An Open Letter to Rowan County Clerk, Kim Davis

Dear Ms. Davis,

I respectfully wonder if you have considered the following:

Every job has a job description that enumerates the tasks the job holder is obligated to perform. Your County Clerk job is no exception. You choose to do that job; it is not compulsory. When you choose to take a job, whether you are elected or simply hired, you are obliged to perform all of its tasks. If you cannot do so, whether by reason of conscience or physical limitation, you are permitted to refrain from taking the job.

There is a precedent for exempting people from compulsory jobs, like that of soldier, even in time of war, if their religious or philosophical beliefs prevent them from performing the duties of that job. We say, "We will not make you do the job of soldier if the dictates of your conscience forbid it. However, if you do want to serve as a soldier, you must be willing to fulfill all its duties, which may include going to war and killing."

You accepted a government job, not a job with a religious organization. Government officials are all law officers in that every government job is designed in a different way to uphold U.S. law. The various tasks of each government official add up to the ultimate task of upholding the laws of the land. You took an oath to that effect. If you took the oath of your office with a hidden agenda that commits you to enforcing what you consider a "higher" law that takes precedence over U.S. law, you assumed the office of County Clerk under false pretenses and perpetrated a fraud.

Your religious beliefs disqualify you from performing your County Clerk job. The job does not prevent you from living according to your religious beliefs. You insist that your freedom-of-religion rights are being violated and your due process rights denied in this job. No, Ms. Davis, it is you who presents yourself these rights challenges and denies due process rights to others by holding on to a job that you are unfit for by reason of your personal belief system. It's okay that you're not right for this job. You can let the job go. No one's right for every job. I'm a vegan. Waiting tables in a steak house is not a good fit for me.

The highest authority in this nation is unequivocally our body of federal laws because those laws protect all citizens. States' laws are relevant and defensible only in so far as they hold together the Union. To the chagrin of many, the Civil War was fought primarily to maintain the Union. As writer Shelby Foote says in Ken Burns's documentary, The Civil War, the North's victory changed the United States grammatically. We had been "the United States are." At the end of the war, we became "the United States is." The fifty states are parts of a whole - a whole organism. Every organism is made up of parts, and those parts' fundamental task is to ensure the health and survival of the whole. It is so with every organism of any sort. The United States as a disparate collection of territories is and should be obsolete precisely because it was the belief in the primacy of states' rights - i.e., the prioritization of the welfare of individual states over that of a whole, unified nation -- that made inevitable the War Between the States.

Finally, Ms. Davis, you deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples because you find same-sex marriage morally reprehensible. I wonder if you have denied marriage licenses to heterosexuals on the basis of your moral objections. We have not heard of you having a moral compunction that compels you to deny a marriage license to an unwed mother. I will dare to say that what drives you to deny gay people marriage licenses is the same bigotry that drove the Confederate States of America to secede from the Union. Digging in your heels at the County Clerk's office is just more secessionist posturing.

Historian Barbara Fields, in the same Burns documentary, talks about a "standard" set by the Civil War, and suggests that the Civil War was not fully won and is still being fought to this day because that standard has not yet been realized for all peoples. The United States is not meant to be a nation of freedom for a certain few. Professor Fields suggests that if some people are denied certain rights and privileges and freedoms, then we have not accomplished what we fought that war for. Yes indeed. Alas. One incidence of rights limitation or denial pulls down the entire freedom house of cards. If there is one tiny corner where citizens are denied rights and freedoms, there is freedom nowhere in the land.