Like gullible 15-year-old boys at a state fair, the Christian right is an easy mark for political carnival barkers like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. “Step right up, folks. See the brave woman defend your religious freedom from godless liberals who are the spawn of the Devil himself, hell-bent on destroying your Christianity! Watch the little lady risk her livelihood to defend your right to worship God.”
Promise the credulous crowd a gander at the Royal Nonesuch, and they’ll come running, waving their dollars for entry into the tent. Of course, eventually they discover the Nonesuch is a phony, just like the humbug barkers who relieve them of their cash and dignity.
This year’s Royal Nonesuch is Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who defied a federal judge who ordered her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis responded that obeying the court would violate God’s law and, despite her oath of office, she insisted her religious beliefs trumped her public duties.
Davis, who took office in January, argues that issuing a marriage certificate for a gay couple would jeopardize her salvation. “It is not a light issue for me,” Davis said in a statement. “It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”
Faced with such a fraught decision, she might have resigned or delegated her duties to assistant clerks. She did neither, so the judge tossed her in jail, where she sat for five days.
She emerged from the slammer as the Christian right’s latest hero. Never mind that Davis is just a huckster like Huckabee and Cruz, whose chief talents are exploiting the fears and fantasies of conservative evangelicals.
Maybe Davis truly believes in a vengeful God who would cast her into Hell for signing a marriage certificate. Maybe, but I have my doubts.
Having worked in the Rowan County clerk’s office for more than quarter century, Davis surely knew that one of the clerk’s chief duties is to issue marriage licenses. Davis must read the papers, so she would have noticed that a federal judge last year declared Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. When the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down that judge’s ruling, Davis certainly understood that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon settle the issue, which it did in June.
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