In the most recent video documenting the saga of the obstinate Kentucky clerk who refuses to sign off on marriage licenses for gay couples, the complainant couple arrive yet again at Rowen County Clerk Kim Davis’ office to receive their license after the Supreme Court denied Davis’ request for a stay, a type of emergency intervention. Claiming that signing the document as her job requires violates her “religious liberty”, Davis appears in the video once again refusing to issue the couple their papers, defying of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision making all same-sex marriage legal in June.
An oft-stated, obvious argument against her actions — which is that employment is not a guaranteed right, and if you fundamentally cannot perform the basic tasks of a job, you can’t reasonably expect to continue to keep that job — is a sound objection to her stance, but let’s set that aside for a moment. Because going even deeper into the basis of her reasoning, things get even stupider from Kim Davis’ perspective. As a warrior for “religious liberty”, you would expect Davis (and the people supporting her) to be fairly familiar with the tenets of their own religion. That is unfortunately and predictably not the case.
To Christians who claim their religious liberty is violated by laws which require them provide birth control coverage to employees, or issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples you should know: the Bible very clearly says Christians must obey the Supreme Court, the President, and indeed all governmental authority.
Before I go any further, I should make my position clear: I am neither a Christian, nor do I agree that it’s a good idea to unequivocally obey all authority, government or otherwise. I think that’s a great recipe for fascism. However, I do think that if one is going to use “the authority of God” to refuse to fulfill the requirements of a job, it makes sense to first check with God’s rather extensive manual of do’s and don’ts first, because the only thing worse than a bigot is a hypocritical bigot.
So what does the Bible have to say about Davis’ stance? Amazingly, there is a very short, clear and relevant passage that quite clearly lays out the expectations for Christians and their relations to earthly law and authority. Romans 13:1-10 addresses almost every aspect of Kim Davis’ wrongheaded reasoning behind her discrimination. So, let’s look at a section-by-section walk-through of God’s position on the matter:
Romans 13:1: Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.
This part is pretty clear. Davis stated that for her, not issuing a license to a same-sex couple was a “decision of obedience.” Yet, after receiving a denial from a governing authority (the Supreme Court) for a stay on Monday, on Tuesday morning she is again refusing couples their licenses. According to the Bible itself, such behavior is a punishable offense! The hypocrisy certainly doesn’t end there, though. Davis also stated this morning that “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience”.
Yet God even addresses the matter of conscience in the next portion of the passage, which reads:
Romans 13:4-5: The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
And what about the couple in the video who confronted Davis this morning to obtain their license (you can watch it here), who remind the clerk that as taxpayers they pay her salary, and that they are in fact “paying [her] to discriminate against them right now”? Turns out God must have thought of that too (I suppose omniscience has its uses!), because in the very next sentences of Romans 13, this injustice is rather specifically addressed:
Romans 13:6: Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.
So basically the Bible makes it clear for Christians that this is a two-way street: Pay your taxes so government workers get their due, which the couple has done; and obey the governing authorities, which Davis is still refusing to do, out of “obedience” to “God’s Authority”. Well, that’s a thinker. Then again, this is the same woman who, when questioned by the same-sex couple’s attorney about being thrice-married and twice-divorced (Another Biblical no-no) and asked whether issuing a marriage license to divorcees also violates her conscience, replied “that’s between them and God”. Can we just fire her already?
It’s not terribly shocking that yet again, someone is attempting to cloak their homophobia in a mantle of “religious liberty”. What is shocking is how very transparent that mantle is, particularly in the case of county clerk Davis’ staunch refusal to issue a legal entitlement per the decision of Obergefell v Hodges. To Davis and other “persecuted” Christians, I say this: if you insist on making the world turn on the axis of your magical book, please at least read and understand it first. And for the love of God, start paying attention to parts of the Bible which are, arguably, most relevant to our time together on planet earth. After all, the above portions of Biblical passage end with this rather valuable bit of instruction:
3:10: Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.