Media Pundits and the Kim Davis Controversy

To base laws on a lie, on something so clearly known to be unreal, is the fast track to tyranny for all citizens

The pundit class have all weighed in now on Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who refused to affix her name to licenses for homosexual couples to marry. “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage,” Davis had said, “with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.”

Every night updates on her jailed-then-released-from-jail status have brought a new barrage of commentary, both cultural and legal. There are several arguments made on her behalf, and, indeed, at least one Republican presidential hopeful quickly came to stand beside Davis as she weathered the media storm.  However, many of those sympathetic to Davis’ cause have said, albeit with regret, that she should “follow the law.”

No, I don’t think she should.

People of good will can and have disagreed about the philosophical and legal fine points that Kim Davis presents to our culture. Those who hold that, to keep her job, she must perform the duties of that job, have adopted their stance based, at least in part, on a fear of a looming chaos if significant numbers of Americans refuse to “do their jobs.” On Wednesday night during a Fox News program, Andrea Tantaros warned, “The problem is she’s [Davis] essentially rewriting the laws of that county by not issuing [licenses]…As a Christian I do feel sorry for her and I’m sympathetic to her beliefs, however she doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.”

Tantaros believes that Davis sets a dangerous example because others of different belief systems might do the same. Tantaros cited Sharia law which does not permit women to drive, thus no drivers’ licenses would be issued to women citizens by a Muslim clerk. This sort of reasoning is woefully short of reason. (The conscience objection of a Muslim clerk over drivers’ licenses is based on an opinion about women, not on an objective reality about women.) Tantaros is a smart lady as are many others, including Carly Fiorina, who sympathize with Kim Davis but who still insist that she should “just do her job.” 

However, the big question that is never posed or addressed by the pundits is: when ought a citizen refuse “to do their job?”

Let’s pause here for sober recollection on this fact: some Germans went to prison after World War II because, in their view, they “just did their job.” Restated, some Germans were imprisoned although they did nothing illegal under German law.

When they filed papers to send victims to death camps, some may have seared their conscience. Some were browbeat into “doing their job,” perhaps in fear of losing their livelihood or even their freedom. Most, however, allowed their conscience to be soothed by the assurance that it was legal. The average citizen grew comfortable with the Nuremburg Laws due to the relentless cultural pressure that reinforced the ideology of German leadership. Had more Germans refused to cooperate with these unjust laws, some civil chaos would have resulted; but consider the greater, grievous chaos that engulfed their culture because not enough Germans followed their consciences!

Many media personalities would do well to refocus their angle of view. This isn’t about Kim Davis’ particular case. It’s about the larger societal question: where is the line when it comes to conscience?  Kim Davis is a warning. When must good citizens refuse to obey unjust and destructive laws? We need to decide this question soon. “Gay marriage” is hardly the only issue here. Euthanasia, for instance, is a gathering tsunami. We can expect laws that compel medical professionals to “do their job” because a patient is a burden on our collective health care costs, or because a group pushes through laws protecting a “right” to assisted suicide.

Legal protection for the right to follow our conscience is critical to maintaining a healthy republic, a vital society. Think of it as part of a system of checks and balances on a runaway ideology. And while some will surely point out that signing a marriage license and signing concentration camp transfer are hardly of the the same magnitude, they would be wrong in principle.

In both cases, what should cause the conscience to refuse to “just do the job” is when the law is clearly and substantially based on a lie. When Germans, after the war, protested that they did nothing illegal, the War Crimes judges responded that they “should have known” that extermination was wrong. That is, they should have known that both the act the job required and the law covering the act were wrong. Why? What criteria did the tribunal judges think citizens should apply when confronted with a legal structure that ordered the death of millions of fellow citizens?

The laws that called for those heinous acts were based on a lie. The lie of “impure blood” as warrant for extermination was so obviously and fundamentally untrue that all citizens “should have known” it was a crime. Our common humanity is a reality, a universal truth that all eras and all cultures recognize. The judges understood that to reduce an architect or a professor or a cellist to “subhuman vermin” is a denial of the reality of what it is to be human. To base laws on a lie, on something so clearly known to be unreal, is the fast track to tyranny for all citizens. It isn’t only the targeted citizens who suffer under unjust laws. In rapid order, the entire society collapses because even a legalized lie comes face to face with hard reality.

As an institution, “gay marriage” is a lie because it is an impossibility, a mirage. It’s an awkward but relentless attempt to force society to pretend that two persons of the same sex are “really” married when they cohabit. But they really aren’t married and we know it. To force the populace to go along with this unreality, laws were changed—but the reality is unchanged. Homosexual unions cannot be made into a “real” marriage by court decree, any more than a court could decree that the sun orbits the earth or that caterpillars turn into monkeys.

Nature joins the two halves of the human species into a fertile union. We call it marriage. Same-sex sex cannot unify the two haves of the species and it produces nothing. Any law that attempts to force a citizen to comply with such a substantial, fundamental untruth as “gay marriage” is asking that citizen to deny an obvious reality. Such a law—hat requires denial of obvious reality—is tyrannical; it attempts to control your thought processes.

Let’s hope the media (and many others) can let go of ideology long enough to ask the question of all of us: When should citizens refuse to “do their job?”  When does doing so put the brakes on a a dangerous loss of reality? Let’s have a national discussion.

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About Mary Jo Anderson 32 Articles
Mary Jo Anderson is a Catholic journalist and speaker whose articles and commentaries on politics, religion, and culture appear in a variety of publications. She was appointed to the USCCB's National Advisory Council (NAC) from 2010 to 2014 and served as member of the NAC Executive Committee in 2011. She covered the Synods from Rome in 2014, 2015, and 2019. She is the co-author of Male and Female He Made Them: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions (Catholic Answers). Follow her on Twitter @maryjoanderson3.