A county court clerk in rural Kentucky recently spent several days in prison because she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In fact, Kim Davis had refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples since the U.S. Supreme Court mandated same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
This is the latest—and perhaps most visible—cultural tug-of-war seen in the marriage debate in America. The all-out culture war has each side of the debate name calling and assuming the worst.
Indeed many of Davis’ detractors are trying not only to tarnish her, but also the entire cause of religious liberty. In the time leading up to the Supreme Court decision, Chai Feldblum, commissioner for the United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, even was so blunt to say, “There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win….”
What a telling statement as to how far we have fallen. So how should Christians react when so-called sexual liberty (not found in the U.S. Constitution) is increasingly winning over religious liberty (which is not coincidentally in the very first Amendment to the Constitution)?
We should remain unflinchingly supportive of religious liberty, understanding there is even more at stake than what we see in Davis’ case. For at the heart of religious liberty is the very freedom of conscience.
Now, Christians in First Century Rome were tortured and killed for not worshiping the gods of Rome, including Caesar. Having no religious freedom, they still would not bow their knee to anyone but Jesus. They did not ask that the worship of false gods would be outlawed. They fought and died to remain faithful and not, publicly and through financial means, worship and acknowledge the Roman gods.
In America, we have been given much. We have a cherished legacy of religious liberty, albeit one greatly under threat, that must be preserved.
While as Davis’ critics say, it is true that her decision has affected other people’s Supreme Court-given right to marry, she does not appear to have broken any law. Be that as it may, her main objection appeared to be not that same-sex marriage licenses are being issued, but that they are being issued with her name on them and, therefore, her approval.
In a legal statement, she said she was open to “Modifying the prescribed Kentucky marriage license form to remove the multiple references to Davis’ name, and thus to remove the personal nature of the authorization that Davis must provide on the current form.” (Note: For a legal brief about the Kim Davis case, you can go to www.erlc.com or wpo.st/thdZ0.)
People may disagree with Davis’ recent stand, but no one can question her courage and willingness to face the consequences. Time will tell if Davis’ stand for religious liberty is successful, but win or lose, Christians cannot give up on religious liberty.
A famous person once said, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” The price of religious liberty may cost us more than we know. But through the promotion and preservation of religious liberty in America, we will maintain our ability to speak the truth in love.
With religious freedom, we are able to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ unhindered. Without it, we still proclaim the Gospel, but the cost of doing so goes up. By God’s grace, we will be faithful to share, regardless of the cost, knowing the reward for faithfulness will be greater still.