On Kim Davis And Religious Freedom

Now that Rowan County, Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis has been martyred by being sent to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as is her job as a representative of the state, several Republican presidential candidates are rallying around her.

Rand Paul, for instance, is predictably calling for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether because #libertarian; but pretty much everyone else – Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker – is seeing this as a clear case of First Amendment violation of freedom of religion. Mike Huckabee has gone the furthest, of course, stating that “Having Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubt of the criminalization of Christianity in our country. We must defend religious liberty and never surrender to judicial tyranny.”

Just a note: You know what kind of governments have executive and legislative branches but not judicial branches? Actual tyrannies. Because the judicial branch is the branch through which the American people can fight to change their own government without bloodshed, which is precisely what James Obergefell did, and the Supreme Court sided with him. That isn’t tyranny, that’s democracy. That’s an American citizen using legitimate legal channels to fight for his rights and the rights of Americans like him.

Besides that, Christians are not persecuted, let’s be real. Christians have their major holiday recognized as a federal holiday. Their god is name-dropped on American currency. Not a single American president has ever professed to be anything other than Christian. I think the highest office a Jewish person has ever held has been Secretary of State, and there’s only been two (Kissinger and Albright, three if you include Benjamin from the Confederate States), so for all the claims of our country being founded on “Judeo-Christian principles,” our elected and unelected officials have by and large represented Christianity alone.

This is like when certain put-out men say that women having more rights takes rights away from men. It’s just not true, because rights are not a finite resource. Gay people having more rights does not take rights away from Christians. Kim Davis is, in fact, at this moment freely practicing her religion, and she’s not being held in jail for practicing her religion. She’s being held in jail for refusing to obey court orders as part of her job. And if she wants to, she can take this issue to court and try to argue that religious people should be exempted from performing their jobs as representatives of the United States government if they disagree with the law on religious grounds. I have a feeling that if the courts sided with her, Mike Huckabee would no longer call them “tyrannical.”

This is the backlash that happens any time civil rights change. So it does make me sad that I have not once heard these Republican candidates acknowledge the fact that gays have been en masse persecuted, beaten, raped, harassed, stalked, jailed on the grounds of being gay, forced into medical and therapeutic treatment that’s been proven to be traumatizing, excluded from having the same rights as their fellow countrymen, and killed. But I also have to remember that to this day, there are people who believe that women and racial minorities shouldn’t have the right to vote or even to live freely, and that after the suffrage movement and the civil rights movement achieved equality for other marginalized groups, there was also backlash. If we, the LGBT community and our allies, steel ourselves against that backlash, maybe this will all one day seem as appalling and backward to the average American as it does to us now.


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