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What Happens If We Free Kim Davis Now?

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is piggybacking on the right wing furor over the imprisonment of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. He’s attending a protest against her incarceration today. “Exercising religious liberty should never be a crime in America,” says Huckabee, and he calls for the immediate release of Kim Davis from prison.

The thing is, Kim Davis isn’t in prison on charges of practicing her religion. As County Clerk, it was her job to file papers, accept payments, and issue legal documents. These aren’t religious duties. They’re secular duties, and she was paid by the secular government to perform them.

What Kim Davis decided to do was to transform her public secular job into a public, government-paid religious role. She declared herself to be the high priest of Rowan County, Kentucky.

Kim Davis anointed herself with entirely new professional powers far outside of the role she was elected to fill, and when higher authorities told her that she was breaking the law by seizing power for herself, she told them that she didn’t need to obey the law in her government job, because her religion told her that she should ignore the law, and practice legal discrimination against Rowan County citizens as her religion instructed her to do.

Kim Davis is in prison for contempt, not for religious liberty.

So now, Mike Huckabee and a whole bunch of other people are rallying in support of Kim Davis. They’re saying she simply ought to be let go, and should be allowed to resume her self-appointed work as high priest of Rowan County, denying marriage licenses to anyone that her own private religion says shouldn’t get married.

What if that was the way the law worked in the United States? What if government officials could impose their own private religious beliefs at work, transforming their jobs into religious positions, dispensing what used to be secular government services according to their individual religious consciences?

If that’s what religious liberty meant in America, then the Adair County Clerk in Kentucky could stop issuing marriage licenses to interracial couples, because he believes that “God’s authority” has declared it to be a sin for African-Americans and European-Americans to live together.

If that’s what religious liberty meant in America, then the Ballard County Clerk could stop issuing dog licenses because she believes that her religion declares dogs to be filthy animals that should not be kept by any human being.

If that’s what religious liberty meant in America, then the head of the Department of Motor Vehicles in Carlisle County could stop issuing drivers’ licenses because his religion asserts that cars are sinful.

If that’s what religious liberty meant in America, then the Governor of Kentucky could stop state funding for any school that allows girls to attend, because his individual religion holds that girls should be working in the home instead.

If that’s what religious liberty meant in America, then the President of the United States could declare himself President For Life, canceling all future presidential elections until his death, because he had spoken to God, who wanted him to stay in office under “God’s authority”.

How could we dare to question any of these actions? How could we dare to take away the “religious liberty” of any of these government officials? Who would we be to stand in the way of their religious practice, if we followed the definition of “religious liberty” proposed by Mike Huckabee?

Thankfully, this weird system of religious totalitarianism isn’t in place in the United States of America. Instead, we have a Constitution. We have a secular government with secular laws that everybody must follow. Individuals are allowed to follow their own religious conscience, but only to the extent that doing so does not violate the right of other people to access government services and equal protection under the law. In government, the Constitution declares that there shall be no establishment of religion, and no religious test for public office.

Free Kim Davis, and the rule of law goes out the window.

27 thoughts on “What Happens If We Free Kim Davis Now?”

  1. ella says:

    “If that’s what religious liberty meant in America, then the Adair County Clerk in Kentucky could stop issuing marriage licenses to interracial couples, because he believes that “God’s authority” has declared it to be a sin for African-Americans and European-Americans…”

    The comment itself is not wrong, but the African-American/White thing has gotten old enough to surpass the age of Methuselah. Try and Asian and Caucasian. And Kim Davis said she would issue a license to any man and woman wishing to marry as long as it was legal. Obviously if she knew either of them were already married…well.

    The only true Theocracy I know of is the Vatican. No crime, can you imagine it? But this country is not like that. You’re right that Kim took it on herself when she interpreted the law through the current State laws, and religious law, but it is an emotional as well as principled decision and further retribution would be just as wrong. There are some questions that need answering and they should be answered in the courts. Consider the cse of interracial marriage since you brought it up. That did not happen overnight.

