No, Kim Davis isn’t a martyr. But legally, she’s not wrong.

I’m dragging Dull Razor out of its dusty closet as a place to post my collected thoughts on the Kim Davis situation and its legal and moral ramifications. I’ll start with my fundamental assumptions: legally, I’m a fan of the Constitution and a pretty literal reading thereof. I generally err on the side of “more freedom.” Morally, as a Christian, I think one is beholden first to God and then to the government as His agent – in other words, one should seek to cooperate and abide within the legal system as much as possible without going against God’s law before resorting to breaking it.

So here we go.

When I first initially heard about the Kim Davis story, what I read was that a county clerk was refusing to perform gay marriages. That was it. The initial reporting was that she believed they were wrong, and so she wanted to put a stop to them. Hearing that, my immediate reaction was “well, Title VII doesn’t apply here since she’s a public employee, so she needs to quit.” I argued as much with a few friends and on Facebook about it, even as I laughed along with Mollie Hemingway at all the people who tried to turn her faith against her in ignorant fashion.

But as I started to read into it, I found out a few things. First, Davis didn’t seek to stop all gay marriages in the state. She just wanted her name off the license, and offered several suggestions on how this could be accomplished:

  • Providing an opt-out exemption for the marriage licensing scheme (as exists with game and fish licenses),
  • Deputizing a clerk to issue the licenses under that other clerk’s name,
  • Gaving a neighboring county sign off,
  • Modifying the license to remove the multiple references to her name,
  • Deeming Davis “absent” and thus allowing the fallback provision under KY law to have the licenses issued by the chief executive of the county,
  • Distributing marriage licenses at a state level instead of county level, or
  • Legislatively addressing the entire marriage license scheme in light of the Obergefell decision.

And then, I read a great piece by the inimitable Eugene Volokh on the subject, who pointed out something I’d somehow missed: Kentucky’s RFRA, as well as the Federal RFRA, do apply here, and those were the grounds for Davis’ request. Now several of these options seem to be easy for the state to provide, given their requirement under the RFRA to provide exemptions so long as there is no fundamental undermining of a compelling government interest. In other words – it’s cheap to remove her name from the licenses, and doing so does not undermine KY’s interest in any substantial way, so they would be required to do so.

But the local KY federal district court judge rejected her argument saying that having her name on the marriage licenses wasn’t a burden. Volokh points out that this is quite an error in judgement on the judge’s part, to the point of outright contradicting the most basic elements of Kentucky law. Davis refused to keep issuing licenses with her name on them, and the judge took the rather controversial route of tossing her in jail, rather than, say, fining her. But here’s where it gets really interesting, for me at least.

While Davis was in jail, clerks issued marriage licenses using “Rowan County” in the place where her name would normally be – which is almost exactly what she asked for in her appeal and was told would not be possible, or would result in illegal licenses. The plaintiffs don’t have any problem with that change, but Davis’ lawyers wanted it clarified that the licenses are being issued by another entity than her, and that’s where the current question lies – can she get her accommodation? And are those licenses issued while she was in jail even legal? Will she file an appeal with the state, as Volokh suggests? I think that’s her best option.

So! What’s the takeaway from this whole mess? Going back to my original premise, the thing to do is work within the legal framework as much as possible before breaking it. So I support Davis’s appeals, and I think she has a reasonable and just claim under RFRA. I think the judge was horribly unjust in his decision and needs a refresher course on the law, as well as the definition of “religious belief.” But at the point where her appeal was denied and there was no other legal recourse available, two options were available – comply, or go to jail. If compliance isn’t an option due to religious reasons, and you haven’t gotten an injunction from the state, then either accept the time in jail or step down. (I am assuming her stepping down at any point is a legally acceptable way out – I could be wrong on that point, though I’m not sure how.)

Assuming that, then legally, Davis still had the option of resigning her position, which would have kept her out of jail. Her “martyrdom” is one of her own making in that sense, not comparable (as I’ve seen some claim) to Daniel’s sentence to the lions’ den, as Daniel had no way out from under Darius’ decree. But, like Paul, Davis sought to use the legal system to her benefit. Paul escaped a beating and demanded his fair trial as a Roman citizen – Davis demanded her rights under RFRA to religious freedom. Despite the memes popping up on Facebook and Reddit, that actually does have meaning. Christians, along with anyone who believes in religious freedom and the Constitution of this nation, should be rightly upset with the judge’s decision, and hoping for relief if she files in state court. But at the same time, she isn’t a blameless victim in all this. Whether it’s her pride or she honestly believes she’s fighting injustice, I don’t know – but from the moment she defied the judge’s order onward, she’s brought anything that comes on herself.

Best. Endorsement. Ever.

First we had Walker, Texas Ranger supporting Huckabee, and now we have Rambo supporting McCain.  You can’t make this stuff up:

“I like McCain a lot. A lot. And you know, things may change along the way, but there’s something about matching the character with the script. And right now, the script that’s being written and reality is pretty brutal and pretty hard-edged like a rough action film, and you need somebody who’s been in that to deal with it.”

The really, truly sad thing is that this will get McCain more votes, because obviously if Rambo is supporting the guy, then he’s a guy the terrorists really don’t wanna mess with. I wonder if the next logical step is to see Steven Seagal come out in favor of Romney, followed by a three-way cage match on Pay Per View to decide the fate of the free world?

Random Thoughts 1

It’s Saturday and I have nothing good to write about but I told myself I’d write something, so, here we go. It’s the weekend and I have random thoughts (and links!) to share.

