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FIRST-PERSON: Clerk’s jailing signals ‘sad era’

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Chitwood is executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — We entered a sad era for the American judicial system and Kentucky state government when a county clerk was incarcerated by a judge for refusing to place her name on the marriage licenses of same-sex couples.

Kim Davis had stated that her religious convictions prevented her from giving her official signature of approval for gay marriage. She had requested that Gov. Steve Beshear accommodate her conscience by excusing her from that duty. Beshear refused and told her to do her job or resign.

This is the same governor who allowed Kentucky’s attorney general, Jack Conway, to refuse to defend Kentucky’s constitutional definition of marriage. Beshear spent the commonwealth’s money on private counsel to protect Conway’s religious convictions on gay marriage but had refused to allow other elected officials to use the county’s ink pens in order to protect Davis’ religious convictions.

In light of Beshear’s unwillingness to accommodate Davis’ faith, U.S. District Judge David Bunning chose not to fine Davis or request that Gov. Beshear call on the state legislature to impeach her or that Rowan County voters organize a recall referendum on her election. Rather, Bunning chose to throw Davis in jail.

Should Jack Conway have been jailed? Of course not. He should have been ordered to do his duty as an elected official and, if he refused, a due process should have unfolded to allow citizens of the commonwealth to decide if he should continue to hold office. Should Davis have been jailed? Of course not.

Yet, in the midst of what is quickly becoming one of the most heated cultural debates since slavery, Judge Bunning created a martyr and, at the same time, wrought a great injustice upon a public servant and a wife and mother of two. With countless alternatives to be explored and exhausted, Bunning used his gavel to swat the proverbial gnat with a sledgehammer.

Where does this end? I honestly don’t know. If Davis was my wife and the mother of my children, I would have quickly asked that she respond to this great injustice by resigning her position and coming home to her family. She defended her beliefs and, from what I have observed, took her stand with gracious and God-honoring speech. She made her case. She did all that she could do.

As for the failure of Gov. Beshear to protect her freedom of conscience, unfortunately, his name won’t be on the ballot in November. But, once again, the people of Kentucky are learning the hard lesson that elections really do matter. In fact, freedom hangs in the balance.

    About the Author

  • Paul Chitwood