How Not To Be Kim Davis

Many of us knew the day would come, in the wake of Obergefell v Hodges, when somewhere in America a Christian, or anyone in-tune with both conscience and the natural law, would end up in jail for refusing to grant a civil marriage license to a same-sex couple seeking a marital union.

The nation has watched with interest as Kim Davis has calmly gone to jail, refusing any deal, appearing completely unmoved that she (apparently) is the one lone person standing on the train tracks in the way of the lumbering legislative locomotive that is federally mandated equality.   She and her husband have cited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr as an example of another hero for conscience, famously spending time in the Birmingham Jail in civil disobedience of unjust discrimination laws.

In my reading of the coverage, the New York Times and other major media outlets have treated her a bit like an exotic zoo creature-  they can’t quite figure out who would do such a thing.  And even though they and the mainstream elite speak with confidence that this whole thing will be just a blip, clearly they are annoyed that she is not just getting off the tracks and getting with the proverbial program.

Mrs. Davis is an elected official.  She is defending her right, and obligation, to follow her conscience by refusing to obey a law that she did not create, and one which she cannot enforce in the sight of God.   She is doing so, we are told, in the face of others who the Supreme Court has just explained simply want to follow their conscience, and obtain a civil marriage license.   So:  whose conscience should win?

I suppose Mrs. Davis could simply get voted out of office in the next election and lose her seat as county clerk to a more open-minded person.  That is, if she runs again for election.  But what happens if she wins?   Does the majority (or plurality) decision of the Rowan County electorate determine that her conscience wins and the other side’s loses?   In the end, probably not because the Supreme Court has spoken, ending all reasonable democratic debate on the topic.

This is the age-old debate of societies:  rights vs. rights.  The unfortunate thing, among many, is that this now sends the message to any serious Christians that if they want to go to work for the government, or run for office, they are better off not bothering.  Who wants to get elected just so that they can go to jail?   Better to stay out of public life and public service, and not become another Kim Davis.  This is the lesson of the week.

It is reminiscent of the old “Catholics need not apply” signs in the store windows of prior American centuries when anti-Catholicism was alive and well from the lowest to the highest sectors of our nation.   It is true that the Catholics did eventually overcome that bias.  But unfortunately it was not done because the other side caved-in and took up the Catholic view.  Rather it was the reverse:  the Catholics became as secular as everyone else, and rose to power as a result, sadly illustrating that if anyone is to succeed in the public square, they are best off leaving their faith at home.

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About Father Nathan Reesman

Father Reesman is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He is the Shared Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, and also of Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, both in West Bend, Wisconsin.
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