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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Conflicts over law, religion in Kentucky

Rowan County Deputy Clerk Brian Mason, left, asks Shannon Wampler-Collins, right and her partner Carmen Wampler-Collins to double check their marriage license at the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Ky. Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis announced earlier that her office will issue marriage licenses under order of a federal judge, but will not have her name or office listed. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Rowan County Deputy Clerk Brian Mason, left, asks Shannon Wampler-Collins, right and her partner Carmen Wampler-Collins to double check their marriage license. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Clerk Mike Johnston prays twice a day, once each morning and once each night, and asks the Lord to understand the decision he made to license same-sex marriage.

“It’s still on my heart,” said Johnston, whose rural Carter County sits just to the east of Rowan County, where clerk Kim Davis sparked a national furor by refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, a decision that landed her in jail.

Johnston is one of Kentucky’s 119 other clerks, many of them deeply religious, who watched the Kim Davis saga unfold on national television while trying to reconcile their own faith and their oath of office. Sixteen of them sent pleading letters to the governor noting their own religious objections. But when forced to make a decision, only two have taken a stand as dramatic as Davis and refused to issue licenses.

And others say they find the controversy now swirling around their job title humiliating.

“I wish (Davis) would just quit, because she’s embarrassing everybody,” said Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins, whose office serves the state’s second-largest city, Lexington.

After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered clerks across the state to issue licenses, launching them along markedly different paths. The clerk in Louisville, Bobbie Holsclaw, issued licenses that very day and the mayor greeted happy couples with bottles of champagne.

Blevins, too, had no problem. He supports gay rights and explained his response in seven words: “When the law changes, your job changes.”

But 100 miles east, Johnston prayed over the decision he knew he would have to make. He consulted several ministers. He considered the oath he swore when he took his office a decade ago. And in the end, he chose to issue licenses.

“I just pray that I’m not doing anything wrong,” he says now, two weeks after he issued his first and only license for a same-sex marriage. “It’s always on my conscience. The devil ain’t going to let it die; he wants us to be worried. The devil is everywhere, trying to get you to make the wrong decision.”

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis and Whitley Clerk Kay Schwartz have joined Kim Davis in halting all marriage licenses out of their office. Casey Davis, who recently rode a bicycle more than 400 miles across Kentucky to show support for Davis, said last week that he is willing to go to jail for his beliefs, too.

Schwartz did not return a series of phone messages.

Others clerks told The Associated Press they are opposed to same-sex marriage, but they weighed their convictions against their oath of office and decided to issue the licenses anyway.

“If I can’t abide by the law, I’d have to resign,” said Teresa Sheffield, the clerk of Monroe County. “According to the Bible, it’s wrong. But I issue them to a lot of people and we’re all sinners.”

Lawrence County Clerk Chris Jobe, who also serves as head of the state’s County Clerk Association, announced in July that 57 clerks, who serve nearly half of the state’s counties, had said they would send a letter of opposition to Beshear, asking that he call a special session to change state law to accommodate their religious beliefs.

But only 17 letters trickled in, according to records from the governor’s office. Most were from small, Appalachian counties in the eastern part of the state.

One, Leslie County’s James Lewis, asked the governor to call a special session, though he did not raise religious objections. He merely thought state statutes could use some clarity.

“It’s the law now, the Supreme Court’s final. It may not be right, but it’s final,” Lewis said. “We have to do the job we took an oath to do. We may not always like it but we have to do it. I respect their position, their religious position on it. But it doesn’t appear they’ll be able to win, I don’t see how they could.”

Others expressed vociferous opposition.

“We feel we have a loaded gun to our head,” Knott County Clerk Kennith Gayheart typed in a letter also signed by his five deputy clerks. “We strongly resent this ruling and are having a hard time dealing with it.”

Gayheart could not be reached after several calls to his office in Hindman.

Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown, a Baptist who has issued around 10 licenses to same-sex couples despite his religious objections, is leading a charge to get legislators to rewrite the law when they return to the statehouse in January. He hopes lawmakers take marriage licensing out of the hands of the clerks and reroute it to a state agency.

“It was tough. I thought about resigning,” he said. “But I came to the conclusion that the best thing for me to do was to stay here, do the job the people elected me to do and fight on a different level.”

Copyright © 2015 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

20 thoughts on “Conflicts over law, religion in Kentucky”

  1. Marriage is between one man and one woman?
    In the bible there is no such thing as a marriage blessed by the god.
    The biblical characters soon forgot the concept of ‘one-man-one-woman,’ and basically saw women as a sexual object and a reproduction machine, a property of man for man to do as he wished with a woman or as many women as he wanted.
    From the outset the so-called father of the religion; Abraham, porked his wife’s slave and did it with the wife’s consent. But the slave had no choice in the matter. Genesis 16.
    – Lamech, one of Cain’s descendants had two wives at the same time: Gen. 4:19
    – Esau had three wives simultaneously: “34. When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite.
    35.They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” Genesis 26: 34, 35 – and Gen. 29: 8, 9 – “8. Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father. Isaac; 9. so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.” (and they were racists BTW)
    – And Jacob had four wives all at the same time: Genesis 29:28 & 30:4-9.
    – Gideon had many wives and concubines – “29. Jerub-Baal son of Joash (Gideon) went back home to live. 30. He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. 31. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek.” Judges 8: 29 – 31
    – Abijah had 14 wives: “21. But Abijah grew in strength. He married fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters.” 2 Chronicles 13:21

    – Levirate Marriage, from the Latin ‘levir’ meaning ‘brother-in-law.’ In the ancient near East, if a man died without having children, his brother was expected to marry his widow and produce children to continue the lineage of the deceased brother, Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
    Obviously, this is not marriage in the Bible as portrayed in the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2. No western Christian today would practice this ancient Biblical law. Think about it.

