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Addressing the Kim Davis dilemma

Updated on September 3, 2015

Kentucky Clerk Official Kim Davis

The U.S. Supreme Court late Monday rejected an appeal from a county clerk in Kentucky who said she could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious objections.
The U.S. Supreme Court late Monday rejected an appeal from a county clerk in Kentucky who said she could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious objections. | Source

Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Arrested

According to social media outlets, Kim Davis, a Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk, has been arrested due to reported contempt of court charges. For the past few months, Kim Davis has become the center of attention. Reason for this spotlight is the controversy over same-sex marriage. Various groups, blogs, and other online sources have engaged in continuous discourses as either: applauding her as a Christian soldier who is standing on her religious convictions, or, as a possible bigot and violator of individual constitutional rights when it comes to marriage. Since the national recognition of same sex marriage as being constitutional by the United States Supreme court, several news articles have consistently shown a type of obstinate stand from those who proclaim a type of "conscientious objection" due to religious beliefs. For Kim Davis, this resulted in a reported arrest due to her being in contempt of court and law.

The question before us is two-fold: Was Kim Davis correct in denying marriage license to same sex couples or not? And, is this compatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, how does the message of His life and mission help you minister to your sisters?
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, how does the message of His life and mission help you minister to your sisters? | Source

To love and serve others - our civil duty

The Bible is very distinct and clear on one central message: The ultimate love God has for all his children, and through that love and compassion, how we too can love others and how we are to be of service to others. Our love for others is not merely confined to the body of Christ. Our love for others is all encompassing of everyone we meet.

Through the unconditional love God has for us, we receive grace. Likewise, we are expected to show love and compassion to all others. In fact, 1 Peter 2:13-17 shares this insight:

13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

The question here concerns how we, as Christians, are able to maintain and uphold those in leadership - even when laws are written and put forth that seem to violate our very religious belief system and standard? John Piper gave a sermon in January 1993 regarding this very passion. A time when President Clinton was in office. Pipers message, titled: Being Pro-Life Christians Under a Pro-Choice President, provides some straightforward answers to this passage and the context of Kim Davis and her resolution to not comply with her duties as a County Clerk official.

David H. Roper had this to say in his discussion on 1 Peter 2:13-17:

The first is that Christians are called to civil obedience. There is no question about this. It could not be stated more clearly. We are to submit to the authorities at every level, whether federal, state, or local -- whether we are talking about the Supreme Court or a traffic court, whether laws governing federal income tax or parking regulations, or whatever. We are to submit as a Christian obligation. This is restated again and again in Scripture -- by the apostle Paul in Romans 13, by Jesus himself when he said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." There are things which are solely God's, and therefore they cannot be given to Caesar. But Jesus is saying that Caesar has a legitimate sphere of authority, and we are to render to him the things which fall within that realm of authority. So we are to obey. Civil disobedience by Christians simply cannot be justified from Scripture.

True, when it comes to the term "obedience" some Christians tend to shy away from it due to preconceived notions of "legalism". Here, the word of God that is written in Peter's first epistle is distinguishable and clear: We are to submit ourselves to civil obedience to those in authority. For Kim Davis, her lack of submitting to the civil laws caused her impending imprisonment and contempt of Court. In a manner of speaking, she not only violated the law of the land through her own act of disobedience - refusal to provide marriage certificates to same sex couples, she also has gone against the very word of God itself in her obstinate act of disobedience.

Thomas Jefferson - Civil Disobedience

Chuck Colson - Christians and Civil Disobedience

Christians and Civil Disobedience

This brings up the question - when does it become necessary for Christians to engage in Civil Disobedience? More specifically, has Kim Davis engaged in her right to engage in Civil Disobedience by not providing marriage certificates to same-sex couples? From the commentary on social media, there are Christians who are stating that she is doing just that: engaging in her ethical and Christian duty to engage in civil disobedience when it comes to same sex marriage.

Civil Disobedience is a tricky and ethical discussion. Remember, just because something is legal does not necessitate the fact that it is ethical. For the Christian, same-sex marriage is not an ethical principle of truth. In this respect, Kim Davis has the right to engage in civil disobedience. For her, and many Christians, it is unethical to compel someone with a religious conviction to violate said conviction. Regardless if the law says otherwise.

This is where the waters become murky and the Bible itself is somewhat silent. Not on the issue of homosexuality itself (see the following paper by Daniel J. Lewis: The Christian and Social Ethics, pp. 22-35); however, on the act of civil disobedience and Christian living and thought process.

First, how does one define civil disobedience from a Christian perspective? In the 1986 Spring Direction (A journal from the Mennonite Brethren) we find this:

Purposeful, nonviolent action, or refusal to act, by a Christian who believes such action or inaction is required of him or her in order to be faithful to God, and which s/he knows will be treated by the governing authorities as a violation of law.

In this manner, Kim Davis did not act in a violent manner. However, reading the article mentioned, one may find that Ms. Davis did not meet certain criteria for her act of "civil disobedience" from a Christian perspective. Despite her meeting the mere definition of what Civil Disobedience quite possibly means.

How do we live as Christians in society?

