Kim cannot and will not violate her conscience.
— Mat Staver, attorney for Rowan County clerk Kim Davis
By David Tulis
Kim Davis is out of jail after five days, having been put behind bars by a federal judge.
Amid the cries of appreciation by supporters at a rally outside the jail building it may be hard to notice a crucial fault in the prosecution of her claims as Rowan County, Ky., clerk.
Mrs. Davis understates her claims to lawful authority to reject gay marriage by relying on religious expression and personal conscience as the basis of her claim. In standing her ground on her personal convictions, she diminishes the claims of God upon marriage and the lawful exercise of a public official having made an oath of office in God’s name.
Officeholders with earnest Christian convictions about marriage or other public matters should avoid her mistake of relying on the subjective when they should rely and defend the objective.
The line of argument by attorney Mathew Staver of Liberty Council arises from the American theological system that let the country and its people slide into its great moral crises in the first place. And that is a Christian life- and worldview called pietism. Personal piety is blessed, but pietism privatizes Christianity and brings about its withdrawal from missions and the public square. It renders private God’s propriety in the world and its people, and sees God as making few claims upon the government, economics, academia and other areas of public life.
Christianity is a total system of life and practice. But pietism typified by Mr. Staver’s defense causes the same problem as a firetruck with 25-foot hoses, long enough only to save the truck itself if flames creep toward it.
Doctrine of the lesser argument
Like others, Kentucky’s federal senator, Rand Paul, promotes a “private exception” defense of Mrs. Davis. “Her heartfelt religious conviction is that this isn’t the kind of marriage she approves of,” says he.
Last week on CNN Mr. Staver proposed a popgun argument to solve Mrs. Davis’ conflict vis a vis a pro-gay federal judiciary
She’s asked for one simple accommodation for her faith — not just for her, but for all the other clerks in Kentucky that are similarly situated — and that is, remove her name and title from the marriage certificates. That’s all she’s asking for.
In other words, marrying two men is a sin, and she’ll let subordinates perform these civil unions — with Mrs. Davis in the clear. Mr. Staver goes on:
She’ll issue the certificates, but she doesn’t want her name and title on it because that in her understanding and mind is authorizing something that is contrary to her Christian values and convictions. *** The judge should just order the marriage licenses to remove her name and title, and that would solve the matter.
Mr. Staver worked valiantly to save a voter-approved public servant, a Democrat, living out her “faith in God and her convictions about marriage.” We owe Mrs. Davis our gratitude for her submission to God’s will and her decision to fight, and Mr. Staver, too, is a blessed hero among Christian defenders.
But is there anything more that might be said to help those facing such confrontations? Is there a better ground upon which to stand in defending God’s law, a moral social order and one’s conscience?
Private views vs. public duty
The pursuit of an accommodation for Mrs. Davis’ personally held religious beliefs does little to bring God’s interests to bear on the larger question. That question is raised by the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, best developed in the past two years by the Rev. Matt Trewhella in a book named after that Christian doctrine.
The Christian whose views are intended to affect the public at large will take an expansive view of his (or her) office and will stand on public grounds rather than private conscience.
Officials in other states who follow Mrs. Davis’ courageous steps should refuse to issue license or certify poofter unions as marriage regardless of their beliefs about gay marriage. One could take her position even if he favored gay unions.
What controls is not belief, but law — constitutional provision, state statute, the oath of office and a state’s perjury statute. These four elements make up the “good faith & county clerk” argument. (Download my 12-page booklet, Good Faith Clerk booklet.)
She is standing upon law — and no law requires her to marry two gays.
• She stands upon Kentucky’s marriage amendment (Amendment 1) that states, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”