September 4, 2015

The Kim Davis Dilemma

There are at least fifteen sides to the Kim Davis issue being bandied about the internet...

Okay, I exaggerate.

There are at least fourteen sides to the Kim Davis issue being bandied about the internet...

Well, you get the point. It's a complex issue with many considerations.

I have been asked to comment on the Kim Davis issue on one of the com-boxes.

When Chesterton was asked "Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?" he replied "I will go home and write a book in answer to that question." Holding with Chesterton that one should never write a sentence when a long-winded, rambling, rumination will do, I present the following:

My first thought is that many of the ad hominem comments running around present interesting side questions in and of themselves, but do not really get to the meat of the discussion. For instance, Sean Davis at The Federalist notes that the instances of liberals ignoring the law to further their own beliefs are myriad and blatant, but rare the case where one went to jail. A very good point, and if one condemns both sets of actions, bravo for intellectual consistency, if that is the basis for one's argument. In addition, there are a raft (boatload?) of liberal commentators now mocking Ms. Davis for her numerous marriages prior to this one, based on the "gotcha, you're a hypocrite" idea. Ms. Davis has replied that these marriages were prior to her conversion, which her detractors naturally discount. Presumably these are the same people who mocked President Obama for his flip-flop from "marriage is only between a man and a woman" to "gay marriage is equal and just." If so, they are to be congratulated on their intellectual consistency. Still others have said that laws must be obeyed and that Mrs. Davis is but suffering the consequences of her refusal. If those are the same who would have arrested Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. for disobeying and protesting unjust laws, then they are also to be congratulated on their intellectual consistency. As some have noted, the source of the argument is to be considered in its credibility. However, that is one rhetorical consideration of many, and the remainder of the argument must be considered as well, not simply discarded because there is something dislikable about the speaker. 

My second thought is that this is a difficult intersection of law and belief. The state is pressing Ms. Davis to engage in an act which she considers immoral. That act is the signing of marriage certificates for same-sex couples. Mrs. Davis believes that marriage is inherently between a man and a woman, and therefore, she refuses to sign marriage certificates. I think it is important to note that this is considered a ministerial act - meaning that, so long as the couples do XYZ, they receive a marriage certificate - not a discretionary act. Provided couples comply with law, the law orders that Mrs. Davis sign a marriage certificate. She is not required to pass judgment on the wisdom of the act, nor on the morality or immorality of the act. 

Now, a federal court has ordered her to do so (while suggesting the accommodation that she permit her deputies to sign certificates, admittedly bearing her name) and her refusal has resulted in her being imprisoned for failure to comply. She cannot be fired from her position, only impeached, and thus far, Kentucky has shown no inclination to impeach her. 

One senses a bit of the St. Thomas More about this situation. Notably, More did resign his position, when it became apparent that his desires concerning the position were incompatible with what the reigning sovereign requested that he do. The job position changed around More, so to speak. When it became apparent that his Oath to the Sovereign required that he take a position incompatible with his Christianity, he resigned. More recognized what was coming, as Mrs. Davis has not. The entire sovereign has become incompatible with Christianity; if not this request, then the next, to issue marriage certificates to threesomes, quads, etc., to permit marriage to animals, and so forth, would certainly do so. Resignation seems like the best option. Ms. Davis has suggested this herself, when in response to her critics, she notes that her prior marriages all happened prior to her conversation to Christianity. If it is true that she has converted and believes that divorce is no longer an option, than being part of a system in which divorce and remarriage is a standard is hardly, in itself, unproblematic from the same point of few.

A few meandering thoughts....

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