Pope Says Kim Davis Is Right For “Conscientiously Objecting”

Pope Francis told reporters on the plane back from the US to Rome that government employees should have the right to refuse to issue marriage licenses if that’s what their conscience tells them to do.

“Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” he said. “I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”

This is being described as a “huge win” for Kim Davis, the Rowan County, KY clerk who has been to jail for refusing to obey court orders that mandated that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And it’s important to recognize the difference, here – technically, Kim Davis was jailed and is being criticized for not doing her job, and for not following the court orders. She’s not being persecuted for her beliefs.

And although the effect of what the Pope had to say about it is offensive – that people like Davis have a “human right” to deny rights to other people – he’s not wrong that conscientious objection is an important part of democracy. Which is why Kim Davis can conscientiously object, and the ACLU can conscientiously object right back, and hopefully our legal system will sort out how to handle this dispute without denying anyone any of their rights.

It comes off like Davis is trying to have her cake and eat it, too, though – she objects to her job duties, but instead of leaving her job, she’s insisting that the American government give her special considerations to do only the parts of her job that she wants to do. But Kim Davis isn’t special. I’d wager that most people compromise parts of their personal sets of ethics for a minority of their job duties in order to do the majority of their job duties well, and if our jobs conflict so severely with our moral values that it’s unbearable to us to perform our jobs, we adapt our values or find different jobs. I’m not sure what Davis is in this for – genuine conscientious objection or media attention? – but something tells me that as soon as she gets a book deal she’ll probably stop fighting so hard.

[Reuters]
[Huffington Post]
[NBC News]

[Image via Getty]

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