There is a great deal of discussion about Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, jailed by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning who found her in contempt of court on September 3, 2015. She defied the court order to issue marriage licenses as required in her capacity as County Clerk. Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 that made same-sex marriage lawful across the United States. She justifies her refusal to issue marriage licenses on the grounds of her religious objection to same-sex marriage. As she stated: “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.” (New York Times) The question here is whether her refusal to issue marriage licenses is genuinely a matter of faith and conscientious objection to same-sex marriage or, as many of her critics allege, simply a cynical ploy on her part to draw attention to herself and feather her own nest in the process. Is this nothing more than religious hypocrisy on her part?
She converted to Christianity four years ago, joining the Morehead First Apostolic Church, a congregation in the United Pentecostal Church International. The Church, founded in 1906, like other churches rooted in fundamentalist theology, condemns homosexuality as this excerpt from the Church’s positional statement indicates:
Let us therefore resolve that the United Pentecostal Church International go on public record as absolutely opposed to homosexuality and condemn it as a moral decadence and sin, and do hereby encourage prayer for the deliverance of those enslaved by that satanic snare. (as cited in Secular Student)
It comes as no surprise, then, as she subscribes to a brand of Christianity that explicitly condemns homosexuality, that she opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds. No doubt that when confronted with the reality of same-sex marriage being legal across the United States, the expectation that her office start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples put her in a difficult position.
However, her situation is not unique. When same-sex marriage became lawful in North Carolina in 2014 with the repeal of Amendment 1, Magistrate Judges in North Carolina faced the prospect of performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. This proved intolerable for some who resigned in protest, citing conscientious objection on religious grounds. Gilbert Breedlove, a Magistrate Judge in Swain County, in submitting his resignation expressed his objection as follows:
I was Christian when I started. Then, the law didn’t require me to perform something that was against my religious belief. The whole Bible from front-to-end states that a marriage is between a man and a wife; any other type of sexual activity other than that is what is defined as fornication. (as cited in Blue Nation Review)
Similarly, John Kallam Jr., a Magistrate Judge in Rockingham County, asserted performing a civil marriage ceremony for a same sex-couple “would desecrate a holy Institution established by God Himself.” (as cited in LGBT Nation)
Stepping down as County Clerk is an option, though it means giving up a job that pays $80,000 a year. She could delegate the duties of issuing marriage licenses to the deputy clerks she supervises, but she refuses to do so. Why she refuses is the crux of the matter on whether her defiance of the court is a genuine conscientious objection to same-sex marriage or religious hypocrisy on her part.In addressing this question, her personal and professional life came up in news and social media reports by her critics to cast doubt on her motives. Though her personal life is really her business, she has a checkered history, both personally (in her married life) and professionally (she served as a deputy clerk in the office for 24 years before her election as clerk in 2014). She married four times. NBC News reports she first married in 1984 and then divorced in 1994. She gave birth to twins, fathered by another man, five months after her divorce. She married Joe Davis in 1996 and divorced him in 2006. She married the father of her twins following her divorce from Joe Davis, but this marriage failed in less than a year. She remarried Joe Davis in 2009 and they remain married. (NBC News)
As to her professional life, in 2011 questions arose concerning her salary as a deputy clerk. Her salary was $51,812 plus $11,301 in overtime and other compensation in 2011. This was a great deal more than other deputies in Rowan County, including $38,000 for the Chief Deputy Sheriff Joe Cline and $36,000 to the Deputy Judge-Executive Jerry Alderman, neither of whom received overtime pay. Following a review of pay for clerks in the Rowan County office, the County Fiscal Court decided, unanimously, to cut the department’s salary budget by one-third for 2012. (Morehead News as cited in Wikipedia)
In addition, the lawyer representing her in her legal battles is none other than Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel, an organization that is relentless in its efforts to block what it refers to as the “gay agenda.” In its own words, Liberty Counsel claims it “cooperates and coordinates its efforts with other religious liberty, pro-life and pro-family organizations. Liberty Counsel has represented many notable clients including Focus on the Family, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Liberty University and the Christian Educators Association International.” (Liberty Counsel) In defending her, Staver is making public appearances and giving statements to the press including the following comment likening the jailing of Kim Davis to Nazi persecution of Jews: “Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment, then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers. This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.” (Right Wing Watch) Does anyone take this hyperbole seriously?
At this point no one can prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether Kim Davis is genuine in her claim that her refusal to issue marriage licenses in Rowan County is a matter of faith and conscientious objection to same-sex marriage. However, given the checkered history in her personal and professional life it is reasonable to infer she is very self-absorbed. Yes, she converted to Christianity four years ago, but she remains as self-absorbed as ever. She wears her piety on her sleeve, and while claiming she fears for the welfare of her immortal soul, in reality her primary concern is this life. What motivates her is simply the question “what’s in it for me?” On that basis, I do not see her as a pious church lady persecuted for her faith. She is nothing more than a hypocrite using religion to promote herself as a martyr and, likely, cash in on her new-found fame.
Posted by Geoffrey