So, I was asked my position on Ms. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to follow the law, even after losing her appeal to the Supreme Court. I answered:
“Every public official is subject to the rule of law.” This is not a popular one to answer, but let me change to another person and then come back to Ms. Davis. Because of his deeply held beliefs, President Barack Obama has chosen to take executive action on various issues. As a result, various have called for him to be impeached. Most of the charge has been that a public official may not refuse to follow the Constitution or the law or judicial decisions.
Yet, in the case of Ms. Davis, she is being praised by many for refusing to follow a judicial decision at the level of the Supreme Court, who is the arbiter of the Constitution (unless they are overridden by a Constitutional amendment). Should she not be subject to impeachment for the same charges that some are claiming should be applied to President Obama?
It is important to note that even the most traditional of the Supreme Court justices have not spoken in favor of Ms. Davis. The principle, which has been espoused in previous Supreme Court decisions, is that a public official represents the law and not their personal religious beliefs. If Ms. Davis cannot do that, she always has the option to resign from her office.
The other side of this is that I fully support her religious beliefs. She is taking a strong stand for them. But, she is not considering the effects of her refusal. If her refusal in successful, then any public official can refuse to uphold any law with which they disagree by simply claiming a deeply held religious or philosophical belief. That would lead to judicial chaos.
Either we are in favor of law and order or we are not. A few of the Early Church Fathers even held that a Christian should not hold public office because they could not uphold every Law, unless they decided to compromise their beliefs. Later Church Fathers disagreed, because they realized that it is better to have Christians in government than to not have them in government. But, that means that sometimes Christians will end up appearing to approve of things of which they do not approve.
That was my original reply. I would now add that, by the same reasoning, a few of the Early Church Fathers held that a Christian cannot be in the Armed Forces. There is no doubt that being in the Armed Forces puts you in a position to kill people and to have to follow orders with which you may not morally agree. At least one Early Church Father even held the position that a returning soldier should have to wait a year after they returned in order to be allowed to take holy communion. In essence, they would have to serve a virtual excommunication because they had killed. That position did not last long for the same reason as above. It is better to have Christians in the Armed Forces than to not have them in the Armed Forces. In passing, I will mention that in the case of the Armed Forces, conservative Christians flip their opinion 180 degrees. What do I mean?
In the case of Ms. Davis’ refusal, various conservative Christians have supported her refusal, and have almost labeled her a martyr, which she is not. However, in the case of the young person who decides that they can no longer serve in the Armed Forces because of their moral stance, or who can no longer obey certain orders to kill people, various conservative Christians have historically labeled them as traitors, cowards, and worse. During the draft resistance movements of the Viet Nam conflict, conservative Christians were in the forefront of declaring that their moral objections did not count, that if the government needed them then they needed to obey, and that part of being a citizen was to obey the law. Many conservative Christians would still say the same today. Yet, Davis is supposedly a hero for doing the same thing that those young people did?
Either Ms. Davis is right, therefore the conservative Christians who condemned draft resisters must repent for the evil way in which they treated those young people, or Ms. Davis is wrong, therefore conservative Christians need to be consequent and refuse to support her just like they refused to support draft resisters. If you try to support Ms. Davis yet refuse to support those young people who have crises of conscience in the military, you are not consequent in your beliefs, and are treading on the dangerous grounds of relativism.