FAITH

WONDERFUL THINGS: Mr. Sulu, Kim Davis and religious freedom

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
James Calderazzo

George Takei used to play Mr. Sulu, the senior helmsman of the Starship Enterprise, on the original Star Trek TV series. He was great — steering the Enterprise to new worlds, avoiding dangers, firing the photons. But more recently Mr. Takei has taken the role of steering the thinking of the American people into the uncharted territory of how we should think about Kim Davis, religious liberty, and so-called same-sex marriage.

Takei wrote in a Facebook post. “So let us be clear: This woman is no hero to be celebrated. She broke her oath to uphold the Constitution and defied a court order so she could deny government services to couples who are legally entitled to be married. If she had denied marriage certificates to an interracial couple, would people cheer her? Would presidential candidates flock to her side? In our society, we obey civil laws, not religious ones. To suggest otherwise is, simply put, entirely un-American.”

Kim Davis is the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who refused to issue any marriage licenses with her name affixed after the Supreme Court declared in June that so-called “same-sex marriage” was a constitutional right. Ms. Davis did so on the basis of her religious conviction that marriage is only to be between a man and a woman. She believed that having her name on a same-sex marriage license was equivalent to condoning such a union. On September 3 she was found in contempt of court and placed in jail until she would agree to once more issue the licenses. Five days later she was released when several of her deputy clerks said they would carry out the duty of issuing licenses to all eligible citizens.

Some have celebrated Kim Davis for standing for religious liberty; others, like Mr. Takei, have vilified her for breaking the law and holding an unloving, backwards bias against people of the LGBT community.

Before we look at whether Ms. Davis was legally in the wrong, let me simply say that Ms. Davis position on “gay marriage” is not strange or aberrant. Her stance may not be motivated by hate, prejudice or lack of education, and it is wrong to imply so. Marriage between a man and a woman was the law of every country and culture in the world until the last 15 years. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton opposed “same-sex marriage” until 2012. Were they hateful bigots until then? There are many men and women who cannot condone same-sex marriages — not out of hate. But because they love God, and they love their neighbors who identify themselves as LGBT. And they sincerely believe that these precious men and women are embracing as freedom something that will ultimately lead to their destruction.

So Kim Davis may not be motivated by prejudice or hate, but did she defy the Constitution, as Mr. Takei states? I don’t believe that she did. Resign or go to jail were not the only options. The same Constitution that Ms. Davis swore to uphold guarantees her freedom to practice her religion. Both the federal Civil Rights Act and Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act mandate that employers accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs, if that accommodation does not place an undue burden on the employer. Davis’s objection is not to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Rather, she objects to issuing such licenses with her name on them, because she believes that having her name on them is an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

It appears to me that Kim Davis’ belief regarding “same-sex marriage” could easily have been accommodated (as the law demands) by simply exempting her from having her name on marriage licenses issued in Rowan County. This certainly does not seem to place an undue burden on the government (state or federal) or upon those seeking to be wed.

Why wasn’t this done? Because the Supreme Court ruled “same-sex marriage” as the law of land to be enacted immediately, giving states no time to take up the issue of religious accommodation for those opposed to such “marriages.”

As Ryan Anderson stated in the NY Times, “Had same-sex marriage come to Kentucky through the Legislature, lawmakers could have simultaneously created religious liberty protections and reasonable accommodations for civil servants. But the Supreme Court decided this issue itself — and, as predicted by the dissenting justices, primed the nation for conflict.”

Set your phasors to “stun” because the conflict is now here.

So let’s be clear: Christians, indeed all citizens, have been granted the right to not violate their consciences in the work place, as long as the necessary accommodation does not place an undue burden on their employers. As Mr. Takei says, “To suggest otherwise is, simply put, entirely un-American.”

James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at safeharborpca@gmail.com.