Recently nominated by TIME Magazine for “Person of the Year”, Kim Davis was not even on the radar of America only a few months ago. Outside of the small county in Kentucky where she was voted in as the county clerk, Kim Davis was unknown.
In the wake of the United States Supreme Court 5 to 4 decision in early summer that legalized same-sex marriage, Kim Davis refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples where her name was on the license as the county clerk.
Kim Davis was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) for refusing to issue the licenses with her name on them. Citing sincerely held religious beliefs and requesting religious accommodation, Kim Davis stood her ground.
A federal judge ordered Kim to issue the licenses notwithstanding that Kentucky law had not yet been changed to accommodate the recent Supreme Court decision. In spite of the tension between states’ rights and Federal rights concerning this issue, Kim was sent to jail for following her right of conscience.
Mat Staver, the attorney who represented her stated, “Kim joins a long list of people who were imprisoned for their conscience. People who today we admire like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Jan Huss, John Bunyan, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others like them. Each had their own cause, but they all shared the same resolve not to violate their consciences.”
There is no debate that Kim was the first person jailed in America as a result of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. After a media firestorm that captured the attention of America and perhaps when the federal judge realized that placing Kim in jail was just pouring fuel on the fire, Kim was released from jail on September 8th, 2015.
The subsequent fall out of this stand off resulted in Kentucky electing a new Governor by the name of Matt Bevin who, immediately upon being sworn in, changed the county clerk licenses and marriage forms in Kentucky so the county clerk’s name does not have to be on the license.
Kim Davis was on the cover of USA Today, met with the Pope, was visited by Presidential candidates and on Sunday, December 13th will speak at First Pentecostal Church in Palm Bay, Florida at 11:00am.
All of the attention and discussion has brought to a head more than just the differences between people who oppose same-sex marriage and people that approve of same-sex marriage, it has crystalized a concern that sincerely held religious beliefs could become a crime.
It has long been understood in Constitutional law circles that the tension between the free exercise clause and the establishment clause of the first amendment defines the concept that individual rights only extend to the point that they violate someone else’s rights.
You may feel passionate about your cause but that does not entitle you to disregard others whose beliefs may differ. A spirited discussion in our culture is under way concerning the treatment of an alternate lifestyle, but there is no basis in the Constitution to trample on the majority to appease the minority.
Most people have a sense of fairness and believe that others should be treated with respect, but to what point does that respect for others become restriction for an opposing demographic.
In my first year of law school, a couple of students questioned me after class concerning my statements of fairness in affirmative action and set-aside programs. They used a foot race to illustrate that if one person has been held back, it is not fair to just turn them loose. “The person who has been held back must have assistance like a bicycle to catch up to the other runners”, they insisted. I agreed but then asked, “Does the person get off the bike, once they catch up?”
The reason that Kim Davis captured our attention is because in our quest for fairness, we are not willing to sacrifice our sincerely held religious beliefs. It is more than just what our country was founded upon, it is the heart and soul of our conscience.
Just a few years ago few people would have believed that a Christian could be put in jail for their beliefs, but the bicycle can become a motorcycle and folks start getting run over and put in jail. Putting Kim Davis in jail made all of us as a country sit up and ask, “what if that was me, what would I do?”
Does all of this warrant a “Person of the Year” award? If not what does? Regardless if you agree or disagree with Kim Davis, religious freedom is something that every one of us should stand for. Kim Davis will address this issue on Religious Freedom Day at First Pentecostal Church in Palm Bay, this Sunday December 13th at 11:00am. www.fpcpalmbay.com.