Kim Davis is a false idol.
To suffer for your beliefs can be ennobling. To suffer for your misconceptions is just embarrassing. And she’s doing the latter, not the former.
On Monday, she was back at work.
Last Tuesday afternoon found her being released from jail, as Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz rallied around her and “Eye of the Tiger” played. (The band Survivor issued a cease-and-desist.) Crosses waved, “Amazing Grace” was sung, speeches were given. It was all the fun of martyrdom with none of the stigma(ta.)
But make no mistake. Kim Davis is not being persecuted for her beliefs. This is to actual religious persecution as anything in that Alanis Morrisette song was to irony: which is to say, this only looks like it if you don’t properly understand the meaning of the word.
She’s celebre in a bad cause.
And now everyone is frantically trying to lay hands on this relic before she loses her potency.
(Poor Ted Cruz, whom Huckabee staffers headed off as he tried to touch the hem of Davis’s robe. He stood glumly offstage watching the rally unfold. It seemed, to use a biblical metaphor, like pretty small pottage for which he had traded the birthright of being someone who appeared to possess an understanding of the law.)
Kim Davis has gone even farther than John C. Calhoun, who, when he was suggesting wild extra-constitutional solutions to Supreme Court decisions he disliked, at least offered up the theory that the state could interpose between a court decision and its people. All Davis suggests is that Kim Davis can interpose herself between court and people.
At the risk of sounding like Javert, you must learn the meaning of the law.
This is not a case of the law interfering with her ability to practice her faith. That would indeed be a grave matter. This is a case of her faith interfering with her ability to uphold the law as a public official. You have every right to believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, but you can’t expect to keep your job at the U.S. Geological Survey if you won’t backdate the rocks. And if they fired you, we would not call you persecuted. We would say, “Well, science is clearly not your field.”
It is one thing to disagree with a law that you are required to uphold by your job. What you do in that case is resign.
It’s fine that if you don’t want your name on the marriage licenses. What you do in that case is resign.
It’s fine if you feel that you can’t perform your job and avoid hell simultaneously. What you do in that case is resign. It’s a quandary, certainly. What it is not is religious persecution.
But not to hear Mike Huckabee tell it.
“Where does this end when you have this level of outright discrimination and, frankly, persecution (of) someone who genuinely believes in her heart the difference between marriage and something that the Supreme Court has created?” said Mike Huckabee on CNN. (See: Judges 15:16.)
This is not someone being persecuted for her faith. This is someone being punished for failing to do her job, then being in contempt of court. Calling it persecution is insulting to the people who really are fighting for their right to live out their beliefs – as human beings, not as elected officials with $80,000 annual salaries.
Religious persecution of Christians is real and ongoing. It is what is happening in North Korea, where tens of thousands of Christians live in forced labor camps. It is what is happening in Saudi Arabia, where even building churches is prohibited. But it is not what is happening to Kim Davis.
In China, pastors are imprisoned, churches closed and crosses torn down.
In America, a county clerk is – displaying a baffling lack of understanding when it comes to the law of the land, and presidential candidates are enabling her.
Once more, with feeling: You don’t have to do your job. But equally the taxpayers do not have to pay you. You have the right to your beliefs. You do not have the right to be a county clerk.
If your job offends you, cast it out.
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog at www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost.