Kim Davis and the problem with "God's authority"

So Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is out of jail and the religious zealots are having a revival in the streets, likening the release to the resurrection of Christ.

Okay, not really.

The three-time divorced, four times married, pregnant with child from hubby #3 while married to (not-the-baby’s daddy) hubby #1, was released on Tuesday afternoon, after being jailed for contempt by a federal judge last Thursday. Now that she has been released, we can only hope that she will adhere to the orders and keep herself out of jail again.

Let’s take a look at what got her in jail in the first place: Contempt of court for refusing a judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Her defense: It violates her religious freedom. So she invoked God’s authority and started refusing.

Here is the question I pose: Under which god’s authority?

History is filled with stories of various gods, deities, religious beliefs and religions. In the Native American belief system alone there are over 50 deities and they consider gays as two-spirited or sacred, in Buddhism there are hundreds of gods in the belief pantheon and in the Hindu religion it is said that there are 33 Crore or 330 million, this may be more figurative than literal, but you get the picture. In this country we are not limited to one religion or one god or one belief system.

Let me propose a hypothetical situation:  You are a female and go to get your driver’s license. Upon reaching the Department of Motor Vehicles, you are told that you they will not issue you a license because you are female. You find out that the Director of the DMV is a Muslim male and sites his religious beliefs for refusing to issue licenses to all women.

What if the county clerk belonged to a religion that does not believe in killing animals; would it be ok to refuse to issue hunting licenses? Or maybe there is a judge who, because of their sincere religious beliefs, refuses to issue divorces.  Could these happen? Yes, and what is more disturbing is if the courts set a precedent for upholding the “sincere religious beliefs” of government officials like Kim Davis, then all those hypothetical situations above could become reality. Where and when would it stop? At that point, it would be anyone’s guess.

With many religious bodies’ now welcoming and accepting gays and same-sex couples, it could be argued that Mrs. Davis is violating these couples freedom of religion. If I go to a church or belong to a religion that is welcoming and accepting and does not care one way or the other whom I am married to, at this point it becomes my religious belief. For her to deny me a license based on the holy texts of her religion forces her beliefs and religion on me. So not only does she violate my freedom of religion, she does so as a representative of the government, which violates the separation of church and state.

In this great country we are all free to live and believe as we see fit. That is one of many things that makes this country great.

Years from now when we think of Kim Davis, instead of mocking or rage or whatever we’re feeling for her now, we can remember how—by woefully conflating the two—she made perfectly clear the difference between church and state.




graphic via The Guardian

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