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Kentucky clerk Kim Davis can stick to her faith but not to her job

I can’t imagine being county clerk Kim Davis this morning.

Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court declared on June 26 that gay couples had the right to get married. Monday, her appeal to refrain from issuing the licenses because of her religious beliefs was denied.

Davis said then that her religious beliefs held that marriage is a “union between a man and a woman, only.” And to avoid being discriminatory, she stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether and was subsequently sued by two gay couples and two straight couples.

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This morning, Davis defied that court order by denying a marriage license to a gay couple. Under whose authority was she acting, one man asked. Her answer? “Under the authority of God.” 

Like I said. I couldn’t imagine being her this morning. As someone who also holds very strong religious beliefs (the most questioned being the fact that we don’t celebrate Halloween, and don’t get me started on my thoughts about Santa Claus), I get it. How must it feel to feel so strongly about something, being raised in that thing, believing it with all your being and then having a job that suddenly requires you to do something in very contradiction to that belief.

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As Christians, we are raised that our beliefs will be questioned, that we will have to stand up for those beliefs, even under fear of death. And that most of us will not be able to hold fast to that faith during those times. So I get it. I do. But as a former newspaper reporter and a former government employee, I have to stop short of the claim that by protesting the Supreme Court decision, they are exercising their first amendment rights, which Davis’ fellow clerk Casey Davis has asserted.

As a government employee, Kim Davis’ first amendment rights, I believe, are in direct conflict with her duty to uphold her elected position. I applaud her faith. I applaud her decision to stand fast in what she believes, despite it directly affecting her job. And I also think she should step out once more on that faith and resign from that position, which she can no longer effectively hold.

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While reading about this case, I considered what I might do if my personal beliefs, whatever they are, interfered with or were contrary to my day-to-day job. If I were asked to do something I don’t believe in, would I do it? Would I refuse? Or would I do what I think Kim Davis has to do — hold onto my beliefs, but let go of the job. That, I think, is the most powerful decision she could make. And I hope she does.

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