Thursday, September 10, 2015

Legal clarity about the Kim Davis case

Geoffrey Stone, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Chicago, has an especially clear legal opinion about the Kim Davis case -- in contrast to some others involving religious liberty.

He says that, as a public official, she simply cannot place her own religious beliefs above her duty as an agent of the government and above the constitutional rights of citizens. 
"Davis is the moral equivalent of the elevator operator in a government building who, for her own religious reasons, refuses to let gays and lesbians ride in "her" elevator, which is the only one in the building. This, quite simply, she cannot do."
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In spite of the absurdity of the legal claims by Davis' lawyer, this whole debacle has been a useful public educational opportunity to clarify the limits of one person's religious liberty when it interferes with another person's legal rights.

Unfortunately, Kim Davis, her lawyer from the Liberty  Council, several of the Republican presidential candidates, and the religious right they court -- all seem not to have learned any lesson at all from this.   They're treating this as a victory.   In fact, they have lost.   Davis is out of jail, for now, based only on the fact that, without her interference, the office of clerk is functioning as it must.   If she tires to claim that marriage licenses they issued are not valid, and tries to stop further licenses . . . then she may be going back to jail.


PS:   To readers who have had enough of the Kim Davis story:   I hope this is the last I will write about this.   But that depends on whether she complies with Judge Bunning's order not to interfere.   Is she chooses to continue defiance of court orders, there will be more news -- perhaps more jail time.   But, for me, the question is settled -- at least when it comes to an official government agent doing her job.    There is going to be ongoing controversy in the private sphere over the limits of one person's right to religious expression when that interferes with another person's rights.

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