Religion’s place in government — or lack of — has been a hot point of political commentary for as long as the country has existed. Recently, the line between the two was blurred in a very public way.
Kim Davis, a Rowan County clerk, was arrested Thursday in Morehead, Ky., and held in contempt of court for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She said the new mandate by the Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriage violated her religious beliefs and thus her freedom to practice such.
Though her First Amendment rights uphold her right to exercise religious freedom, Davis’ actions are neither warranted nor justified as an employee of the government.
A county clerk’s responsibility includes filing and issuing vital records such as birth, death and marriage certificates. In her stance, Davis denied her basic job requirement as a county clerk. As an employee of the government, she was required to abide by its policies and standards.
She should have known she would most likely be required to do whatever that government entity was asking of her, whether she agreed or not. If that consisted of her neglecting her own right to freedom of religion, then she probably shouldn’t have chosen to work for a governmental establishment.
The same can be said of a Department of Motor Vehicle employee. For example, if he or she does not believe any person under the age of 18 should be issued a driver license, that person as a governmental worker does not have the authority to deny these people. By choosing to work there, this employee has agreed to uphold every rule and regulation, despite Davis’ beliefs.
If she knew following the Supreme Court decision that her job would now include issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, perhaps she should have just quit her job.
Biblically, we are instructed as Christians to respect and adhere to authority. Romans 12:1-2 states the Lord has established all authority, and whoever rebels against them is a disgrace to Him. But the problem then becomes what to do when the government commands something that goes against God’s will.
Many argue this incident highlights religion’s place in society now. If people in their daily lives, whether or not they work for the government, cannot freely express their religious freedom, then where can it be “freely” done?
Davis’ choices stemmed from her religion, which does not recognize homosexuality or same-sex marriage, and she is entitled to have this belief. However, her actions prohibited this gay couple from their rights as Americans, which no one can strip from them.
In short, while Davis can be applauded for her heroic actions for the sake of her beliefs, ultimately there are other, more effective ways of standing firm in her faith.
Perhaps this issue between religion and the law will spark conversation on where the line must be drawn.