September 6, 2015

Why is Kim Davis in Jail?

Kim Davis is in jail because not because she's being punished for her beliefs, as some people maintain, but for her failure to obey the law and her failure to do her duty as the elected county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky.

Some of the presidential candidates are chiming in.Prominently, for example, Mike Huckabee, president of the Josh Duggar Fan Club, plans on visiting Davis on Tuesday.  He's also established a Free Kim Davis Now petition,which is front and center on his presidential campaign page.  The petition, addressed to President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and US District Judge David Bunning, states:
Immediately release Kim Davis from federal Custody. Exercising Religious Liberty should never be a crime in America. This is a direct attack on our God-given Constitutional Rights. 
Government government shutdown artist/denier Ted Cruz also supports Davis in her dereliction of duty, and has also wrongly stated the issue on purpose, noting that
Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office. That is the consequence of their position. Or, if Christians do serve in public office, they must disregard their faith - or be sent to jail.
Not so much, gentlemen.

Kim Davis is not only not being persecuted for being a Christian; she's not being persecuted at all. She's being treated like a public official who has officially shown contempt for the law, and for multiple courts. Her disdain has been duly recognized, which is what she wanted, and she's simply getting the attention she requested by defying the court's order.

Some folks are happy to point out that Davis has had four marriages, as if that should disqualify her from having a faith-based position on same-sex unions. While it might be hypocritical to profess concern about the sanctity of marriage if you've had four of them yourself, it's not really our business, and it's not the issue here. The more time spent on that argument, I think, the more time wasted.

Truth be told, I'm also not concerned with her religious beliefs. Not because I disagree with them (which I do), and certainly not because she's not entitled to them -- she is absolutely entitled to have her own personal religious beliefs, and to share them. However, she has no right to impose her beliefs on anyone else. That's why they're called personal religious beliefs.

Some folks have suggested that, if Davis were a Muslim instead of a Christian, no one would have an issue  with her behavior. That argument is ridiculous; this isn't about her choice of faith - it's about her failure to do the job she was elected to do.

Davis's decision to deny marriage licenses to all who seek them, whether gay or straight, is not a defense, either. Dereliction of duty equally applied is still dereliction of duty.

Her actions are also in direct conflict with her own statements thanking those who voted for her when she was elected last year, replacing her mother who served for decades in the position.
My words can never express the appreciation, but I promise to each and every one (of her constituents) that I will be the very best working clerk that I can be and will be a good steward of their tax dollars and fulfill the statutes of this office to the letter.  (Emphasis added.)
She also noted during the race that
If I'm elected it will be a seamless transition with no break in services to our citizens. Licenses, taxes, election-related activities and all of our other services cannot stop or slow down.  (Again, emphasis added.)
A "working clerk" would issue marriage licenses to all legal applicants, and a "good steward of their tax dollars" would not accept salary and benefits paid by tax dollars if he or she was not doing her job. After all, the county clerk cannot pick and choose which dollars she's going to take care of, she must take care of all of them, including the ones that pay her salary. Further, it defies logic that not issuing licenses would seem to constitute a "stop or slowdown" don't you think?

Davis should stay in jail for as many days as it takes for her to formally agree to perform all of the duties of her office. She could be released on bail, I suppose, but that would seem the easy way out (and one which would attract a lot less attention) so I doubt the option would be accepted if offered.

If she can't bring herself to faithfully execute the duties of her office -- all of them -- as required, then she must step down. I'd also like to see her repay the salary and benefits she received under false pretenses during this time. (Davis reportedly makes $80,000 per year.)

She's also potentially facing charges for misconduct,for violating the Kentucky code; charges have been referred to the State's Attorney General.
A public servant is guilty of official misconduct in the first degree when, with intent to obtain or confer a benefit or to injure another person or to deprive another person of a benefit, knowingly (a) commits an act relating to his office which constitutes an unauthorized exercise of his official functions or (b) refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office or (c) violates any statute or lawfully adopted rule or regulation relating to his office. 
The code doesn't get into the reasons behind an official's misconduct, and neither should we.

Kim Davis is welcome to exercise her religious beliefs, even to proselytize on her own time; she's welcome to teach bible study to prisoners (if they're interested) on her free time, as it's been reported she does.

However, she's not welcome to deny services to the taxpayers she was elected to serve, whether they are gay or straight, old or young, black or white, male or female, Christian or atheist or anything in between.