Kim Davis Is Not a Robotic County Clerk

Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist.
Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist. | (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)

Courageous Kim Davis, the County Clerk for Rowan County in Kentucky, is rightly capturing the attention of the news media and many of our own hearts and minds. Ms. Davis is kind of a young Christian, having been born again less than five years ago. She has a deep commitment to God's standards for marriage, and she refuses to have her personal name and signature on any "marriage license" for a same-sex couple.

Ms. Davis chooses not to become a robotic county clerk, affixing her signature to a paper she finds objectionable merely as part of a machine-like legal process. Her signature expresses her character, her spirit; her signature means an endorsement.

That is why Ms. Davis is asking for the right to issue marriage licenses without her significant signature — but signed by a deputy clerk or not signed at all. After all, some essential core values have already been ripped out of the marriage license by the United States Supreme Court in its sweeping redefinition of marriage in June 2015. If people want one of these devalued marriage licenses, they should not now require her personal endorsement, too.

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This kind of oppression is always a problem with totalitarian thinking, ironically again under the guise of "liberal change." Instead of allowing the continuing democratic process within the states on a subject that is not addressed in the Constitution, the Supreme Court issued a redefinition of marriage, changing the most fundamental institution within society. Marriage is the most fundamental institution within the Creator's design, too, but he did not change his definition in June 2015 — or any time since he instituted humanity, man and woman. Authentic humans seek and follow the Creator's standards.

That simple Obergefell decision of the Supreme Court in June immediately targeted the consciences of tens of thousands of people who have had a personal engagement with myriads of joyous marriages — people including the clerks, pastors, magistrates, hosts, bakers, or photographers that add significantly and personally to weddings. Theses tens of thousands of professionals never thought of themselves as mere robots, but as personal contributors to a transformative experience that is deservedly a most joyous event in many people's lives, and in their communities. These professionals have been personally engaged to help make these weddings marvelous, even divine.

Politically, Ms. Davis is an active Democrat. She is also an American citizen who deserves her right to religious freedom — her right to fulfill her duties, as she understands them, to God. Nevertheless, there are choruses of people — including some leaders of both political parties — telling her to just sign the licenses she objects to, since her Rowan County Clerk's office is not her church.

However, religious liberty does not exist in houses of worship only.

American citizens have religious liberty wherever we are in this country — including on our jobs and in public offices. Even the federal government's anti-discrimination laws wisely require workplace accommodations for people's religious beliefs — as long as there is no undue hardship to the employer. In this way, people's expressions of sincere religious beliefs are protected in all workplaces — including all private and governmental employments. It is certainly no hardship for Kentucky not to require Ms. Davis' personal signature!

No employer can require you to check your conscience, soul or spirit at the door.

Because it is the most foundational liberty, religious liberty is guaranteed as the first statement in the American Bill of Rights. Religious liberty is also a significant standard in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That excellent UN document affirms the right of every human being to exercise his or her religion "in public or private," and to manifest his or her religion "in teaching, practice, worship and observance." Ms. Davis wants to observe God's definitions by issuing objectionable marriage licenses with someone else's signature or no signature — but not compromising her personal signature.

This elemental right to freedom of conscience and religious liberty should not be locked up in a church building or private residence — any more than Kim Davis should be locked up in the Rowen County Jail. If it is true liberty, it must be free and freely expressed. The world needs authentic humans who speak, worship, and live with such sincerity and truth.

Unlike some of the media's stereotypes, Ms. Davis does not have a "holier than thou" attitude, and she does not hate or fear homosexuals. Ms. Davis is also honest about her own numerous failures in marriage — being now on her fourth marriage.

According to CNN, Ms. Davis said in a statement: "I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to him and to the word of God."

Our support of Kim Davis does not come from the slightest fear of homosexuals, disdain for them, lack of respect, or desire to control homosexual people. Our passion is to restore religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all. Let us ask Kentucky's Governor Steven Lynn Beshear and the legislators to simply change the law to allow all county clerks to issue marriage licenses without their personal autographs. The redefinition of marriage by the Supreme Court, as bad as it is, does not need to be married to present totalitarian abuse of county clerks, magistrates, and marriage hosts, bakers, and photographers.

Let us quickly counsel divorce for the mistaken redefinition of marriage from her violent totalitarian mate. Let us enable our authentic human neighbors to thrive with good consciences and liberated spirits — without the violence of incarceration, or even the threat of incarceration. No need to robotize or lobotomize the people that contribute so much to the quality of our lives in many ways, including making splendid weddings possible.

When forced to choose between loyalty to either the living, loving God or to an increasingly totalitarian government, Kim Davis chose very well. Perhaps she is the new "Rosa Parks" for the urgent, current, civil rights cause for precious freedom of conscience and religious liberty. We can support her with our earnest prayers. We can also seek in every possible way for legal protections of religious liberty and freedom of conscience for the county clerks, pastors, magistrates, and marriage hosts, bakers, and photographers — many of whose roles are being redefined in horrible ways in the immediate wake of the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision this past June.

Dr. Paul de Vries is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, speaker and author. Since 2004, he has served on the Board of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 40 million evangelical Americans.

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