There are no easy answers. When it comes to same-sex marriage, the reality is - we have to accept it as the law of men and of the land. We must come to respect those who may disagree with us and whom we are in disagreement with. Where does this leave the situation with Kim Davis? The few commentaries that I have read asked a simple question - How come she did not simply quit?

Personally, if it became that problematic where I found myself unable to perform the essential duties of my employment, I'd rather place my faith in God to help secure different employment opportunities rather than stand obstinate and become the center of attention. There are various ways Christians can engage in acts of civil disobedience. One of them is refusing to continue performing the work that runs contrary to our own faith and values.

However, that is my own personal opinion. Others may have stood in Davis's shoes and do exactly what she has done, remained steadfast in her own convictions.

So, back to our question: Was she right to do what she did and is it within the teachings of Jesus Christ? I will leave that up to the reader to decide.

Do you agree with Kim Davis?

Do you agree that Kim Davis had the right to deny marriage license to same-sex couples?

See results

Thoughtful comments and discussions welcome

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    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 2 years ago from Las Vegas

      She is in jail because she isn't doing her job. She has freely chosen her fate. She doesn't belong in jail, she belongs in the unemployment office. Separation of Church and State was around when she accepted her position. Why should things change because the law has changed. She isn't a hero for the cause. She is a fool for sitting in jail and thinking people are just going to sit back and say it's perfectly fine for her to control their lives.

    • jksouthard profile image

      JK Southard 2 years ago from USA


      If Kim's religion allowed one man or woman to have multiple wives or husbands at the same time, would she be compelled to award them a marriage license?

      If the law of the land prohibited same sex marriage and if Kim's religion allowed it, would she issue the marriage license?

    • profile image

      graceinus 2 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      Kim Davis in jail because of her trust and faith in God's standard that a marriage is between a man and a woman. She refused to issue a $35 dollar marriage license to gay couple's after a new law was establish by the SCOTUS which now allows gay couples throughout the U.S. to marry if they choose too. The SCOTUS does not take into account the belief that there is a higher power (GOD) that already established the standard of marriage is between and man and a woman. This concept of mariage is now thrown out the window by the SCOTUS. Because Mrs. Davis trust in her belief on God's view on marriage she has refused to issue the marriage license to gay couples regardless of the SCOTUS stand on this issue. Now she in is jail. Since then many have come out a voice there opinion the Mrs. Davis has no right to refuse the issue the marriage license and therefore Mrs. Davis belong's in jail for violating the law issued by the SCOTUS. Many gay couple's and atheist's are happy to see her in jail. And believe she is getting what she deserves. A lot of hatefulness has come out of this issue as a result of Mrs. Davis actions or the lack thereof. Even some so call christians have come out a state the Mrs Davis could have removed herself forom the position she held so that someone else could issue the license so that she would not violate her own belief and end up in jail. Many believe that Mrs Davis belief should have been set aside and she should have done her job as city official.

      The SCOTUS has no problem right now with Mrs. Davis sitting in jail because a far as the SCOTUS Mrs Davis violated the law regardless of her faith.

      We have the same situation some months ago when a christian bakery shop owner refused to make a wedding cake. The gay couple sued the bakery shop owner and he lost his business. The gay couple's are happy with the idea that Mrs. Davis is in jail. Not just gay are happy to see her in jail but many atheist also.

      In America there is one thing that we all have in common regardless of who we are. Each and every one of us, without exception, can reach into wallets or pockets and pull out money to pay for a marriage license or wedding cake's or ANYTHING else we wish to by. And this money will have the words; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and following those words; "IN GOD WE TRUST."

      Nation of Hypocrates.

    • profile image

      graceinus 2 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      She is in jail because of her christian belief in God's standard of marriage betwween a man and a woman which she knows the NEW LAW OF THE LAND is voilating. Amerca is voilating the law of God.


    • jksouthard profile image

      JK Southard 2 years ago from USA

      You are correct. She is in jail because she lied when she took her oath of office....she should not have been in office under her false pretense.

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      She isn't in jail for being Christian. She is in jail for breaking/not following the law. she is not being persecuted for her faith. She broke the law.

    • jksouthard profile image

      JK Southard 2 years ago from USA

      Was she voted into office to uphold the law of the land AND did she make it clear to the voters that she would uphold her interpretation of the Bible or Koran or whatever over the law of the land? Let all office holders and those seeking office make that clear...for the voters to decide. I am a lifelong student of the Bible and I certainly do not want someone else's interpretation of the Bible deciding my salvation, not in my democracy.

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 2 years ago from Las Vegas

      Well some people don't think God said it. Your saying that God makes mistakes and he made homosexuality. He created transgender. They are all life's tests to see how we handle things. It's not for me to question and it's not for me to preach how someone handles God's Tests. Time to get out of other people's bedrooms. This is about a woman doing her job. It's a job she can quit. It's a job that she is not meant to do if it is against her, but it's a job that needs to be done. It's not up to her to decide for other people.

    • TimRBerman profile image

      Timothy R Berman 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      I agree, persecution of Christians and others are all over the place.

