Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kentucky Clerks' Stance Unrelated to Religion

Kentucky clerks in five counties (Casey, Clinton, Lawrence, Montgomery, and Rowan) are refusing to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. The clerks argue that to do so violates their religious liberties. The ACLU has filed suit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, and my hope is that the federal case reveals the most important truth in this farcical debate: opposition to gay marriage has nothing to do with religion.

An article in Louisville's Courier-Journal provides some insight into the Davis' reasoning in refusing to issue marriage licenses. In the article, Davis claims that her actions were "thought out" and that she "sought God on it." According to Mike Wynn, author of the article:
On the stand Monday, Davis described herself as an Apostolic Christian who believes marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman under the Bible -- "God's holy word" -- and said she contemplated her policy for months beforehand.
Supporters of Davis have shown up in droves outside the courtroom, many sporting signs with biblical verses that reinforce their belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman. The most commonly featured passage is Genesis 2:22-24:
Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Many other passages that simply repeat Genesis 2:24 are also featured. Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7-8 are fan favorites, I assume because they demonstrate Jesus' support of Old Testament doctrine. Interestingly, the next verses (Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9) are frequently omitted. In both gospels, Jesus says the following:
Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.
You're probably familiar with these verses as they are often invoked at the end of wedding ceremonies. In these verses, Jesus very clearly condemns divorce. There are other biblical condemnations of divorce as well, most notably from early church leader Paul in 1 Corintians 7:10-11:
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
If we're going to follow the letter of the law as outlined by scripture, accepting that biblical marriage only constitutes the union of one man and one woman also means accepting that the Bible does not recognize divorce, endorse second marriages, and considers both sinful.

Adultery is another big no-no related to marriage. Apart from being expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14), it is condemned in other books, as is premarital sex:
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
In fact, that judgment manifests itself in a rather harsh punishment prescribed in Leviticus 20:10-13:
The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with a male as he lies with woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
Certainly I over-quoted here, but I do so to prove a point. The Bible treats adultery and homosexuality as equivalent sins. Has Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis attempted to deny marriage licenses to adulterers? Or to divorced heterosexuals seeking to marry another? According to The Courier-Journal and Davis' own testimony, the answer is a resounding no:
After working in the clerk's office for nearly 30 years, she said she has never denied a license on religious grounds or asked applicants about relationships she might find sinful.
It appears Davis has been rather derelict in her religious duties. In fact, from a biblical standpoint, as a woman she has no place instructing us on matters of religion in the first place:
Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
In this particular instance, I agree with scripture. I think we'd all be better off if Davis would simply shut the hell up.

Why? Clearly Davis is not interested in preserving biblical marriage. She has a 30 year track record of failing to do so. Her objection to issuing marriage licenses boils down to a discomfort with homosexuality, and she is not alone in that feeling. Many people believe homosexuality to be unnatural and strange and its practice to be disturbing or outright disgusting.

The right to have that belief is actually something that the First Amendment does uphold. However, simply because something makes you uncomfortable is not a compelling reason to suppress it or make it illegal, and the Supreme Court was correct to extend to homosexual couples equal protection under the law.

Moreover, the religious freedom argument that Davis and the other four county clerks in Kentucky are making is nonsensical. Even if these officials' actions were motivated by religious belief -- which they are not -- there is nothing that prohibits adherence to both the laws of man and of God. Jesus was arguably the first advocate for the separation of church and state:
Then they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?" They answered and said, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." (Luke 20:21-25)
Upholding this law is not an affront to religious liberty. And if these five clerks feel it is, they should resign. I see no reason why we should praise, let alone pay, an individual for refusing to do his or her job.

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