Kim Davis and ‘sloppy Joes’

Kim Davis is no hero or martyr. She is the latest “Joe the Plumber” or “Sheriff Joe.” She is a hero to those who cheered Governor Jan Brewer for sticking her finger in the president’s face, and hailed Congressman Joe Wilson for yelling, “You lie!” during the State of the Union. And like Joe, Joe, Jan and Joe, she will be forgotten; she may have earned a page in the history book of Wikipedia. I do predict, however, that before the final update on her Wikipedia page is uploaded, it will include an appearance onstage during the Republican National Convention next year. 

Kentucky has been at the epicenter of America’s culture war for the last couple of weeks, and it’s been embarrassing. Actually, it has been thoroughly humiliating. And it is not just Kim Davis, but also her husband, Joe Davis. (Wow, this was not intended to be an attack on Joes, but might have to look deeper into this Joe-hater phenomenon.) 

I understand that this is probably a difficult time for him and his family. To a large extent, I blame the media for even putting a camera and microphone in front of him. It is unfair to expect intelligent insight or on-camera charisma from people who have never faced the media. But Joe Davis is not helping the situation. He is reinforcing an awful narrative of the state, and perpetuating a false defense of his wife’s indefensible actions. 

(When asked how long his wife would remain in jail, he responded, “As long as it takes?” My follow-up question is, “As long as it takes … to what? What do you think is the conclusion to this reality TV mess?”)

Politicians, particularly those running for the Republican presidential nomination, who have rallied to Davis’ side should know better. For them, perpetuating a false defense to potentially gain political favor makes them as bad, if not worse, than Kim Davis. Not only are they supporting wrong, they are reinforcing ignorance and troubling ideological beliefs and desires of their followers. 

Religious leaders and priests who have rallied their followers to Rowan County are part of the problem as well. Pop-up congregations in front of the jail and even in the neighborhood of Judge David Bunning, who ordered Davis jailed after finding her in contempt of his court, draw hoards of media to capture the circus. And circus is an apt comparison — crowds believing they are witnessing something truly fantastic, when they are really being duped by ringleaders propagating a fraudulent act. A farce featuring signs claiming “Religious Freedom” and “They’re Coming After Churches Next”; fanatics claiming Davis has been unlawfully jailed for not committing a crime, one saying, “Show us the law or free Kim Davis”; one pastor calling for Judge Bunning to be arrested for being the one who is in contempt. None of this is more than smoke and mirrors. 

These “leaders” and their followers reveal the true shame of the Kim Davis fiasco: This is a failure of education. 

Thomas Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” Kim Davis was put in jail because she does not understand or accept the very founding principles that permit her to freely exercise her Christian beliefs. 

Religion is mentioned twice in the Constitution. Article VI states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” In other words, no religious principles are the foundation of any elected position in the United States. The second mention is in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

Our country needs a refresher course on the fundamentals of what freedom means in America — principles that have been relegated to casual cliches and used to serve personal endeavors. Free speech does not mean you can say anything without repercussion. Free speech is the right to speak freely, without censorship or punishment by the government. It does not protect you from losing your job or getting kicked out of a football game.

Kim Davis has the right to exercise her religion. That is her natural right as an American citizen. She does not have the right, nor is she even allowed by law, to abridge the freedoms and rights of others. She has the right to choose to run for county clerk. If that job is too secular for her lifestyle and she desires a more “righteous” career, she can choose to work for her church. Her rights begin and end at her freedom to choose. 

America offers incredible rights and freedoms. Those liberties should not be abused or disrespected, thrown around and misused as cliched means to an end. American liberty should be celebrated, respected and extended to all, so help us God.