Kim Davis doesn’t deserve to sit in jail. She deserves to be replaced, an awkward task for an elected official, but otherwise her actions are hardly worthy of our attention. This isn’t a religious freedom issue, no matter how much we like to twist that concept (see: Business, Religion, Sex, and Fools Don’t Mix). This is a legal issue and whether some members of our society like it or not, laws are rules meant to apply to everyone. The only exception seems to be politicians intent on circumventing what they blame their colleagues for refusing to uphold.
Rule of law is more flexible for politicians than people
Refusing to follow the dictates of the law doesn’t always mean jail or even losing your job. President Obama has disregarded the law more than once. So far he has gotten away with it. We have yet to figure out a way to stop him.
Both Democrats and Republican are in favor of setting aside the rules that establish what government can and can’t do when it suits them. Immigration is the most glaring example but there are others, including the newest headline-grabber involving same-sex marriage.
When we elect someone to work in government we expect that person to uphold the government’s laws. Davis refused to do that. That’s not a big deal. She can be replaced. Administrative employees are a dime a dozen regardless of whether they are appointed or elected. Top-level elected officials are not so easy to swap out and are held to an even higher standard, so why are Republicans embarrassing themselves on behalf of a clerk who is doing exactly what the party has been accusing Obama of?
Laws are rules for everyone, not just the people
Mike Huckabee’s “I’m With Kim Liberty Rally”1 is a brazen ploy for attention little different from the special interest bullying that goaded Washington into taking up the same-sex marriage cause in the first place.
The people have the right to protest laws they oppose, but no government official has the right to say no because of religious principle. Strongly-held convictions don’t mean you can pick and choose based on your beliefs, especially when part of your job is to earn the public trust.
The larger question is why law and order Republicans whose biggest 2016 argument against a Democratic administration is the casual disregard of the law shown by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have decided to back a minority of their potential supporters on behalf of a government functionary who made the wrong decision over a divisive issue that has nothing to do with religious freedom or civil rights (see: The Five Top Ways to Abuse Religious Freedom).
Do Republicans understand how the rule of law works?
I don’t know where John Boehner stands on Kim Davis’ actions, but we know how he feels about Obama violating the rule of law:
To think that the president of the United States studied constitutional law is one thing …. he taught it as well. But now his actions suggest he’s forgotten what these words even mean.2
Defending Davis’ actions in light of a “lawless court opinion”3 and our country’s religious values, presidential candidate Ted Cruz rightly compared the clerk’s decision to supporting a sanctuary city, perhaps not fully understanding the implications of his argument:
For every politician — Democrat and Republican — who is tut-tutting that Davis must resign, they are defending a hypocritical standard. Where is the call for the mayor of San Francisco to resign for creating a sanctuary city — resulting in the murder of American citizens by criminal illegal aliens welcomed by his lawlessness?4
Cruz is correct. Sanctuary policies that violate the law should not be tolerated. That doesn’t mean that elected officials, including Kentucky court clerks, have the luxury of civil disobedience when they are on the job.
What Cruz doesn’t admit is that we can’t choose to uphold a court decision we agree with and ignore those we find disagreeable. The court system jailed Davis for contempt but it also blocked the expansion of Obama’s amnesty order. How do we justify celebrating one and criticizing the other?
Are laws rules for Christians and Muslims?
A dog and pony show over religious freedom opens the door even wider to special interest abuse. It’s hard to argue on behalf of refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses without supporting the recent EEOC complaint filed by a Muslim flight attendant allegedly suspended for refusing to serve alcohol.5
The same-sex marriage debate twisted the idea of what constitutes religious freedom by insisting that gay marriage threatens traditional marriage. Texas Congressman Pete Olson adopted a similar argument, confusing Davis’ actions as a public official with practicing her religion:
Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis is facing a jail sentence because the Supreme Court failed to protect her constitutional right to practice her faith freely.6
That is a pretty liberal interpretation of what practicing your religion means, but sex, religion, and politics are not a good mix and never have been. They bring out the worst in politicians, whether the issue is selective enforcement of the law, changing the laws already on the books, or defending a high level scandal. Demanding unique exceptions to our laws based on personal beliefs is a slope much too slippery to traverse. It makes it far too easy to sacrifice the rule of law for the beliefs of a minority, something we decry in special interest lobbying successes and should not tolerate in those who want to guide America’s conservative flock.