    Consider: if it had been illegal for 200 years for women to wear pants. You come home one day and there is your wife in a pant suit telling you it is the law for women to wear them. And that is that, no ifs-ands-or-buts. Of course if was a social no-no for far longer than that. But then consider: that tomorrow the social laws are preempted and, by law, men must now wear dresses and make-up. Do you believe there would be some man who was emotionally upset, who would refuse to put on a girdle, hose and a mini skirt to go to work at the office? How about the man who is now required to enforce the dress code and has to sign him into the office, or refuse him entry? The law just changed, but it is now the law!

  2. Charles Manning says:

    Well said, Rowan.

    In the interview by George Stephanopoulos of Huckabee last Sunday, Huckabee said a Supreme Court decision is meaningless without legislation implementing the decision. Stephanopoulos had many opportunities to ask this question, but never did: would you (Mike Huckabee) be in favor of punishing Kim Davis if the state or federal government enacted legislation codifying the Supreme Court’s decision? That’s what Huckabee said, and he should have been held to it. But Stephanopoulos didn’t ask the question.

    I think it might be helpful for government to enact specific legislation carrying out the Supreme Court’s ruling, such as by specifying what punishment would be entailed by actions such as Davis’s. That’s been done with hundreds of other decisions. But no one is talking about doing it in this case. Nor do I believe it’s really necessary. John Kasich said as much:

  3. Dave says:

    Kim Davis is not trying to establish a theocracy or to be the “high priest of Rowan County.” Apparently her name is printed on the forms and as a matter of conscience she did not want to issue them. The courts put her in this pickle. The rush to sanction gay marriage (“rush” meaning few if any even a few years ago were calling for this or even dreaming of it) was bound to have negative collateral effects. Why do folks on the far left always want to put people in the stocks when they don’t agree with them?

    1. Jim Cook says:


      1. Add “did not and (does not) want to let anyone ELSE in her office issue them.”
      2. Change “the rush to sanction gay marriage” to “the rush to obey laws.”
      3. Change “always want to put people in the stocks” to “always want government officials to obey the laws”

      1. Dave says:

        No Jim. Item two “the rush to sanction” would mean the rush to create laws. All this talk about obeying the law is baffling when one considers that it is found on irregular times. I never hear it when i-t publishes posts supporting Greenpeace boarding oil rigs, students participating in sit-ins and other such non-obedient activities. I guess OBEY is the new call to civil disobedience.

        1. Jim Cook says:

          The difference is that in this case the lawbreaker is a government official, using the coercive power of the government to violate the legal rights of the people under her authority.

          The difference is that, if you want to use the word OBEY in all caps, this government official is disregarding the law to demand that the people in her jurisdiction surrender their legal rights and OBEY her personal private whims.

          Kim Davis is using her power like a tyrant.

          1. ella says:

            Agreeing with you is inevitable, sometimes it just happens. But so have the Atheists for the past 40 or 50 years, been tyrants. In their case it is using the court system to cut away at national and Christian traditions. This was a refreshing episode, that a Christian stood up for her beliefs instead of being coerced into doing what the Atheists wanted. 🙂

          2. J Clifford says:

            Ella, you are aware that many of the people who wanted Kim Davis to stop violating the Constitution and federal law are Christians, aren’t you?

            Opposition to the theocratic discrimination by Kim Davis is not a movement led by atheists.

          3. ella says:

            This article is very thoughtful and expresses about every view and gives an answer to it. I also agree that, even though I mentioned it, the wrong solution would have been for Davis to resign. Especially since it was a matter of removing her name from the forms involved so that she would not have any even indirect involvement in the process. The legal minds are beginning to think and get past the initial media coverage. So now it will finally get around to the courts.


          4. Jim Cook says:

            Ella, I respect your right to disagree, but atheists have not cut away at Christians engaging in Christian traditions. Atheists — and secularists, and members of non-Christian religions, and a large number of Christians, too — have argued, successfully, that Christians should not be forcing Christian religiosity on non-Christians.

