“Criminalizing Christianity”

I know this is right in Mike Huckabee’s wheelhouse, and I know he’s desperate for attention presently, and I know the concept of “religious liberty” has been debased of late. But still, his remarks about Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ jailing represented the “criminalization of Christianity” is ludicrous even by his standards.

If Davis had been a court employee rather than an elected official, she would have simply been fired and there would be no question of jailing. But that’s not the case, and thus under Kentucky law she can only be removed by impeachment by the legislature, which as it happens is not in session. So left with little recourse, the federal judge with jurisdiction ordered her to do her job, and when she refused, she was jailed not for opposing same-sex marriage or for “practicing her religion,” but for the more prosaic Contempt of Court. If she chooses to give up her office, she can practice her cramped, angry-God version of Christianity all she wants without any punishment until the hereafter.

The idea that those refusing to do necessary parts of public service jobs on religious grounds should be allowed simply to go on as though it’s only their business is exceptionally dangerous if you think about it for a minute. Would we leave a pacifist in charge of a combat squadron? Let someone with a religious objection to blood transfusions on religious grounds run an ER unit? Of course not. Where the law comes into conflict with sincere religious scruples, they cannot be respected when those holding them refuse to let other people execute it. That she would not do so is why Kim Davis is in the hoosegow right now.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.