One of the jobs of the County Clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky is to issue marriage licenses to couples who meet the legal standards for such licenses. Recently, those standards changed, and now same-sex couples can license their marriages.
That new standard conflicts with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s religious belief that marriage is only valid between one man and one woman. No problem. There’s a simple way to handle that situation. If she isn’t willing to do the job, she should quit the job.
Instead, Davis asserts that her religious belief entitles her to continue holding the title, and continue collecting her $80,000 annual salary from Rowan County’s taxpayers, without doing the job.
She stopped issuing (and allowing her deputy clerks to issue) marriage licenses two months ago after the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Not just to same-sex couples, but to everyone.
As of this writing, she continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses even after multiple courts have ordered her to do so and after the US Supreme Court has denied her appeals of those orders.
In a statement issued through Liberty Counsel, the Christian organization representing her in those appeals, Davis states that “some people have said I should resign, but I have done my job well. … It is a matter of religious liberty …. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.”
Not doing one’s job at all is not doing it “well.” Refusing to serve the people of Rowan County is not “serving the people of Rowan County.”
Religious liberty is an important thing. Important enough, I think, that we shouldn’t willfully twist its meaning.
No, religious liberty does not entitle Kim Davis to a continuing government position with a very nice paycheck for declining to do the job she was elected to do and promised to do.
Kim Davis is not a martyr for religious freedom. She’s a layabout, a no-show, collecting a paycheck for work she refuses to do. Martyrs make decisions on principle and accept the consequences of those decisions.
If the requirements of the job have become, as Davis calls them, a “Heaven or Hell decision,” then she should make that decision and act accordingly. She should resign her position as Rowan County clerk and go seek other employment — employment which doesn’t conflict with her religious beliefs.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “Religious liberty: Unsolicited career advice for Ky. clerk,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Dover, New Hampshire Foster’s Daily Democrat, 09/02/15
- “Religious Liberty: Some unsolicited career advice for Kim Davis,” by Thomas L. Knapp, OpEdNews, 09/02/15
- “Religious Liberty: Some Unsolicited Career Advice for Kim Davis,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, 09/02/15
- “Religious liberty: Some unsolicited career advice for Kim Davis,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Muscatine, Iowa Journal, 09/04/15
- “Religious liberty: Some unsolicited career advice for Kim Davis,” by Thomas L. Knapp, 09/04/15, Davenport, Iowa Quad-Cities Times, 09/04/15