Whether or not we think Kim Davis is the perfect citizen to serve as the poster child for the defense of religious liberty in America, in my view, became irrelevant when an unelected federal judge threw her in jail like a common criminal. Adding to the shock was an ABC News/Washington Post poll that claimed 63 percent of Americans thought she should issue the marriage license to same-sex couples – if it violated her conscience and commitment to obey God. If Americans really feel that way, then Christians are now disqualified for public office unless they are willing to blatantly disobey God.
There is no religious test when it comes to holding public office. If Americans are willing to impose same-sex “marriage” beliefs on Christian public servants like Davis (she was duly elected by the people of Rowan County, Kentucky), then an anti-religious test has been established. Of course this flies in the face of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states that Congress shall make no law …“prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. “Free exercise” means no restrictions whatsoever. Yet Davis, and presumably other public servants committed to their faiths, should not have that right if we are to believe the ABC/Washington Post poll. This is astounding. America is a nation that has sacrificed the blood of its citizens to defend – and always prided itself on – freedom.
Comparing the ABC/Washington Post poll findings to that of a recent Missouri poll (see page 3), suggests the ABC/Washington Post poll is flawed. We all know the wording of poll questions can affect the outcome. Consider the ABC/Washington Post poll question: “Should Kim Davis have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?” Nearly two-thirds said “yes.”
But what if they had asked the question this way: “Is homosexual marriage more important than the Constitution’s First Amendment guaranteeing religious freedom?” It would have likely garnered a different answer. For example, take the Missouri Alliance for Freedom poll conducted last month, which asked: “In your opinion, which of the following do you believe is most important? Protecting same-sex rights, protecting religious liberty, or are they equally important?” A whopping two-thirds (66 percent) said protecting religious liberty was more important. The poll goes on to show that at least Missourians overwhelmingly prefer religious freedom for pastors, churches, religious institutions, campus student groups and business owners over the demands of same-sex “marriage” advocates.
The same poll in Missouri showed that religious liberty protections should be extended to government workers like Davis, but by only 50-43 percent. It was disturbing to see former New York Gov. George Pataki, in the most recent Republican Presidential Debate, declare that Kim Davis should be terminated. “I think she should have been fired, and if she worked for me, I would have fired her,” Pataki said. “There’s a place where religion supersedes the rule of law. It’s called Iran,” he added. “It shouldn’t be the United States.”
Did you catch that? Pataki, actually likened a Christian to an Islamist radical. We must do a better job of picking public servants. We must also do a better job of explaining to our fellow citizens that religious liberty is for everyone – even if you work for the government.
Missouri’s current statutes allow for a religious accommodation to government workers. For example, a county employee who is responsible for issuing marriage licenses – and do not want to be officially connected with a same-sex “marriage,” may write a letter deputizing other county employees to issue the license. It’s that easy. An accommodation is made for the worker and the people get their license. No one’s conscience is violated and the government’s compelling interest is fulfilled. This is how America has always worked and how it should work going forward. If we do not protect such an accommodation, then what happens to the Christian police officer who does not want to lead the Gay Pride Parade? What about the Air Force chaplain who cannot conduct a same-sex “wedding?” It goes on and on.
The Baptist Building has been hosting meetings with leaders from a variety of faiths and denominations, legal scholars and State Capitol staff. We are crafting a religious liberty bill that would provide protection for all Missourians. We have held three meetings (the latest was Sept. 22) and we are hopeful that Missouri lawmakers will pass this vital legislation when they convene in January. I will provide updates on the bill’s progress going forward. Please pray that God will honor our effort.