I wish Kim Davis had resigned.

Okay, so, Kim Davis. She is the county clerk whose refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is rooted in her religious beliefs and has resulted in her arrest.

Her attorney’s statement says that she is being treated as a criminal because she cannot violate her conscience. But a judge says she is being treated as a criminal because she violated a court order. Either way, tonight, she is in jail.

I wonder if what sparked the stand she took is actually what she says sparked it — if what bothers her is the fact that she’s required by her job description to do something that violates her conscience. Here’s what I mean:

Ordinarily we are given opportunities to evaluate a gig before we agree to it and if, upon evaluation, we discover that its description requires us to do stuff we can’t (because we don’t wanna, or because it violates our consciences), we are free not to take the gig.

Davis’s circumstance isn’t ordinary: she had the gig. The gig changed. Now she can’t do part of the gig in good conscience.

Which means Davis could have resigned (which is, at least, inconvenient) or refused to do it (which is both an expression of a sense of entitlement and a fast way to get in trouble, whatever your job).

While I commend Davis for not agreeing to do a thing that violates her conscience, it would border on violating mine if I didn’t get this off my chest:

I wish she had resigned.

That a person’s conscience is violated by part of a job’s description does not entitle him or her to exemption of parts of a job. An employer is not obligated, in other words, to cater to employees who “don’t wanna,” for whatever reason.

Davis says the reason she can’t do part of her job is her Christian beliefs. I think that’s sensible. Employers (government or otherwise) expect employees to do all the parts of their jobs. I think that’s sensible, too.

But what isn’t sensible is the expectation that a person’s reason for not doing all the parts of her job necessarily obligates her employer to cut her slack.

What I’d guess actually bothers Davis is not that she’s required by her job description to do something that violates her conscience, but that her job used to not violate her conscience and now it does.

In a New York Times article, Rand Paul is quoted today as saying that it’s “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties.” But is that actually why Davis is in jail? Does religious liberty actually imply that a Christian’s employer must amend a job’s description so that it no longer violates the Christian conscience? Or does it imply that a Christian doesn’t have to work that job?

Lots of my fellow Christians today called Davis’s behavior an exercise in religious liberty, because she says her behavior — her decision to refuse to do part of her job — is motivated by her Christian beliefs. But is it? Or deep down, is it actually motivated by the inconvenience of having beliefs that are Christian?

Beliefs that put all of us in awkward positions — like learning that the dude you’re on a date with doesn’t want to save sex, and having to tell him you do. Or having to bail on the rest of a friend’s bachelor party because it’ll involve a strip club. Or having to resign from your position as county clerk because to work the job would violate your conscience (and to have it but not work it would violate your oath).

None of those things are easy. None convenient.

But we shouldn’t expect Christianity to be. It isn’t supposed to be.

And it’s time for us Christians to get ok with that.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I think people may overlook the fact that she is in jail for contempt of court, not solely because of her beliefs. She made her case earlier last month. She was sued. She continued to refuse to execute her job because of her beliefs (thereby making her public statement) and the judge ordered her earlier last month to uphold her oath of office. She didn’t. She was then held in contempt. (Above what plaintiffs requested – don’t get me started on the judiciary overstepping into more than interpreting and applying the law). But contempt = auto jail time.

    Agree with you that people should make a stand for their beliefs. You’re right. Christianity ain’t easy! 100% agree with you that she should have resigned after the judge issued the order. Her case and point would have been made. I don’t understand what in her mind would possess her to believe that going to jail rather than resigning (which she could have done at any time). Now she just looks rather fanatical than steadfast…

  • Katherine Harms

    I most respectfully disagree with you. Kim Davis has every right to expect that her convictions rooted in deeply held religious faith will be accommodated, because the US Constitution’s First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law, guarantee her right to exercise her faith and require the government to find the least onerous accommodation when there is a conflict between her faith and the law.
    Kim Davis, and you, and I all have the right to exercise our faith, and when our faith convictions conflict with things the government takes up as compelling interests, the government has an obligation to find the least onerous solution that protects our rights and the government’s legitimate interests.
    I don’t believe it can be argued that putting Kim Davis in jail is the least onerous accommodation. In fact, Kim herself suggested a much less onerous solution: Take her name off the marriage licenses that are issued by her deputies. That solution would be much less onerous, and could be applied to all the other county clerks (did you know that there are others? bet not) who also refuse to grant licenses to same-sex couples.
    After World War II, a series of trials convicted German officers of crimes against humanity. The officers claimed as their defense that they were ordered to gas Jews at places like Auschwitz. They said they were just obeying orders. The court declared that human beings have the obligation to obey conscience when their government or anyone else with power requires them to do what their consciences clearly tell them is wrong. Kim Davis is listening to her conscience. All Christians should be proud of her for doing what she believes God wants her to do. In fact, all people who have any beliefs whatsoever that shape their sense of right and wrong should be proud of her. She stands for every person who believes that doing the right thing trumps doing the legal thing.
    That’s the way I see it.