    • profile image

      graceinus 2 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      In America when we see " christians" in other countries being thrown in JAIL for standing firm on their belief, it called PERSECUTION.

    • TimRBerman profile image

      Timothy R Berman 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Graceinus: No one is saying this is up for debate. The conversation here is about Christianity and Civil Obedience and Disobedience. It is more of a practical look regarding the issue at hand. From a Christian perspective, yes, God has established that standard. I do hold to traditional marriage and do disagree with the same sex marriage advocates. However, I am not going to deny a person the right to voice their opinion and their right to share their own thoughts on here. The question is, what alternative solutions are there Kim Davis could have possibly explored in order to comply with her own religious convictions while engaging in the course of her employment.

      So far, the two commentators have provided some good information on how this may have been resolved differently, that may keep in line with her own religious convictions.

      Please feel free to address the content and context of the article without any emotional knee-jerk response.

      And, by the way, your secondary comment was nothing more than an ad Hominem. Therefore it has no place in this discussion.

    • profile image

      graceinus 2 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      Genesus 2:22-24 (KJV) states: 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, and made a woman and brought her to unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bone , and flesh of my flesh, SHE shall be called WOMAN, because SHE was taken out of MAN. 24 Therefore shall a MAN leave his FAHTER AND MOTHER, and shall cleave unto his WIFE, and THEY shall BECOME ONE FLESH.

      What part of this do you not understand.

      God sets the standard that marriage is BETWEEN and MAN and a WOMAN.

      And this is NOT UP FOR A DEBATE.

      If GOd said it, that settles it.

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 2 years ago from Las Vegas

      Here is the USA you can exclude yourself from a procedure by not applying for a job. I work years in a delivery room and occasionally would get a late term abortion. It was never elective. It was always because something was wrong with the baby or the Mother's life would be in danger. I had no problem assisting the Mother and Father though it. Had someone come in to have an abortion (never happened) because they were choosing to terminate because they didn't want the baby the supervisor would always ask if there was a Nurse that had a problem with it. We were never required to be put in that situation. We had bigots in the hospital and if they were a known race hater to avoid sour situations a specific RN would not be put on the case. Someone with the words I Hate Jews comes in with it tattooed across their chest probably will get good care but I doubt a Jewish RN would make them their favorite patient. She may walk in and out being abrupt because she is human and not meaning to be. The Supervisor would just put another RN on the case. It happened. If the office really wanted her they could assign someone else to hand just those licenses out. Problem solved too. They are making this a bigger issue. By Law nobody should be denied. By work mate standards they could have made it easy on her. She could politely excuse herself and another person take over for that person quietly.

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I've been thinking about this a bit lately.

      I'm a gay woman who is legally married to the love of her life, in a country with Marriage Equality since 2013. But that doesn't mean I agree or disagree with the actions of both Kim Davis or the couples who are making this a big deal.

      For two reasons:

      1 - Kim is a civil servant. She is in secular job, in a secular department. She is bound by rules of her job to follow the secular law of the land - to provide marriage licences to those who are legally able to marry. If she cannot perform within these rules, she should resign (as I am aware they cannot fire her).

      2 - The couples could go to another county to marry. I understand that a point did need to be made, but it's been made now. She hasn't gotten away with discrimination - she is in jail at this minute for contempt.

      I can understand this from both sides, despite not being religious - she is trying to stand by her convictions, or at least her understanding of what those convictions should be. As this hub explains, she seems to have cherry picked the ones she can follow, but has neglected the ones that advise her to follow the law of the land. The couples needed to make a point, to make sure that people can't get away with blatant discrimination - but enough is enough now.

      I'm with Craftypicks - in more ways than one - I'm also a nurse. I have choices also, but not in who I treat - a patient is a patient - be they a bigoted homophobe, a lovely buddhist granny, a violent gang member, a child molester from the local prison, a racist bank manager, Joe Bloggs from down the road - they will all be treated with the BEST care I can provide. . If I was to try to use the same excuses to not treat someone such as Kim, I'd be reprimanded if not fired. I'm with Crafty - I don't think she needs jail (it just makes her into a Matyr), but she should NOT be in the position she is in if she can't follow the law.

      Thanks for this well balanced hub - I learnt quite a bit about Christianity and it's view on civil disobedience. Thanks!

    • TimRBerman profile image

      Timothy R Berman 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      I agree with you. We all have the ability and freedom to choose. I work in the social human services field and work with people who suffer addiction. While I may disagree with specific lifestyles, I am not there to judge them. I am there to provide a certain service and hopefully help them transform their lives from a position that is potentially harmful.

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 2 years ago from Las Vegas

      As a Nurse I have choices. I choose not to work in an abortion clinic and it isn't because I am pro life. I am pro choice. What I choose for myself and my family choose is our business. I won't participate in the physical act of abortion, but I will take care of a woman afterward.

      She has a choice. Like it or not it's legal for two people of the same sex to get Married and all the power to them. She is choosing to work in a field that compromises her morals. The solution is not to deny others of the Constitutional Right to be married. It's her responsibility to remove herself for her own personal beliefs.

      I don't want to see her in jail, but I don't want to see her in the position she is currently in. The solution is easy. Quit.