|The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer|
by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883). Roman Colosseum.
September 3, 2015 is a date that will live in infamy. It is the date that religious liberty died in America.
Today, Kim Davis, a county clerk in Rowan County Kentucky was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses after demands by homosexuals that she issue marriage licenses to them for a same-sex 'marriage'. Her lawyer stated she would not stand in the way of the county issuing marriage licenses without her name and signature on the document, however, current Kentucky law does not allow for that. Davis is an Apostolic Christian, which is a Trinitarian Pentecostal denomination, and she is a member of the Democratic Party. She was elected to the office of county clerk in 2014, defeating Republican candidate John Cox.
U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning (who was raised Roman Catholic) found Davis to be in contempt of court, and said: 'Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defence.' According to USA Today, Bunning's mother said her son does not agree with same-sex marriage, but does believe in upholding the law.
All of this is the result of the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, which was decided on June 26th of this year, making same-sex 'marriage' the law of the land in all 50 of the United States of America, and U.S. territories. The decision effectively nullifies dozens of state constitutional amendments and laws prohibiting the practice. The overreach by the nation's highest court has created a situation wherein American votes no longer matter, and states no longer have the right to govern themselves on such issues. When it comes to moral issues such as abortion and same-sex 'marriage', the United States Supreme Court has claimed absolute authority with accountability to no one. The result today is America's first martyr for the cause of Christian beliefs on marriage and family. More are expected to follow, perhaps dozens or hundreds more in the months and years ahead, as Davis' courageous act will undoubtedly spur other Christians to stand up for their religious beliefs across the country.
The case presents serious legal ramifications across the country. For example, under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, both public and private employers have a legal obligation to exempt religious employees from general work rules, so long as this doesn't create an 'undue hardship', meaning more than a modest cost on the employer. Now admittedly, elected officials are excluded from Title VII. However, Kentucky, like many other states, has a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) statute that requires government agencies to exempt religious objectors from general work rules, unless denying the exemption is the only way of compelling government interest. The federal government also has a RFRA, which may apply to federal court orders issued to state elected officials.
So the bizarre little twist to this story is that it may be both the federal and state governments that are in violation of the law here, not Clerk Kim Davis.
These laws explicitly deny the 'if you don't want to do the job, than you should quit' premise. That by definition is bigotry, according to the Civil Rights Act and the RFRA.
The employer is required by law to make reasonable accommodations provided it is not a burdensome cost to the employer. Providing a means for marriage licenses to be issued, without a county clerk's signature, would be no cost at all. Because all it takes is an executive order, or legislation, to change the license process. Cost to government is $0.00. It's nothing more than a little one-time inconvenience to some lawmakers and a governor.
Now let me give my own spiritual and moral analysis of this situation. Both Clerk Kim Davis and Judge David Bunning are put into a very precarious situation, wherein thanks to the Supreme Court taking on the role of 'god on earth' when in comes to moral issues, these two public servants must now be forced to choose between whom they will serve. Will they serve the God in Heaven, or will they serve the 'god on earth'. Clerk Kim Davis, a Pentecostal, has chosen to serve the God in Heaven. While Judge David Bunning, presumably a Catholic, has chosen to serve the god on earth. Both public servants, raised Christian, are now caught in a very serious game of having to chose between the real God, and the government that wants to play god. Judge Bunning has made his decision. He has chosen to serve the man-made 'god on earth' called the United States Supreme Court. While Clerk Davis has chosen to serve the real God in Heaven. Whatever 'god' Judge Bunning claims to follow is irrelevant at this point, because his actions speak louder than words, and at this moment in time, the moment of truth for both public servants, Clerk Kim Davis (a Pentecostal) is more of a Catholic than Judge David Bunning will ever be. So I proudly call Kim Davis my sister in Christ, and martyr for the faith, in spite of her apparent character flaws and turbulent marital history. As for Judge Bunning, so long as he serves the state as his 'god', I cannot call him a Christian or a brother. Sorry Judge, there were other legal avenues you could have taken, and you didn't. You instead decided to serve the Supreme Court as your 'god'.
So there you have it in a nutshell. Today, we have just entered a new age in America's history. It is the age of Christian martyrdom. History will record Clerk Kim Davis as the first, and many more will follow. In time we will see Catholic priests and bishops locked up for their faith too, and I have no doubt that many of the judges who sentence them (like Judge David Bunning) will be those who were raised Catholic themselves. That is the truly tragic thing about all of this. It was a supposed 'Catholic' who was the swing vote in Obergefell v. Hodges, that overthrew the American democratic process and made our states into mere vassals of the federal court system. The truly sad irony in all of this, is that the American bishops' failure to catechise, and exercise ecclesiastical discipline on moral issues in this country, will soon result in their imprisonment by the very people they were supposed to correct. Their own spiritual 'children' will soon sign their jail sentences. Do you doubt it? Do you think that Judge David Bunning would have it any other way? Today, they are jailing Christian clerks for refusing to issue marriage licenses. Tomorrow, they will jail Christian ministers for refusing to sign them.
As a Catholic I am scandalised by all of this. I am ashamed of the American bishops for their laxity over the last 40 years that has brought us to this point. Not enough stood up for the faith and put down the heretics that assailed it from inside the Church. Perhaps if we had seen some actual discipline from more of them, some real leadership, and fearless zeal for the truth, things might have turned out differently. Alas, the post-conciliar generation of bishops is coming to a close now, and this is the legacy they leave behind for us. I pray that God will embolden some of our younger Catholic bishops to stand up and do the right thing, and send us more who will do the same. They can't come soon enough.
Now as an American I am disgusted by all of this, and I am so ashamed of my federal government that I cannot put down words to accurately convey my emotions. So long as Christians are jailed for simply following their religious consciences, the primary purpose of the United States of America has become null and void. The whole reason for being an American is irrelevant now. For centuries, we Americans have prided ourselves on the religious liberty we have in this country. That is no more.
I have lost all respect for this generation of leaders in Washington DC. The politicians and judges there have disgraced the military service of my father, who put his life on the line to save this miserable government they created. They have also disgraced the military service of all my ancestors who did the same. They are not deserving of my family's tears, sweat and blood. My family deserves better than the government they have created to rule over us. My father deserves better. The same goes for the families of all military veterans. They deserve better than the government they serve.
To Washington DC, all three branches of government, and especially the politicians and judges who play 'god', I say this. You don't deserve us! We deserve better than you. America is more than the tyrannical government you've created. Our states will outlive you. America will outlast you. Our families will go on, but someday this monster of a government you've created will fall. It will collapse under the weight of the tyranny you've created. When that day happens, and if I am alive to see it, I won't shed a tear for it -- not even one.
There are those who hold out hope for Washington DC, and still believe it can be saved, turned around, and redeemed from all of its iniquity. If only we can put the right people in charge, or change the system somehow. I say I hope they're right, but I'm not going to hold my breath. For now, the only political process I support is that which strips Washington DC of power. I want a Convention of States, implemented by Article V of the United States Constitution, which will take powers away from Washington DC. In elections, I will focus more on state politicians, rather than federal, and I will support those who are willing and eager to disobey Washington DC on every federal mandate that comes down from 'Olympus'. In every political project I shall undertake from now on, the peaceful and democratic dismantling of Washington DC will be my goal. So help me God.
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.
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