Sunday, September 13, 2015

Kim Davis Gets Her Ten Minutes

Kim Davis is playing a role scripted by her allies in the Christian Right.

Certain Christians are portraying Christianity as an embattled minority. Christians were one nearly 2000 years ago, but here and now they're the dominant faith. That isn't enough for some, who want not only to practice their religion, but also to force the rest of us to obey it. Will a few decades bring some reprise of the Spanish Inquisition?

Most Christians aren't troubled by freedom of marriage. Many applaud it. But a politically motivated subgroup of Christians needed a martyr. Kim Davis will do till a real one comes along. They promised her huge financial support, making any possible fine a joke and forcing Judge Bunning to jail her.

She rejected Judge Bunning's efforts not to jail her. She could refuse to issue marriage certificates if she simply promised not to interfere with her deputies when they followed the law.

Her legal position is nonsense. She's been elected to perform certain functions, subject to federal and Commonwealth laws and constitutions. She's refusing to follow the law. But for her status as an elected official, she'd already be gone. A long series of cases have defined where an employer must or needn't accommodate religious beliefs, and her conduct is on the wrong side of the line. Davis isn't being forced to do anything. She seeks to use her office to keep others from following the law.

We're a pluralistic nation. Our founders wisely took great pains to keep religious belief out of governmental decision-making. We cannot now be blackmailed into letting a small minority of Christians (and a smaller minority of U.S. citizens) dictate our laws.

Her moral position is nonsense. If I'm Muslim or Orthodox Jew, and can't eat pork, does that give me the right to keep everyone in a school cafeteria from eating pork? If my faith forbids women to drive, could I fairly deny all the women in Doña Ana County driver's licenses? If I worked for the City, could I refuse to give a building permit to a Wiccan church because my pastor called it devil-worship? If I were President Huckabee, could I order the Department of Education to refuse to fund schools that taught evolution, not creationism?

If history recalls Kim Davis at all, it will recall her as we recall the 1926 Scopes trial. Contemporary observers thought that spectacle a national embarrassment. Tennessee courts upheld Scopes's conviction for teaching evolution, which the state had forbidden. Society (mostly) moved on.

The self-righteousness of Davis and her supporters is barf-worthy. Someone called her a modern-day Rosa Parks, the black lady whose insistence on sitting in the white section of a city bus got her jailed but helped change the nation. She's no Rosa Parks. Rather, Davis is the bus driver who called the police because a Negress was getting out of line.

You could fairly ask why I criticize Davis but strongly supported County Clerk Lynn Ellins when he started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples when that was not yet clearly legal. His action expanded rather than contracted personal freedoms and equality. He disobeyed no Supreme Court decision. Further, his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution accurately anticipated the Supreme Court's eventual interpretation.

Earlier in life, I sometimes placed my sense of right and wrong above the law, as Davis has done. But she and I are on opposite sides of a drawn-out conflict. I'm on the side of equality, tolerance, open-mindedness, and personal freedoms. Davis wants to impose her views on others. And have her ten minutes of fame.

[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 13 September.]

[Kim Davis will be soon forgotten.  The rapidity with which we've moved from "homosexuality is illegal and disgusting" to "gay marriage is beautiful" will provoke plenty of thought and discussion among future historians, if we don't destroy civilization too soon.  I think they'll find little controversy in the issue, as acceptance of various sorts of sexuality, like acceptance of various skin colors, will be the norm.  However, the rapidity of the change will provoke their curiosity.
The serious issue here is the political movement to turn the religion-neutral government our founders conceived and implemented into an arm of Protestant Christianity.  That movement will fail; its adherents are not only a small minority, but a dwindling one, ultimately.  But it's a significant part of the political landscape in 2015.  It's wrong-headed -- both in misunderstanding the nature of our government and in choosing the wrong elements of Christianity (strict rules and intolerance rather than love and tolerance and compassion) to yammer for.]
[Kim Davis is a sideshow; but the ostrich-like tendency of some citizens to hide their heads in some religious sand [Christian, Islamic, or some other] to avoid scientific realities, as it appears in other political issues, is dangerous to our future Faith is wonderful, and can be inspiring; but used as a weapon against others or a justification for intolerance or an excuse not to face reality, it's sad.]

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