The war on religious liberty and in particular, the rights of conscience, intensified last Thursday.
The battleground is located in Ashland, Kentucky, where Rowan County Clerk, Kim Davis, was arrested and jailed for contempt. Federal Judge, David L. Bunning, wrote the order when Davis respectfully declined to obey an earlier court decision and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. While some may seek to make this case about the recent Supreme Court ruling on the definition of marriage, the larger question is much more concerning and profound. We are not talking about conservative or liberal ideology and we are not talking about the institution of marriage per se. What is at stake here is whether the federal government—or government at any level—can compel ordinary citizens to directly violate their deeply held religious beliefs and moral principles.
In her testimony, Ms. Davis tearfully indicated that she had not hesitated to stand by her faith-based views: “I didn’t have to think about it. There was no choice there.” Davis, who cited her religious beliefs and “God’s authority,” was escorted out of Judge Dunning’s courtroom and turned over to the custody of federal marshals. As demonstrators on both sides lined up outside and a small plane flew overhead with a “Stand Firm Kim” banner, Davis said, “I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word.” Bunning also told five deputy clerks who work for Davis that they had to decide whether they will comply with his order to issue marriage licenses or face the same penalty.
Mat Staver, President of Liberty Counsel and Davis’ attorney responded, “Kim Davis is being held as a criminal because she cannot violate her conscience. While she may be behind bars for now, she is a free woman. Her conscience remains unshackled.”
In a twist of political irony, sometimes government leaders operate outside the boundaries of the law, especially when it may serve their own purposes or if a piece of legislation conflicts with a particular philosophical bent on a given matter. For example, there are numerous instances where state officials—including county officers, mayors and even governors—directly violated laws that were on the books prohibiting the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses. This took place in 2004 with then San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsome; with California Governor, Jerry Brown; with Montgomery County, PA, Register of Wills, Bruce Hanes; with Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan; and with Virginia Attorney General, Mark Herring, to name a few. In 2013, Herring told National Public Radio, “As Attorney General, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights. The Commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied.”
The focus of attention (in this case, same sex marriage licenses) is not the primary point. The issue here is that these government leaders defended their decision as a right of conscience—claiming their actions to be a legitimate and entirely reasonable approach to legislation they disagreed with from a political/philosophical frame of reference. Yet, no officials were brought before a judge and ordered to obey the existing law or risk imprisonment. No fines were issued and there was no public outcry for honoring the rule of law above all else in these situations. Now that there is a public official (Kim Davis) who is likewise stating her right of conscience based on a different frame of reference (i.e., her religious beliefs), it is being handled via an entirely different standard…in fact, it’s a double standard and people of faith should be concerned over the implications.
Our Constitution does not discriminate based on position, power or status, but was designed by our Founders to protect and safeguard our sacred liberties with equal intent and determination. Ryan Anderson of The Daily Signal, the Heritage Foundation’s multimedia news organization, offers some good thoughts on an alternative solution, which comes out of North Carolina and officials who wrestled with some of these same concerns. See more… The common citizen is too often subjected to a different standard. It often takes a unified voice to be heard above the fray in pursuit of fairness and a more balanced remedy.
A number of leaders are thankfully weighing in on this case and supporting Ms. Davis’ position and religious liberties. There should be a reasonable balance between one’s Christian convictions and the government’s responsibility to abide by the laws. Criminalizing Christianity is not the America envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Sadly, the balance of power in our country is being undermined within the legislative branch and increasingly supplanted by both executive fiat and judicial tyranny. The government was never designed to replace God and therefore, does not have the authority or right to redefine the laws of nature or of nature’s God.
Some may argue that Davis was not forced to change or deny her beliefs. However, you cannot simply separate and disconnect people’s beliefs from how they live out their lives. Where should the line be drawn? Where do the seismic shifts in a culture that no longer respects life or God come to an end? Would it be acceptable, for example, to pass a law allowing sexual contact between an adult and a minor and then throw parents into jail for refusing to comply when they attempt to protect their children from predators? Lest you believe this is nothing more than sensationalism, you need to read about and understand the agenda of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).
We are fighting for our freedoms—silence and inactivity will leave us vulnerable and open to further attack. Christian…it is time for us to wake up and be engaged!