Why Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk, Is So Wrong, and What the Press (and Commentators) Are Missing

As you will know if you’ve read my earlier posts on same sex marriage and so-called “religious freedom restoration laws,”, I strongly believe that acting in the marketplace is a matter of commercial activity and not religious expression. In the case of Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky who has refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone since the Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to same sex marriage in this country, we have a very different situation. It has been repeated in press stories and commentary that Ms. Davis is failing to uphold the oath of her office, and this is no doubt true. By itself this is sufficient reason for the court to hold her in contempt tomorrow for failing to obey its earlier order. But beyond this issue, every press account that I’ve read and every blog post and other comment has failed to challenge the factual basis of her rationale. She is quoted as saying that issuing the license would tell the world that she approves of a same sex marriage, which would be contrary to her religious beliefs. She is flat out wrong, and this belief shows both a failure to understand the nature of her position as a public official and the meaning of religious belief.

Under Kentucky law,  the clerk is signing  a license that simply states the required demographic information and that the parties have complied with the statutory requirements for the license to be issued. The clerk’s signature is not a personal endorsement of the couple or their marriage. And when the couple fondly remembers the wedding at future times, they may well think of the officiant who united them in matrimony, but they will not remember the name of the clerk who issued the license. Although in the case of Ms. Davis, the couples for whom she refused to issue licenses will keep her name in infamy.

Ms. Davis is not stating her support of the marriage by signing the license. She is not being asked to officiate a ceremony or to do anything that indicates that she or her religion condone or bless the marriage. Simply put, she is both wrong and disingenuous. Perhaps most importantly, that she believes she should be paid for her work and stay on the job when she refuses to perform a major part of the job’s requirement is simply selfish and bull-headed. Jesus cautioned his followers that they could not serve two masters. The only master Ms. Davis is serving is herself.


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