Tag Archives: marriage license

Comments on Jailing County Clerks

I do not know enough about the case to comment on whether Kim Davis’ actions were the best possible. Maybe this could have played out differently in a hundred ways. But the nuances of her judgments have now been made irrelevant.

A person in the United States of America has been sent to prison for asserting that her duties as a county employee (duties which federal edict has recently changed on her) run counter to her understanding of her state’s law, the will of her electors, and God’s law.

A person in the U.S. is now in jail for opting not to participate  in new federal law which she reads as illegitimate and immoral. There is nothing new here; many CO’s and civil disobedients have gone before. Unhappy consequences have always accompanied those who have walked that path.  It’s part of the package. But we need to pay attention.

Here is the most important, most obvious and most ignored aspect of this incident. An unknown county clerk from a location of small note has been piled on, vilified, and ruined. It has been done heavy-handedly, ruthlessly, relentlessly, callously…and publicly, for literally all the world to see.

Why are we hearing about her at all, in a news landscape which includes a presidential front-runner who everyone agrees has violated the law and compromised national security but who is still campaigning without consequence; several major cities declaring themselves “sanctuary cities”, where, in violation of federal law, illegal aliens receive protection  from their crimes, no matter how heinous and numerous, and our White House administration applauds?

Where a president defies or applies laws of the land according to his own preference, rather than in obedience to legitimate legal process, and no one orders him to prison. It so happens his preferences are the most popular ones among the cool set.

Why is this unknown private citizen made an object of tar and feather but to be made an example? Do we ask who arranges such a spectacle, or why?

Our society is in a bad place. Lowly county clerks are savaged publicly and sent to prison for small acts of civil disobedience. There is insatiable appetite for the destruction of strangers just like you and me. And we accomplish it all from our easy chairs or our smartphones, secure in our anonymity and our blamelessness.

We Christians like to think we are no respecters of persons, but I think we prefer to support a fellow believer only when he or she presents with a more acceptable public profile. Sorry, the unfortunates who are going to be selected for public shaming in our new society won’t be the pretty ones. That’s how our haters roll.

Even if she was a foolish misguided person, tilting at windmills and dying on the wrong hills, does her crime deserve such utter condemnation?

Some of the most common comments from those celebrating, and also from many who are spiritual kin:

“She coulda just quit her job.”

And maybe Rosa Parks shoulda just stopped riding buses and remembered her place. Maybe Ghandi shoulda just left India and let the British continue their governance. Maybe Martin Luther King shoulda just moved up north and kept his nose out of the southern states’ business. Maybe colored people should have just eaten their lunches at their own restaurants. Maybe Lincoln should have adopted a policy of live and let live toward the slave-holding states.

There are at least two problems with the advice to sidestep the issue and find a new line of work.

Sidestepping the issue is not the way of civil disobedience. Sidestepping leaves the hard work for someone else.  Sidestepping is accommodation. Civil disobedience is carried out by people of conviction because they are confronted with a wrong which they cannot ignore until they do their best to set right in a just manner. At personal cost. Some like Ms. Davis simply refuse to participate. We used to applaud and honor those who allowed suffering into their lives in order to bring about a more just society.

And we should all just find new careers each time we run counter to the state? Get used to job-hopping.

“…what she actually did is defy the Word of God by breaking both the law of the land and the rules of the workplace.” And more declarations which put obeying our employers on equal footing with obeying Scripture. Please explain?  Are workplace rules absolute and eternal?

“I agree with her position but if she couldn’t perform her job, she should have resigned.”

So do we agree then that all government positions, all civil servant jobs should be held by people who have self-declared that they will obey no higher authority than the state? That persons who might find themselves charged with performing any duty which might violate their consciences should stay out of civil employment?

That we prefer people who do not have issues with those pesky consciences to fill all our government and civil positions?