Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Religious liberty vs. equal treatment II: County Clerk says she's acting "under God's authority."

Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis
AP photo by Timothy Easley

Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined the appeal from Kentucky Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis that would have allowed her to continue refusing to issue marriage licenses.   But she remains defiant, saying that she is acting "under God's authority."

The plaintiffs then filed an injunction to hold her in contempt, and the federal judge promptly ordered Ms. Davis and her entire staff to appear before him on Thursday morning.    If the judge finds Ms. Davis in contempt of court -- which seems a foregone conclusion -- either jail time or fines could be imposed.

Ms. Davis is not alone in this.   I'm reasonably sure that she is being backed by conservative groups who are making this a test case of "religious liberty" -- and very likely making Ms. Davis a martyr to their cause.     If so, this is a very poor test case.   They already lost several better cases that involved private businesses refusing services for same-sex weddings (photographers and cake bakers).

This is an elected official not performing an official duty , which has been affirmed by a recent SCOTUS decision.   Perhaps they are really seeking a political martyr rather than victory in court.

In contrast is another woman of firm religious belief, the Rev. Emily C. Heath, who once decided not to apply for a job in a prison system because the death penalty goes against her religious beliefs.

Heath's perspective is this:  "Religious liberty is guaranteed in this country. But that does not mean that every job needs to bend to your particular interpretation of your faith, . . .  If you really believe doing your job is violating your faith, then stepping aside would be a small price to pay" for adhering to that faith. 

Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, himself an attorney, said that he agrees with Davis' personal beliefs, but she must abide by the law.   “I appreciate her conviction, I support traditional marriage, but she’s accepted a job in which she has to apply the law to everyone,” he said. 

Stay tuned.   A showdown is coming.


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