  • Sara Bareilles is both beautiful and a great musician. I discovered her through a TV commercial that played a 5-second clip of her music video for “Love Song,” and went on to find her other stuff. It’s quite good. It’s also not the typical lyrical content of that brand of music, which is refreshing. So, go Sara!
  • Via Prester Scott: It seems the Episcopalian church has gone off the deep end. Their new devotional pamphlet encourages you to tape the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to your mirror so that you can meditate on them for Lent. While eliminating world hunger and improving education are great things, that’s not exactly what Jesus said you should be meditating on. What was that again? Oh, right. His Word.
  • Via Andy: A couple of cases of yet more Islamic branded insanity. This time it’s honor killings, in the good ol’ US of A and Canada. It’s just more proof that it’s not just the culture in the Middle East; in fact it’s the Islamic culture at large that encourages it because it is condoned, even encouraged by Islamic teaching. It’s ridiculous to me that people can look at this religion and call it a “Religion of Peace” with a straight face.
  • Via Kim: More reasons not to vote Huckabee. Actions speak louder than words, and all that. It’s not like I’d ever considered him, but I still know people who do.
  • Via my email inbox: Gingrich in the race? I can’t see it happening but it’d be a conservative in the race, which is much more than what we have now. It’d be a different approach than any of the current candidates are taking, at the very least.
  • And finally for all the truly geeky out there, via Wil Wheaton comes this lovely link illustrating the dangers of retconning. It drives people like me insane when you mess with the story lines and lore that we have come to know and love, and that does a good job explaining why.

I’m off to spend the day with my family. Hope you all have a good weekend.

Stranger than Fiction

Via Michelle Malkin comes the following “WTF”moment:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — California Rep. Duncan Hunter, a former presidential candidate, announced Wednesday he is endorsing Mike Huckabee’s White House bid.

“I got to know Governor Huckabee well on the campaign trail,” Hunter said in a statement. “Of the remaining candidates I feel that he is strongly committed to strengthening national defense, constructing the border fence and meeting the challenge of China’s emergence as a military superpower that is taking large portions of America’s industrial base.

This is beyond bizarre. Hunter was very conservative, tough on borders and terrorism, and all for small government. Huckabee is none of those things. I’m truly confused as to what he’s thinking with this endorsement.

And then I remember we’re talking about 21st century Republican politics. Nothing makes sense.

Lesser of five evils

So I’ve been watching the primaries with increasingly little connection to any given candidate. My ideal choice from the beginning was Fred Thompson – while not perfect, he was certainly the best of the bunch. Conservative, well-carried, well-spoken, intelligent… He seemed like perfect answer to the unimpressive remainder. Now that he’s dropped out, we’re down to five (and no, I won’t even consider either of the Democratic candidates. They’re against nearly everything I stand for):

  • Mitt Romney

Here we have a politician’s politician. Seems to change his mind every chance he gets, fails miserably at appealing to minority groups, and has a general air of untrustworthiness. I’ve said before that I hate the guy and that I like the guy – it seems to change every time he opens his mouth. He has performed well in some debates and miserably in others. On his good days he’s great but on his bad days he’s horrible – and I don’t think I can handle that in (another) president.

  • Rudy Giuliani

Captain 9/11 and the one-note band. He’s got a terrible record on gun control, immigration, and most other big issues, ancd has tons of NY-brand scandal and crime-connection baggage to back it all up. The only positive he’s got going for him is his stance on the war, which isn’t perfect but it’s better than most. Really, to see him elected would be a disaster for all involved.

  • Mike Huckabee

I really don’t know how this man gets taken seriously at all. He’s all for big government, big spending, and calling it all right in the name of the Lord. I’ve been told by several people that I’m morally obliged somehow to vote for Huckabee because he’s a Christian – which I find absurd, and probably explains where his support comes from – but to do so would compromise almost every social and political value I hold. He may be a great preacher, but he’d make a terrible president.

  • John McCain

The hometown hero. I guess I’m supposed to like him because he’s from Arizona, but really I can’t stand the guy. I’ve said before that I think the guy is getting a little nuts with time, and while I have great respect for him as a veteran and POW survivor, and even for remaining mostly harmless as a senator (McCain-Feingold notwithstanding), I don’t think he’s fit for presidency. He can act in a very unprofessional manner, as has been seen in almost every debate, and he has a real thirst for power that scares me. My mom told me when I was younger that anyone who wants to be president probably shouldn’t have the job. I don’t think she was all that far off.

  • Ron Paul

The revolutionary.To be honest, I like so much about him. His stance on handling government is spot-on, although I don’t think he can realistically make all his proposed changes in four years (or even eight). His stance on foreign policy is hard to argue with, but leads to a flawed (in my opinion) understanding of how to handle this war in Iraq. He wants to pull out immediately, but I think it would be disastrous to do so. More on that in another post, perhaps. His views on abortion mirror mine, in that while he thinks it’s wrong he also thinks it should be a state and not federal issue, and that government should neither condemn nor condone it in any fashion. His views on gun control and immigration could have come out of my own mouth.

But I can’t find it in myself to support him, for two reasons. One, his attitude bothers me. He’s too strong-willing and unwilling to bend at all, and I think that can be a problem. While it is not ideal, compromise is often necessary in the field of politics. Two, and this is the big one, he has a very disturbing idea of our government’s involvement in terrorism. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to label him a conspiracy theorist as I once did, but his history of making suspiciously “truthist” statements – particularly about 9/11 and JFK – really bothers me. I think it provides an insight into a deeper problem with the man that disqualifies him for the job.

So, there we go. A nice round up of what’s left on the field, and me wondering what chance we have left at a relatively sane 21st century. I’m open for suggestions, discussion, arguments, whatever in the comments. Maybe one of you can give me a little hope.