Editorials

Jailed clerk Kim Davis is no religious martyr

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, center, with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, left, and attorney Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing Davis, at her side, cries out after being released from the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., on Tuesday.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, center, with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, left, and attorney Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing Davis, at her side, cries out after being released from the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., on Tuesday. The Associated Press

There have been many low moments in the saga of Kim Davis, the elected clerk of Rowan County, Ky., who refuses to issue marriage licenses because of her religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.

There was her decision to defy the order of a federal judge and the subsequent decision to put her in jail, turning her into a martyr for some evangelical Christians. There was the veiled threat from her fourth husband, Joe, who said he firmly believes in the Second Amendment so “don’t come knocking on my door.” And the false assertion from Davis’ attorney, who said any marriage licenses inked while Davis was in the clink don’t count.

None of these moments comes close to what happened Tuesday. Davis, newly freed by the same judge who locked her up last week for contempt of court, emerged victorious at a rally, taking the stage to a blaring rendition of “Eye of the Tiger.” (Seriously.) She teared up as her fans cheered, most of them holding crosses and Bibles.

None other than Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee whipped them into a frenzy.

In addition to trying to steal the coveted martyr status for himself – “If somebody needs to go to jail, I’m willing to go in her place” – he called Davis “a courageous public official” who followed God instead of the law. The same law she swore to uphold when she took her oath of office.

Huckabee’s words are irresponsible and dangerous.

He urged the crowd not to surrender to the “tyranny” of the judiciary, which is out to “criminalize faith.” That echoes a comment he made last week that Davis has to obey a court order “if it’s right.”

This from the man who wants the power nominate federal judges. We shudder to think of the kinds of litmus tests he would require of his nominees.

Sadly, Huckabee’s words mirror those of fellow presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, who said the Davis case is “judicial tyranny” and that “she was imprisoned for six days for living according to her Christian faith.”

Davis wasn’t jailed for religious beliefs. She was jailed for defying a court order. She could’ve resigned, or let other employees issue marriage licenses to gay couples. She chose neither of those options.

Huckabee’s comparisons between Davis and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom fall flat. As San Francisco mayor, Newsom issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples but stopped when a court ordered the city to stop.

There’s a difference between defying a court order and pushing legal boundaries for political theater. Neither is the same as twisting a story to justify defying a court order over supposed religious persecution.

This isn’t “Rocky III.” Kim Davis isn’t Rocky Balboa, and none of this is about risin’ up to the challenge of a (real) rival.

After a five-day stint in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis will return to work as soon as Friday to face another day of reckoning.

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