Sunday, September 6, 2015

Liberty Counsel's Faux Religious Liberty Stunt Involving Kim Davis: Commentary Worth Reading

Things I've read in the last three days about Liberty Counsel's faux religious liberty publicity stunt involving Kim Evans, the Kentucky county clerk now in jail for contempt of (the U.S. Supreme and federal) court, which I recommend to you:

As we talked about yesterday, Davis feels entitled to keep her job and refuse to do her job at the same time. 
U.S. District Judge David Bunning, appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, apparently didn’t find this persuasive. 
Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court. 
Marriage-equality proponents did not ask the judge in the case to take her into custody, but by some measures, Judge Bunning didn’t have much of a choice.

Who would welcome a future where you couldn’t just enter a place and expect service but, rather, must read the signs to determine if it caters to people of your sexual orientation, marital status, religion or race? 
We tried something like that once. It didn’t work. 
Sadly, if people like Kim Davis have their way, we might be required to try it again. They call it "religious liberty." 
It looks like intolerance from here.

But here's the real Biblical response to her claims. 
The Bible is not the guiding document for the work of a County Clerk elected by the people of any state in our union. 
The US Constitution and the constitution of the state in which they live are the only documents that matter.

[B]y defending Davis, the candidates are not merely defending her "religious liberty;" they're defending her underlying argument, that what she claims is God's authority is superior to the Constitution, civil laws, and the Supreme Court's rulings on those laws.

According to the Kentucky Trial Court Review, the other clerks, including Cecil Watkins, didn’t support her in this decision, but were afraid to do so unless specifically order[ed to by Judge Bunning. The Kentucky Trial Court Review’s Shannon Ragland wrote that Davis' "conduct has terrorized not just her staff but everyone that works in the courthouse. And all for a foolish mission aided by out of state charlatan lawyers trying to raise money for their 'religious liberty' mission." 

[Matthew] Staver's name is probably unfamiliar to much of the American mainstream, but for those who follow the religious right movement closely, he's a familiar figure – best known for pushing an odd, anti-gay worldview. His group, Liberty Counsel, was created by the late right-wing televangelist Jerry Falwell. 
Davis, in other words, appears to be making some poor choices, based in part on dubious legal guidance. Indeed, some in Kentucky’s legal community believe Staver and his partners "may have violated their duty to tell her she had no case." 

The only thing louder than Davis’s protestations is the jingle of the coins being dropped in all the various collection boxes that lay claim to some similar cause. In our curious hate-donating economy, Davis will undoubtedly receive some monetary reward for showmanship—whether it comes via GoFundMe or a book contract—but it will be a fraction of what's raised by the political ambulance-chasers dutifully filing in behind her. 
Already many of the GOP presidential candidates have weighed in, creating the curious spectacle of lawmakers pre-emptively breaking their oaths of office: How can you promise to "uphold the Constitution" if you have already admitted that it has a loophole big enough for Davis to fit through? 
The judge who ordered Davis to be held in contempt, and the deputy clerks who started issuing marriage licenses, may be the only Republican left who realizes that Davis's stunt is something besides a fundraising appeal. Or, rather, he seems to understand that Davis offers only the literal fundraising appeal to end all fundraising appeals. Follow her logic to its fiery end—the Bible as the ultimate legal authority—and there would be no political offices left to run for, just law enforcement positions. 

Must-see video footage: Chris Hayes viewing Mat Staver for MSNBC. Watch Staver evade one direct question after another from Chris Hayes, including the critical question about how much money Liberty Counsel is now raking in due to its faux religious liberty stunt involving Ms. Davis. Watch him try to go on the attack in order to change the subject. Watch him lie.

Davis has done the gay rights movement a huge favor. Previously, religious exemption advocates could use weeping, wholesome bakers as mascots for their cause, deflecting questions about animus and bigotry. But Davis lays bare the prejudiced, discriminatory beliefs that fuel the "religious liberty" fire. She is the monster conservatives created. And they will not be able to disown her as easily as they would like.

Michael Sherrard in an email on 4 September to supporters of Faithful America:

The sad truth is that right now, Kim Davis is the public face of Christianity in America. This is no longer just about marriage equality -- it's about whether being a Christian and being a bigot are one and the same. 
It's a fight only Christians can win. Our secular allies have won some amazing victories for equality, but only we can stop anti-gay extremists from hijacking our faith with cries of religious persecution.

The fundamental message of the Christian faith is not that homosexuality is an abomination or unjust laws should not be enforced. Even if you believe both of those things, that is still not the Christian message. Don't you agree that our message is more like "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16)? Isn't that the "good news" that we preach? 
Certainly that is good news. And certainly that is the kind of ministry that Jesus himself conducted, going everywhere and to everyone to tell them the news that God is for them, that God loves them. And then Jesus showed his love for the world by dying on the cross. 
But today many Christians seem to be leading with the back of their hands to gay people, not with the embrace of God's love. And it just makes us look like haters to everyone else. This approach really needs to be reconsidered.

Dan Savage at Slog, responding to the argument of the religious right that it's unfair to bring up Kim Davis's marital history as she attacks same-sex marriage while citing the bible, since she only became a Christian a short while ago:

Buzzfeed posted all four of Kim Davis's marriage licenses and here's a funny detail: her first three marriages—the ones that she entered into before she was a Christian (according to The Federalist)—all took place in Baptist churches and were all officiated by Baptist ministers. Let's quickly rattle off their names: Rev. Owen Cox, Rev. H.G. Pratt, Rev. Gary Clark. Only Davis's fourth marriage—the one Davis entered into after she become a Christian—was officiated by a judge (Jim Nickell), not a minister. 
Kim Davis isn't a Baptist anymore—she converted to Apostolic Christianity four years ago—but all three of her divorces, all of her adulterous acts, and all four of her marriages took place after she was a Christian.

And the final word, as with the opening word, goes to Rachel Held Evans on Twitter: 

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