Kim Davis: Canary in the Coal Mine Called Theocracy

Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis has now been remanded into custody for contempt of court due to her refusal to issue marriage licenses. Ms Davis' contention is that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is a violation of her religious liberty -- due to her deeply held religious belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman -- and so she has refused to issue any marriage licenses. Basically, she has refused to do her job.

As one commenter on my Facebook page put it "This is the appropriate response. Don't condemn her for hypocrisy, don't make fun of her clothes; just jail her for contempt of court until she either does her job or quits her job. That's how the state should have handled George Wallace and Ross Barnett fifty years ago, and that's how they should handle their anti-gay counterparts now."

Exactly. But do not for a moment think that this is the end of the story. Ms Davis has auditioned for and has now won the role of Poster Child for the "Religious Liberty" movement. It is a movement that includes the scores of RFRAs (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) pending in state legislatures around the country designed to do nothing to protect actual religious liberty and everything to turn a fundamental protection of the First Amendment into a weapon of mass discrimination.

Kim Davis is arguably the canary in the coal mine called Theocracy -- "a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler." Her case is a test case for those who confuse their theology with our democracy and would replace liberty and justice for all with "liberty and justice for those who believe what I believe." And make no mistake about it: the threat is very real.

Whether it's denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples or denial of reproductive health care to women, the trend of conflating individual religious beliefs with public policy decisions is a slippery and dangerous slope to the erosion of genuine religious liberty -- which is both the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion. And there are no more important voices to be raised in opposition to this perversion of our Constitutional rule of law than people of faith.

Because here's the deal: Religious persecution is when you're prevented from exercising your beliefs, not when you're prevented from imposing your beliefs.

A Muslim whose understanding of his religion is that women shouldn't drive cannot work at the DMV and refuse to issue drivers' licenses to women. A Hindu cannot work at the Department of Fish & Game and refuse to issue fishing licenses because killing/eating fish is against her religion. Likewise -- as long as we are a constitutional democracy -- the personal opinions and beliefs about who should or should not be getting married has absolutely no bearing on whom you issue marriage licenses to as a county clerk.

Because the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they wrote the First Amendment -- and what they were doing was making us a nation founded on the bedrock value of religious liberty that provides both freedom of and freedom from religion -- not only protecting each and every one of us to believe what we choose but also protecting us from discrimination based on the beliefs of others.

And my religious liberty as a Christian is only as protected as the religious liberty of every other person of every other faith -- and yes, that includes the liberty of those who choose "none of the above." And all of our liberty is threatened when the religion of any American citizen is misused to discriminate against the equal protection of any other American citizen.

Kim Davis may indeed be a victim -- but she is most certainly not the victim of religious persecution. She is the victim of theocrats in patriots' clothing exploiting her as a canary in the coal mine called Theocracy as they continue to see just how far they can go in turning this nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal into "a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler."

As Rachel Maddow would say: "Watch this space."