Freedom of Religion is not a license to discriminate against others

I received the following comment regarding my article yesterday titled, Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, held in contempt and ordered into custody.

I mean is she really wrong? What im saying is , we tend to fall asleep until let’s say some stupid politician makes some law that insults or could harm our life or may be our children’s future. And like Kim, it awakes us. I mean let’s be real. I don’t trust politicians. But I understand her. It probably frighten her . to give or contribute to an abomination. Its frightening.

The comment posted to my pending file because the person had not previously posted a comment and been approved. For reasons that will become clear, the comment offended me and I felt compelled to respond to it. Here is my response.

I think your comment is offensive. I do not believe that same-sex marriage is an abomination, mostly because I have known many gay males and lesbian women during my adult life. For example, when I moved into Seattle to be closer to work in the early 80s, I rented an apartment on Capitol Hill that was within walking distance to downtown and the state and federal courthouses where I practiced law. I soon discovered that I was living in the heart of the gay and lesbian community. I was the only straight male in my apartment building. Over the next week or so, I ran into quite a few lawyers and several judges in the neighborhood whom I knew from work. They lived there. I suddenly realized they were homosexual. They weren’t quite sure what to make of me since I was obviously straight, but since I was on their turf by choice they figured I wasn’t prejudiced. They welcomed me to the neighborhood. They made no effort to pretend they were straight and within a short period of time they began to introduce me around to their friends. I was a little uncomfortable at first but I got over it quickly They were good people and they showed a genuine interest in getting to know me. I ended up forming many lasting friendships.

It didn’t take me very long to realize that gay males aren’t sexually interested in straight males, just as straight males aren’t sexually interested in gay males.

As time went by, I got to know their significant others, people they would have married. but for the fact that the law did not allow it. All of this was happening during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s. Several people I knew died of AIDS. This was a terrible time that I will never forget. Many of their families had long ago rejected them and they only had themselves to turn to for comfort. That really pissed me off. Often a sick and dying person’s partner could not even visit their dying partner in a hospital or obtain any information about their condition because the were not “family.” Eventually, hospices were created on Capitol Hill to permit them to pass in dignity with their partners and friends present.

As a result of these experiences, I have been a firm supporter of equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people for many years. Yes, indeed, I support same-sex marriage and proudly so. I celebrated and shed more than a few tears when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided <em>Obergefell v. Hodges</em> back in June. At long last, the SCOTUS held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians. Therefore, laws that prohibit same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Freedom of Religion Clause of the First Amendment is misunderstood by most Americans. It prohibits Congress from making any law regarding the establishment of a religion. Many of our Founding Fathers were atheists who wanted a prohibition in the Constitution prohibiting the government from endorsing any religion or religious view. This prohibition is the basis for the doctrine of separation of church and state. People who claim nothing in the Constitution authorizes the separation of church and state are absolutely wrong.

Freedom of religion means that a person can hold any religious belief they desire. They can even claim a religious basis to hate on blacks, women, Muslims, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, Latinos, the poor, and any other person or group they don’t like. However, that does not mean that they can assault, murder, enslave or discriminate against them, even if they can point to some passage in the Bible that approves of doing so. For example, the Bible says God told Moses and the Israelites to slaughter everyone in Jericho and all the Canaanites. A person in this country today is not going to be able to beat a murder charge for killing a Palestinian living here on the ground that the Bible condones what he did. Similarly, a person cannot claim a religious exemption to a murder charge because they believe in the Old Testament <em>lex talionis</em>, an eye for an eye and killed someone in an act of revenge.

Kim Davis is the elected Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court. Issuing marriage licenses is one of her duties. If she truly believes her religious beliefs won’t permit her to do that, then she should resign her position.

Instead, she claims a religious right to discriminate. As I said, the Freedom of Religion Clause only applies to beliefs. It cannot be used as a sword to justify doing something that the law prohibits or refusing to do something that the law requires. Therefore, she can’t discriminate against same-sex couples who want to get married by refusing to issue them a marriage license.

In addition, while I do not pretend to be a Biblical scholar, I do not believe homosexuality is forbidden. Homosexuality has been around forever and in ancient Egypt it was accepted. Same thing in Greece. Alexander the Great, a military genius and fierce warrior who conquered the known world (Egypt, Persia and India) around 330 BC was a homosexual and no one thought any less of him for that. Nevertheless, even if God supposedly called it a sin, which I seriously doubt, that still does not give any person a right to discriminate against gays.

She took her best shot at convincing a judge that she was right. She lost in the United States District Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The United States Supreme Court declined to consider her appeal. She has exhausted her legal options and now she is refusing to do her job while selfishly imposing her religious beliefs on other people. She also wants to become a martyr.

Kim Davis is not a hero and she is definitely not a martyr. She’s a bigot imposing her deeply held prejudices on others and for that reason she deserves no sympathy. She is literally contemptible and deserves to be exactly where she is: the Rowan County Jail.

