I caught some of Michael Savage’s “Savage Nation” radio show the other evening on the way home from work.
Born Michael Alan Weiner, Savage was distraught about the incarceration of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses.
Savage had me shaken. Concerned that Davis would be assaulted, possibly raped, while in jail, Savage expressed his outrage that every libertarian attorney in the country should be working aggressively to secure her immediate release and exoneration. He cited that the abuse being heaped on this Christian woman is proof of the Communist totalitarianism that has taken over America.
As I say, I was pretty shaken. That’s awful, and here I am living comfortably, even freely expressing my bleeding heart liberal opinion with enough private capital already set aside for renewing my golf club membership. What an ignorant dolt I must be, failing to realize how terrible things have become.
As I write this, I’m relieved to note that Ms. Davis has been released from jail under an order by the same judge who sentenced her for contempt on condition that she not interfere with her deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples (in compliance with the Supreme Court). As of this writing, it remains to be seen if she will comply.
As a liberal Democrat, I am a strong advocate for religious freedom. I want Kim Davis to be able to believe as her conscience dictates, and I insist that she be free from being coerced to adopt my beliefs or having the government dictate what she is to believe.
But this implies the dilemma of freedom. If Davis must be free from me imposing my beliefs on her, my freedom of belief is immediately confronted with a barrier — the barrier preventing me from forcing it on her.
The rub is that she is an agent of the government. By following her expressed conviction that homosexuality is a sin and refusing to issue marriage licenses (as ordered by the court,) she is imposing her beliefs on others through her actions.
I am in no position nor have any inclination to doubt her sincerity. Given that she is an elected official confronted with a legal duty that is in direct conflict with her belief, I would have had far greater respect for her had she chosen to resign.
Short of resignation, I hope that she will follow a legal process of appeal to the courts, abiding by whatever decision is eventually handed down. It will be a situation that will receive intensive coverage and will be worth following and considering. In my opinion, it will exemplify issues embedded in the First Amendment prohibition of an established religion.
Like all things, this is subject to interpretation. My interpretation is far from definitive, and it is offered not so much to persuade but in hopes of provoking some reflection.
As I interpret the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, we have decided that the government should not interfere with nor impose religion on us as Americans. Also implied in that concept is the idea that religious belief should not, in and of itself, be the basis of civil governance.
Noting the deeply foundational element of Judeo-Christian tradition and moral tenets on the history of this country, the prohibition against an established church is largely based on the realization that disagreements over issues such as papal authority over Henry’s requested annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon should not be the basis for legal beheadings. So whether or not the bread and wine are symbolic or transubstantiated into the actual body and blood of Christ must not be the basis for civil law.
That is a bitter lesson learned from European history and properly included in our Bill of Rights. As the father of a son who is legally married to my respected, esteemed and loved son-in-law, I’m hardly disinterested. That said, I have no interest in forcing Ms. Davis to act against her conscience, nor do I particularly wish to impose on her my belief that my son’s marriage is not sinful.
Al Smith, John Kennedy, and more recently Mitt Romney faced considerable concern about how their religious beliefs and practices would influence their conduct as president.
In each case, assurances were appropriately given that religious conviction and church affiliation, although important to the character of each individual, must not be imposed as such on their conduct as president.
Consider the question of plural marriage. Should the law forbid plural marriage, would a county clerk who believes that plural marriage is ordained by God be legitimately permitted to knowingly issue marriage licenses in situations creating multiple spouses?
I don’t think so, and I accept that issues involving the administration of so-called “sanctuary cities” need to be resolved, most probably by the Supreme Court.
Bruce Grigsby is pleased that his son has no wish to impose his lifestyle on others.