    • Lafollette

      Nazis? Really?

      • Zina Lee

        Yeah, Katherine loses.

    • John Morgan

      I agree Katherine. We are slipping closer and closer to Nazi Germany everyday. Maybe Arleen could step back in time and do an interview with Apostle Paul and ask him why he defied Nero’s order to stop performing miracles and chose instead to be put in prison. He would probably say that we should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but it does not include our consciouses. That would make a nice addition to the Tampa Bay Times. That is, if it’s still around and still allowed to print Christian-based stories.

  • Ellie

    I agree with this. =)
    Also would like to add another thought (from another Christian)…

    If it is with a Biblical conscience that she was fighting so hard, why didn’t she refuse to issue licenses to couples that had previous divorces? That’s clearly causing someone to sin. Why didn’t she ask couples about how much their weddings would cost and not issue licenses if they were going to spend $50K on a celebration and go into deep debt instead of helping the hungry and poor? Why would she not be upset about prideful, greedy couples?

    Davis chose to fight a very public fight against a sin that she doesn’t struggle with. Why are we, as the body of Christ, railing against homosexuality but not railing against greed or pride? Why are there incredibly wealthy neighborhoods full of Christians in my county, but only 1 foster home open for every 400 kids in the system? I’m so tired of seeing people like Davis make this stand when there are so many other problems out there that we can actually do something about. I’m tired of the members of the church not being honest about their own struggles, the ones we have culturally come to accept but are serious, life sucking sins nonetheless.

  • Virginia

    amen. well said.

  • Kyle

    I think she should have just resigned if she felt the situation violated her beliefs and the practice of her faith.

    County Clerks take oaths, which they swear when they take public office. The oaths typically proclaim the person will support the Constitution, the people, and execute the office to the best of their ability according to the law. At the end of it she probably also stated “so help me God”, at least I would assume.

    Well things changed and she can no longer fulfill her oath. Since she decided to obstruct the process of government instead of stepping aside, she broke her oath to the people and to God.

    Personally “civil marriage” is so different from my idea of a marriage, a Catholic one, I struggle to see her position.

  • Stella Marie Jeffrey

    Disagree. In the case of Kim Davis, she had her job description changed without her input (and frankly, the job requirements were changed in contradiction to the will of the Kentucky people by a ruling of the Supreme court). In short, until this past summer, Kim Davis had no idea that she would be required to recognize and license marriage between anyone other than one man and one woman.

  • Bookish Catholic

    I, too, wish Kim had resigned…but only so that way we wouldn’t have to confront the reality that Christianity *is* hard, so hard that we will have to suffer consequences for professing our beliefs. If Kim had simply handed in her resignation stating she could no longer perform this aspect of her duties nor have the seal bear her name because of her faith, we wouldn’t know about it, unless the letter made it to the media, and then at that it would be a news story that wouldn’t have legs for as long as this story does. If I were her, I probably would have done that, because I am weak–I do not like confrontation or suffering.

    I understand your argument about having to do one’s job and how to your employer it would be ethical and responsible to opt out of your position if you could no longer perform the duties as assigned. But to whom do we all owe the most? And why should we have to leave our positions because a simple accommodation couldn’t be made? Do you realize the end result may be that there are no people of faith in the public/secular working world if we counseled to just resign? Should we only work in faith-based institutions?

    We have the right to work, and we have the right to exercise our faith in the public sphere, and our gifts and ethos derived from our beautiful faith do belong and have a place in the secular working world. The responses below revealing the least onerous accommodation (removing her name from the seal) is what should have happened. While I do not like that she went to jail and that because of this case and more to likely follow I will have to become public about my own faith and possibly face my own repercussions, I do think it is important that Kim stood up for her right to employment, her right to a reasonable accommodation, and on a larger scale, our right as Christians to live and work in the public sphere.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      “Christianity *is* hard, so hard that we will have to suffer consequences for professing our beliefs.” Amen. And sometimes, the consequences for professing our beliefs are quite private, quite humbling (such as unemployment and the financial hardship that potentially follows).

  • John Morgan

    I know you’re crying in your cereal now that Kim Davis is back on her job Arleen. Maybe you could put a posse of reporters on her to see if she prays in public, goes to church on Sunday, or has a nativity set up in her front yard. Sometimes the homosexual lobby loses the fight. Sometimes Christians stand up and fight. Maybe it’s time to get okay with that.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      How dare you assume I eat cereal for breakfast!