment rights.

Is what she did within the bounds of religious freedom, or is she grandstanding? Do oaths of office mean something, or does something supersede them? And what of other government officials who have decided which laws they will comply with? Why aren’t they in jail? These and other questions are addresses in this episode

Mentioned links:

When Does Your Religion Legally Excuse You From Doing Part of Your Job?

Stand Up for Religious Beliefs and Get Thrown in Jail… But What Law Was Broken?

County Clerk Jailed for Contempt, Hypocrisy Abounds

Judge Orders Defiant Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Be Released From Jail, Mandates What She ‘Shall Not’ Do

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Show transcript

Kim Davis is the county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky. It’s an elected, government position, not one where she was appointed or hired. That’ll be important to know later on. Davis is the person who refused to issue marriage licenses with her name on them after the Supreme Court overrode state laws to find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  In Kentucky, that meant they nullified the votes of 75% of Kentuckians. “One man, one vote” indeed.

Davis is a Christian, and she felt that her religious beliefs compelled her to not issue marriage licenses with her name or title on them to same-sex couples. She felt that this would be a tacit endorsement of something she considered against her religion. Student-led prayers at football games or graduation ceremonies have been considered endorsements of religion in many places, even though the student isn’t speaking for the school or the government. If those prayers are supposedly an endorsement of religion by the state, certainly one’s name or position on the marriage license could be seen as an endorsement as well, by the person whose name is, in fact, representing the government.

Further, instead of discriminating against specific couples, she stopped issuing them to anyone until her religious objection could be accommodated. Some accused her of discriminating against same-sex couples, but that’s a rather tough point to make when opposite-sex couples can’t get one either. It doesn’t stop them from making the accusation, of course, but it shows how desperate some folks are to play the victim.

What she wanted was an accommodation for her religious beliefs. You know, just like nurses who had objections to being involved in abortions, or pacifist postal workers who had religious objections to processing draft registration forms, or a Jehovah’s Witness employee who had religious objections to raising a flag, which was a task assigned to him, or a philosophically vegetarian bus driver who refused to hand out hamburger coupons as part of an agency’s promotion aimed at boosting ridership. In those cases and many others, people were given an accommodation for their beliefs, religious or otherwise. There is a great, if lengthy, article linked to in the show notes by First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh that gets into the ins and outs of what the requirements are for creating such accommodations, and what it’s limits might be. His ultimate conclusion is that Davis’ requests are probably not burdensome to her employer, in this case the state of Kentucky, and thus could still happen.

But instead of accommodating, a federal judge (interestingly, not a state one) ordered that she be jailed for not performing this task. I have a question for you. If Kim Davis had sat at home watching the Hallmark Channel and eating bon-bons instead of coming to work at the County Clerk’s office, would she have been immediately thrown in jail? Here’s where the fact that she is an elected official comes in. I am absolutely positive that there are remedies in Kentucky law that deal with that situation – state laws, not federal laws – and (I’m guessing, but I’m pretty sure) that being summarily incarcerated is probably not step 1. A recall election, perhaps, or an act by the state legislature, but I would imagine that federal action tossing her in the slammer is not one of those remedies.

And while we’re on the subject of government officials not doing their job, has anybody been put in jail in those sanctuary cities for not enforcing immigration law? I’ll give you a hint; No. Ignoring or resisting laws is an arresting offence, or it’s okey dokey, depending on the current administration’s viewpoint. Sorry, that’s not how law enforcement works; it’s either one or the other. And while we’re talking about getting arrested for a crime, has anyone from Planned Parenthood been arrested despite ample evidence of hiding instances of rape or killing fully-delivered children for their organs? Has anyone in the Department of Justice been arrested for supplying guns to Mexican drug cartels? Has anyone at the IRS been arrested for illegally targeting conservative groups? For all these questions, I’ll give you the same hint; No.

Oh, and if you mishandle classified information via e-mail on an unauthorized and insecure server, you, too, can be the front runner for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. But dare stop the flow of marriage licenses due to religious objections, and a federal judge will put you behind bars for 6 days. Maybe if Kim Davis got on ABC News and said she’s sorry, all would be forgiven. Yeah, right.

Is America still the land of the free? Seems like it’s becoming less so all the time. But because of people like Kim Davis, at least it’s still the home of the brave.

I will say this about her situation. Prior to the judge’s ruling, I fully expected that she would be disciplined in some way by the state, and I would not have had trouble with that. I would still have thought that she needed a religious accommodation, but before that happened, I would understand some action being taken against her. As an elected official, she took an oath to follow and carry out the law. I’d support her appeal on religious grounds, but I would not fault the state of Kentucky for following their law.

Civil disobedience has often meant arrest, and sometimes that’s what it takes to get your point across. In fact, sometimes the arrest itself helps make your point and bring visibility to your cause. So some action against Kim Davis should not have been unexpected. My issue is with this being federal action, and that action being immediate jail time. As I’ve noted, much larger issues go unpunished by the feds while they busy themselves with the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk.

Oaths mean something. Certainly, the current federal administration isn’t leading by example, allowing some to break theirs without consequence while jailing others, but I guess, these days, it’s the people that have to lead the government by example.

But you know something; the First Amendment means something, too. Democrats used to believe that, when they overwhelmingly supported the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Bill Clinton signed. Today, however, that has come in conflict with a political agenda, and when politics and principle come up against each other, they choose politics every time.

Filed under: MarriageReligionSame-sex Marriage