            Everyone is absolutely free to participate in Christian traditions. The way things used to be in this country, however, was that people in a town who weren’t Christian would be forced to suffer through people using the power of their government positions to endorse Christian religion, to fund Christian churches and religious observances, and to pass laws forcing everyone to live by Christian standards in schools, in town meetings, in dress, and in other ways.

          5. ella says:

            If you have or know someone with children, consider that you are a Muslim, your child wears a burka to school, that should be allowed. Does the reciting of the Lords prayer offend you or her? No, because it is common to both religions. Does prayer for the welfare of students about to enter into the combat of a football game offend you. I hope not. But prayer, and yes mandatory prayer, was removed from schools and slowly the right to pray at all was challenged again and again. Instances of children being chastised in school for mentioning The Bible or their Christian religion were not uncommon, but not Islam is being taught in schools and Christianity….not so much. Trendy isn’t it? Of course freedom of choice is the theme, is Opposition to God being taught? Satanism, is a choice in schools too, right? Why are so many students learning less of what the rest of the world considers important, like the sciences and trade, civics and family values, for example. But then the rest of the world has been being led by the United States, so perhaps this is now the official world stance on the world wide religion. Choice is fine, what choice did the Christians have when government officials were required by law to remove prayer from school? What rights did they have when it became unlawful to disturb a person of another faith by discussing Christianity in front of them? When did it become a matter of fear for Christians to meet socially in public places and discuss church related subjects? When did it become the social pariah and how? By legal litigation, going into the courts and as you have said, using the Constitution to take down an established religion, established by the people who came to this continent in order to practice their religion freely, without fear of condemnation or persecution by their government.

          6. Jim Cook says:

            Only mandatory and school-led prayer have been ended. Only, in short, pushy theocratic abuses of power to impose religion on others have been stopped. Christians continue to have every right to pray on their own in schools. They just can’t go using school leadership positions to cram it down my kids’ throats any more.

          7. ella says:

            “They just can’t go using school leadership positions to cram it down my kids’ throats any more.”

            If religion bores you so much it would seem you and your kids would just tune it out. But that law is passed are many others that ‘government workers have had shoved down their throats, but you didn’t mind doing that, did you? And as long as the courts can be used to do away with old traditions and force the government to comply, then anyone using the courts to their advantage could, in a sense, control certain activities in the nation. Hummm…

          8. Jim Cook says:

            Established religion? The U.S. Constitution declares there shall be no established religion, Ella. Period.

          9. ella says:

            []”… but not Islam is being taught in schools and Christianity…[]

            I meant “now” instead of “not”

          10. Jim Cook says:

            If you really think that it’s OK for “me and my kids to just tune out” a religious message that we are forced to listen to, Ella, then surely you wouldn’t mind being forced by the government to attend Muslim religious services, right? RIGHT? Because you could just “tune it out,” after all? What’s the harm? Right?

            “But that law is passed are many others that ‘government workers have had shoved down their throats,'” writes Ella, referring to the law regarding same-sex marriage, equating a rule forcing children to listen to religous proselytization to a rule forcing government workers to obey the law of the government they work for while working.

          11. ella says:

            No one in this country is forced, or ever has been forced to attend a church service. Unless it’s Alcoholics Anonymous. That is not a valid argument. But would I mind sitting in a Mosque to listen to them teach? No, not really. I wouldn’t want to live under Sharia, but then Hindi is far more different still, just look at all of those statues, even if they represent formerly living people. Even there they respect and recognize Jesus and the Father God along with all of the other gods. But they have had a lot of experience with such things and go on about life.

  4. Tom says:

    Well then, Dave, why not let pharmacists, dentists and doctors exercise the same personal discrimination – you can’t have any of these pills you need because [i don’t like you or the way you look or your ethnic background, skin color, sex, religion, whatever] . . . or no cavity filling for you evil people because it’s God’s will that you should suffer . . . or i don’t care if you’re bleeding, i can’t work on you because . . .

