The story of Kim Davis–the Kentucky Clerk of Courts who has been jailed for refusing to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, in contempt of a court order–continues to grow. Kim has argued and continues to hold that her religious freedom is at stake, since it is her name that appears on the licenses. In the most recent development, Mike Huckabee has doddered onto scene, who in addition to vigorously defending her on cable news, is holding rallies to show support on the Lord’s behalf for Davis.
In a recent interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Huckabee starts by reminding viewers that the Supreme Court has made terrible, unjust decisions before. Certainly we shouldn’t put the law above our own conscience.
George Stephanopoulos: Doesn’t she have the duty to obey a legal order from the court?
Mike Huckabee: Well, you obey if it’s right. So, I go back to my question, is slavery the law of the land, should it have been the law of the land because Dred Scott said so? Was that a correct decision? Should the courts have been irrevocably followed on that? Should Lincoln have been put in jail? …
Most legal and historical scholars would argue that the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation deliberately fell into a legal grey area since it only applied to rebel states. The New Yorker has a beautiful piece regarding the difference. But even if the comparison held, Davis is no Lincoln. Her position could at best be considered civil disobedience. If so, why, Huckabee, should we place her right to protest above the rights of the citizens she deprived of legal marriage?
Mike Huckabee: You’ve got Democrats who ignored the law when it was the law to have traditional marriage, Gavin Newsom in San Francisco as mayor, performed same-sex weddings even though it was illegal. Did he ever get put in jail? He most certainly did not.
Mike Huckabee: So when do liberals get to choose which laws they support but a county clerk in Kentucky who, acting on her Christian faith, is criminalized, jailed without bail because she acted on her conscience and according to the only law in front of her.
There was a time, long ago, that I thought kindly of Mike Huckabee. I honestly can’t remember what it was, but something – maybe naivete – gave me the idea that although he was a man of strong religious faith, he would be able to govern in a way that respected all beliefs. I see now, how drastically wrong I was. Mike Huckabee is not just a theocrat. Mike Huckabee is a fucking liar.
Because I don’t think it’s possible to perform that class of mental gymnastics without being aware that you are obscuring the truth to mold your political message. We’ll put aside for now that he is playing dumb about the Supreme Court’s ability to interpret the constitution, or that the state of the marriage law in Kentucky is in any way vague. No, I must address what has become the core issue of this debacle: religious freedom. Mike Huckabee has said over and over again that liberals are criminalizing Kim’s Christian faith.
But Mike, I do not think that word means what you think it means. My people, the irreligious, know what it means to have their beliefs criminalized, because they were illegal in places in this country, as recently as 1952. Let’s compare stories as see what criminalizing a religion actually looks like.
In 1928, Charles Lee Smith rented a store-front in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he gave out free atheist literature. The sign in the window read: “Evolution Is True. The Bible’s a Lie. God’s a Ghost.” For this he was charged with violating the city ordinance against blasphemy. Because he was an atheist and therefore wouldn’t swear the court’s religious oath to tell the truth, he wasn’t permitted to testify in his own defense.
Kim Davis wasn’t jailed for her beliefs, she wasn’t jailed for the content of her ideas, or the salaciousness of her literature. She was jailed for refusing to perform her civic function in defiance of a court order. The only person who has threatened Kim Davis’s religious freedom is Kim Davis. Because let’s take this to its logical conclusion. If individuals who perform roles in government are allowed to let their personal beliefs instruct their official duties, then the America we are leave our children is substantially less free. Every level of government from political candidates to municipal hires will be given a heckler’s veto over individual rights and freedoms.
That a group of people who proclaim to defend individual liberty are willing to craft a message around this issue is truly crazen. Conservatives arguing that we should give the Kim Davis’s of the world any authority over our ability to marry, divorce, purchase, or anything is the height of hypocrisy.
Few value religious freedom more than atheists, but religious freedom must mean creating a secular public life which gives room for each person to practice their individual beliefs. There are limits of course, to the wide berth private religious freedom can be given. Religious beliefs that cross boundaries by harming others, or in some of the worst instances, harming their own children, must be challenged by an ethical society.
As a godless liberal, often accused of not loving our country, I can’t help but find it a tragic irony that one of the most destructive ideas facing our country today is coming from people with flag pins on both lapels.
Featured Image used under CC license from Wikimedia Commons.