© Josh Sager – September 2015
For last couple weeks, people have been discussing the actions of Kim Davis, a clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, who is refusing to issue marriage licenses for gay couples by citing her religious beliefs (Pentecostal Christianity). She has been held in contempt of court and is currently in the local jail, but it is impossible to remove her from office without convening the legislature for a special session (she is an elected official). While several of her deputies have started to sign marriage licenses again, Davis is contesting this through her lawyer and has claimed that those licenses are invalid, as they don’t have her signature on them.
I know that this is ad hominem, but every time I see this woman I think of Dick Cheney in a wig and dress.
Ironically, Davis herself has been married four times (to three men), cheated on at least two of her husbands, and had twins through of one of these affairs (cheating on her first husband with the man who would become her third). Given the combination of adultery, divorce, and remarriage that make it difficult to understand her social life without making a flowchart, it is unbelievable that she would present herself as a defender of “traditional marriage.”
Put simply, Kim Davis is irrelevant and that is why I haven’t covered her sooner. She is a sad hypocrite and bigot from a bygone era who will soon be forced from her minor position of power. People like Davis are on the wrong side of history, the law, and public opinion, and this is just the last gasp of an ideology that is, literally, dying off. The younger generations are much more tolerant than Davis’s and natural attrition puts the momentum heavily on the right side of this issue.
While irrelevant as an individual, Davis is representative of a toxic type of entitlement that persists across multiple issues, thus certainly bears discussion. People like Kim Davis believe that they have the “right” to infringe upon the civil rights of other people using official force. From their perspective, any attempts to stop their bigoted attacks are “oppression,” leading them to cite the very documents that they are violating as their protection. This mindset has infected the conservative side of numerous political fights, stemming back decades.
We saw this exact mixture of entitlement and false-victimhood during the civil rights fights of the 20th century, when “states’ rights” activists claimed persecution after the federal government imposed integration on them. The bigots of that era claimed the “right” to oppress the black population and considered the civil rights movement to be infringing on their liberty.
In the modern era, the advocates of this type of entitlement tend to cloak themselves in religious language and have rallied around the idea of “religious liberty.” They claim that their religious beliefs are protected, thus any bigotries that stem from their religious dogmas should also be protected, even when applied through official force. Put simply, these people have no understanding of the constitution and they fail to understand that the 1st Amendment prevents anybody from using the government to support their faith.
Taken to its logical conclusion, this type of religious exemption leads to madness, and our founders were very smart to delegitimize it. What if police were allowed to deny calls for help because answering them would offend their religion (ex. if the call was to a gay bar)? Or if some toll worker refuses to allow women to pass because he believes that women shouldn’t be driving? Or if some government commissioner refuses to implement a health care program because it offends his religious sensibilities (ex. facilitating blood donation)?
Everybody has the right to their own beliefs and to conduct themselves in accordance with their religious traditions, but these are not unlimited rights. No individual has the right to use their religion to attack others or impose their beliefs on those who do not agree with them. If a person has a religious objection to a certain practice, they must not CHOOSE to take a job that will force them to supply that service. Nobody is forcing Kim Davis to stay a clerk and nobody forces a teacher to stay a teacher if they don’t want to teach both black and white students.
Basically, just like how an Amish American cannot expect to be hired as a bus driver then cite his religious dogmas to hold his job while refusing to drive, a Pentecostal American cannot expect to be hired as a county clerk then refuse to do her job. If a person finds that their religion is conflicting with their job, they must either abridge their religion, or quit their job—it is simply wrong for them to treat their job as a Dim Sum menu and pick and choose what they want on a piecemeal basis. This is true in all cases, but it is most important where the rights of third parties are involved.
Whenever somebody tries to claim victimhood when they are prevented from victimizing others, we must push back and point out the absurdity of this claim. Everybody like to think that they are closer to MLK than Bull Connor, even those who are currently engaged in the modern day equivalent to standing in the schoolhouse door and blocking entry to black children. The details and actors may change, but this mix of false-victimhood and entitlement has persisted over the years and will likely continue into the future. Regardless of the form that it mutates into next, we must be vigilant to identify and isolate it, lest we make the mistake of turning bigots into a protected class who have the “right” to oppress anybody under their power.