    See where this leads? If everyone did it, you wouldn’t like it and it would cause chaos. Why are there always people who discriminate?

    1. ella says:

      You sound like a whiny child, Tom. Consider the Dentist who pays people to find domesticated lions, wearing a collar and beacon antenna, so he can kill it. He has finally gone back to his office. Guess he isn’t pulling lions teeth today. What Dave said was morally responsible and well put. God doesn’t wish for people to suffer. People do everything in their power to cause that for themselves. The first principle of many people is “It doesn’t matter what I know. I will do what ever I want to.” And that is about all it takes.

    2. Dave says:

      I understand your concern, Tom, but using your examples some doctors as a matter of conscience won’t prescribe morning after birth control pills, so women who want them should go to doctors who will prescribe them. It’s America, still sort of land of the free.

      I also understand Jim’s point about government officials but at the same time get the feeling that if she had gone to jail in order to promote some far left thing the folks at I-T would rally around her. Projection, perhaps. Safe assumption, definitely.

      1. Jim Cook says:

        If it’s a safe assumption, then surely you can find and link to an example of Irregular Times endorsing the action of a government official who used his or her government power to violate the legal rights of others. We’ve been writing for this page for 21 years, so surely such a predeliction would have been made visible by now.

        1. Dave says:

          Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General refused to defend cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act in court. High office, public servant. Law of the land. I could not find a link to an I-T endorsement of his abuse of government power, but a roaring silence on the issue can lead to a safe assumption. No calls for his imprisonment, no complaints. Somehow a little lady in Kentucky shows up on your radar but Holder is allowed a pass when doing the same thing, and in a more far-reaching jurisdiction.

          Yes, they are on opposite sides ideologically, but I really haven’t been making that the issue. It’s the fair treatment of dissenters that I have tried to address, as I have been a little surprised by the response to this by those who seem otherwise rational. And at least Davis’ and her supporters make an appeal to some constitutional guarantee while Holder didn’t even do that — he just didn’t do the job.

          1. J Clifford says:

            Dave, once again, let’s call Kim Davis a “little lady”. She is neither little nor a lady.

            The Attorney General has as a part of the job a discretion of choosing when to continue to invest government resources in defending laws challenged in court. It’s similar to how prosecutors have the discretion to pursue a case or to decide that there are not sufficient grounds for doing so.

            County clerks do not have this discretion. Their job is to follow the law.

            Furthermore, Eric Holder didn’t claim that he was making his legal decisions on the basis of “God’s authority”. He wasn’t denying anyone equal protection under the law. He wasn’t engaged in an “abuse of government power”, because no one was being abused through his actions. He wasn’t depriving anybody of their rights.

            Your comparison is not apt.

            Furthermore, it’s made with an astonishing lack of historical context. For most of the time that Eric Holder was in office, the Attorney General WAS active in defending the Defense of Marriage Act from lawsuits.

            Kim Davis and her supporters do not make an appeal “to some constitutional guarantee”. They made an appeal to “God’s authority”, which is in opposition to constitutional guarantees of protection from government establishment of religion.

            What Kim Davis did was not dissent. Dissent would have been to say, “I’m giving you this marriage license, which the law requires me to do, but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.” What Kim Davis did was to declare that her personal religious beliefs were more important than the system of law. She bullied the people she was supposed to serve, and deprived them of their constitutional rights.

  5. Dave says:

    Yes I committed the crime of all caps, but it was just a nod to Shepard Fairey.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Andre would be glad.

  6. ella says:

    There comes a time when the American people need to be educated concerning the facts surrounding actions by Christians and by various groups that are in the news. This article is disturbing in the context of confusing and dramatizing the actions of Kim Davis and ISIS of all things. It is reasonable to believe that Muslims remember the Crusades, even to this day. But then the degree of cruelty that is practiced by those people is seconded only by the Inquisition of the Dark Ages. That sort of thing has not happened in this country – and I thank Him for that.

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