22 Responses to Freedom of Religion is not a license to discriminate against others

  1. Malisha says:

    I just had a bizarre idea for a comedy. First, in a dramatic scene, we see Davis in her jail cell, suffering, and doing it for her religion. And everyone we see in the scene is sympathetic to her plight. Then we cut to a New York courtroom, where one after another, runway-model-quality women of about 20 years of age are testifying against some poor guy in Middle Eastern ethnic garb. He’s the clerk of a court that issues marriage licenses and he’s refusing to issue licenses “for men to marry whores” because it’s against his religion. Then we cut to a court room in Virginia where a clerk is on trial for refusing to issue marriage licenses for “Niggras” to marry “whites.” We cut to courtroom after courtroom where clerks are insisting their religions (a few cute made-up religions among them) forbid them from indulging in the clerkiness of their jobs.

  2. a2nite says:

    Thanks Prof

  3. ed nelson says:

    As it seems to me, Disquis only has a few issues/catagories and you have to chime in on them…. far from the day!

  4. ed nelson says:

    Proff Fred, are you still dealing with ”Disqus”, I can’t even find any way to log in, and they have a couple of my posts up there. Under the wonderful name: geoshmoe.

  5. girlp says:

    Her intentions are clear….she’s going back to jail and will get another 15 minutes of fame if you want to call it that. And no Huckabee and Crux this will not get you into the White House!

    • gblock says:

      What they are doing helps them mount an appeal to their natural constituency, increase their visibility to that group, and therefore get more votes. But it’s not clear that this can be enough to get either of them the nomination, let alone the election.

  6. bettykath says:

    Davis’ mother was clerk before her with Davis putting in 20 some years as a deputy. Now Davis is the clerk and her son is a deputy. Seems like a dynasty.

    • girlp says:

      That should not be allowed that is nepotism in my state, so Kentucky allows this! I thought SC was backwards (which it is) but wow.

  7. girlp says:

    Davis is an attention hound…looking for money and fame she loves this.

  8. Malisha says:

    OT, I’m sorry, but I just read this:

    It seems that Corey’s charade in “prosecuting” Fogen was no surprise after all, if we think about her standard operating procedures.

    • gblock says:

      Wait, the police were evicting a neighbor and it wasn’t even Stallworth’s apartment and they decided to shoot him? What do they claim happened to remotely justify the shooting? The article is pretty vague about that, is there any more definite information about what happened?

    • gblock says:

      With regards to Fogen’s prosecution, I’m still confused as to why the trial happened the way it did. Corey indicted Fogen with a charge of second degree murder, which was a fairly strong charge for the case. The prosecutors presented a lot of witnesses and evidence. But they did a really bad job with it – didn’t explain to the jury how it fit together, didn’t do anything to try to cast doubt on the dubious statements of some of the defense witnesses. And I’m still wondering why?

      Were the attorneys themselves unable to put things together? If so, should they have been able to hire an investigator or other expert who could help them with it?

      Were there political motivations involved? Were they, or Corey, worried about losing their jobs, not being reelected, or facing violent mobs if they tried too hard to get Fogen convicted? Did the attorneys resent the fact that the case had been foisted on them and they had not choice about what the charges should be and whether to prosecute?

      Some of their behavior in the courtroom was so ineffective as to be incompetent, and these were supposed to be highly competent prosecutors.

  9. Malisha says:

    Another thing about this stupid flap: She’s not being asked to confer a religious marriage upon gay people; she’s being asked to issue a state license, which is a permit, not a decree. She’s not a magistrate; she’s not a judge; she’s not a priest. So look at it as if she were an engineer in charge of permitting for the building of houses in her county. Some very nasty people want a permit to build a house in which they are going to conspire to be quite evil. Her state, however, issues licenses based upon a law that has been put in place to deal NOT with the behavior of the house-residents, but with the code established by law for the building of the house. If it is allowed to be a three-story house with a two-acre lot and three bathrooms, who cares if she is a member of a religion that says people should live in underground huts? She’s just an attention-grabbing buffoon. 👿

  10. gblock says:

    Ironically, Kim Davis is on her fourth marriage. The Bible does not record Jesus saying much of anything about homosexuality, but Jesus did condemn divorce in very strong terms.

  11. Disappointed says:

    I do not believe ppl choose to be gay. Why would they? Ppl bully them treat them like shit all in the name of God. I think ppl pick and choose what they want out of the bible. Many ppl eat pork shellfish and blend fabrics. Then there are ppl divorcing and remarrying. According to bible they should be stones. Practice what you preach or don’t preach. I don’t care to be around bigots or racist. Great read Fred. You are a stand up guy.

    • girlp says:

      Even if it was a choice it still would be a relationship between consenting adults and no ones business. But, I do agree being gay is not a choice it’s just part of who a person is and relationships are about more than sex (or how you have sex).

  12. Great post. Not to mention, every family has gay members – how can one exclude them from the same rights and privileges that you enjoy?

    I caught an interview with author Salman Rushdie yesterday – he has a new book coming out soon and now lives in New York City. Due to his experience with living under threat of a Muslim fatwa, they asked him about Kim Davis’s beliefs. He took care of that quickly – “forget about Kim Davis.”

    Another name that should be forgotten. She really isn’t a hero, though she and a few followers may think so. And if a clerk in a sparsely populated county in the USA is the only one to dissent, then we’re in pretty good shape with this issue!

  13. bettykath says:

    Well said. The First Amendment gives you the right to believe whatever you want, it does not give you the right to impose your beliefs on others. It is the latter that seems to be the thrust of the “religious freedom” folks and our latest martyr wanna-be.

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