The chronicles of Kim Davis and the separation of church and state

By Peter Howard



kim davis mugshot

Kim Davis’ mugshot from the Kentucky jail that she spent five days in early September.


Kim Davis has been making headlines for months now with her crusade to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Ky. This past June, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of legalizing marriage equality in the U.S., after which this story of religious freedom, civil service, and blatant bigotry began. Davis refused to issue licenses with her name on them to several couples saying, “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a heaven or hell decision.” After her continued refusal, the Supreme Court found Davis in contempt and sentenced her to jail.

Davis is an elected official having won 53% of the vote on the Democratic ticket when she took office in January. Dictionary.com defines the separation of church and state as “The principle that government must maintain an attitude of neutrality toward religion.” In the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. This puts Davis in a unique position being a county clerk as well as a devout Christian as the law is both on her side and against her. Davis has the right to openly practice her faith; no one is denying that. However, it is a fact that as an elected official sworn to uphold the constitution, she simply is not doing her job. By refusing to issue marriage licenses, she is violating the civil rights of the couples seeking them.
After spending six days in jail, Davis was released to a cheering crowd of supporters and flanked on both sides by her fourth husband, one of her lawyers, and Republican presidential contenders Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. During her incarceration, members of the religious right began hailing Davis as a modern-day Christian martyr. As she was released from jail, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” was played over a sound system. Members of the band have threatened to sue the already embattled county clerk and issued her a cease and desist order to prevent their music from being associated with her and her crusade.

According to Huffington Post, in a recent survey a majority of Americans believed Davis should have been sent to jail, while a smaller percentage felt she should not be forced to stay there. Regardless of her religious beliefs, which she is completely entitled to, as an elected official she is required to uphold the law. If you disobey the judge’s orders, you go to jail. Yet through all of this, Davis is still refusing to directly issue marriage licenses, though she has said that she will not interfere with her deputies issuing them without her signature on them. It is unclear whether the licenses issued without her name on them are actually valid.

Imagine you are in a restaurant and all you want is a pizza but the manager says you cannot have one because of your eye color, even though there are several pizzas ready to be served. Would you not get frustrated at the fact that person would not do their job? Would you not attempt to contact the restaurant’s corporate headquarters and file a complaint, forcing the person to? That is what seems to be happening in this situation, and yet Davis still refuses to do her job. One would think this kind of militant position on an issue would eventually get exhausting, especially with the amount of court fines and lawyer’s fees she must be paying but, Davis will not be moved. How long will this cycle of civil disobedience turn? Only time will tell.

Many have asked why Davis has not been fired yet. In order for her to be “fired,” the Kentucky House of Representatives must charge her with an impeachable offense. After being charged, she would then be tried by the Senate. But, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has declined to call a special session of the General Assembly in order to address this problem, despite petitions from various civil rights groups. Bluegrass Polls also reports that a majority of Kentucky voters oppose gay marriage and support accommodating Davis. However, unless Beshear changes his mind, Davis remains in the legal gray area she has been in since June – and in office.

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