    – Slave marriage. This is different from a normal marriage in that a male slave had no right to keep his wife and children, if his master sold him or them,
    “1. Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. (One of the commandments; yes, there were more than ten)

    2. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

    3. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

    4. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

    5. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.
    6. Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” Exodus 21: 1 – 6
    Modern Christians reject this form of marriage in the Bible as wrong because:
    (a) it goes against our modern ethos of individual freedom, and
    (b) it goes against modern cultural values, and
    (c) it is illegal today.

    – Prisoner of war marriage, between Israelite warriors and Midianite virgins

    And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
    “2. Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.
    3. And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the Lord of Midian.
    4. Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war…
    7. And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males…
    9. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods…
    15. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?…
    17. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. (These would be widows of he soldiers hey killed)
    18. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” Numbers 31
    Who in their right mind would want to follow biblical teachings about marriage or any other human behavior for that matter?
    The bible is neither a reliable source of information nor a guide on moral decency.

  2. If you sit around talking to yourself and you think you are talking to an invisible god, you should seek psychiatric help.
    Don’t give me this crap about ‘you believe.’
    If you actually believed, you should be able to”
    * Move mountains
    * Heal the blind (without medical intervention)
    * Heal the lame ” ” ”
    * Raise the dead
    * Do greater works than your lord’s
    [This is all per your lord]
    – Yeahbut is not a rebuttal.

  3. The problem these religious bigots don’t realize is that there are other religions and beliefs than their own. If we allow Christians to ignore civil rights because it doesn’t fit in with their beliefs, then do we allow people who believe in middle eastern religions that suppress women to beat their wives or mutilate their genitals?

    There are plenty of jobs that a person can do that don’t force them to make any moral choices, they just aren’t cushy government jobs

    • Yes, this is exactly the ultimate upshot of the “exercise of religious freedom” laws, and part of the reason that some of them started getting struck down so quickly.

  4. I could careless if he prayed everyday on the minute. Do your job, and keep your religious beliefs to yourself. No one cares expect you.

  5. Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

    “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article 6, section 3) United States Constitution.

  6. This is not a law it is an opinion by the SCOUS. There job is not to make laws but to uphold the constitution. Why do you think Obama does not pay any attention to the so called laws by the Supreme Court

    • Billy SCOTUS did not make any law it considered the facts and ruled that same sex marriage bans were UN CONSTITUTIONAL meaning going against the wording of the constitution and hence struck down all SSM bans nationwide You might wish to consult legal texts pertaining to civil law and constitutional law or maybe even talk to someone that has studied or practices either of those 2 types of laws before making such comment. or maybe even someone that understands what those to things are a lot better than you seem to do

    • “This is not a law it is an opinion by the SCOUS. There job is not to make laws but to uphold the constitution.”

      No, it is not an “opinion”, and the Supreme Court’s job is to interpret the meaning of the Constitution. The Supreme Court, according to Federalist Paper #78 by Alexander Hamilton, was set up to interpret the law, and whether a law was Constitutional or not. This is the Supreme Court’s check and balance against the executive and legislative branches. If the court rules that a law is not Constitutional, according to Hamilton, the law is to be discarded.

      This is what SCOTUS did in the case of the anti-gay marriage law, and in doing so, the law was struck down and is no longer the law of Kentucky.

  7. We have learned more about our universe and how and why it operates in the last 30 or 40 years than in all of previous human history.

    This is why we no longer need to invent imaginary, magical, supernatural ‘gods’ to explain thunder, disease, planetary motion, speciation, chemical reactions, etc.

    Hundreds of religious belief systems have gone down the toilet of history and the remaining ones are circling the bowl as we speak.

  8. Clerk Mike Johnston, I respect your conflict and solution to the matter. Thank you for following the laws.

    “If I can’t abide by the law, I’d have to resign,” said Teresa Sheffield, the clerk of Monroe County. “According to the Bible, it’s wrong. But I issue them to a lot of people and we’re all sinners.”


  9. If the issuing of marriage licenses becomes the responsibility of the State, then why have a County Clerk? Kentucky could possibly save several million dollars a year by taking over the issuing of all licenses and permits…because then they wouldn’t need County Clerks!

    The state could have offices that serve several counties, the job would no longer be an elected position..making it easier to remove anyone who refuses to do their job!

    There is one down side…with one office to serve several counties many clerks and their deputies would become unemployed, but that’s called progress!

  10. The bible do not get to dictate the law of the land.. And the bible is just a man written book.of rules and laws The bible rules and laws aren’t the word of a God.

  11. Christianity belongs on the same dusty shelf as Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies. Go to ANY of these more ancient texts and you will find talking animals, virgin births, half-god/half-human offspring, plus numerous other “miracles” and magical nonsense. Nothing new to see here, folks. Move along.

  12. There’s a great book out called “Bible Stories Mother Never Told Me” by CL Putnam that will blow your mind! It re-tells several Bible stories, but from the point of view of God’s “enemies” and his “victims”. If you really want to know the WHOLE truth about the Bible, THIS is the book to read!!!

  13. “…take marriage licensing out of the hands of the clerks and reroute it to a state agency.” Yes, do that, then reroute the funding they receive for issuing marriage licenses. I wonder how well that would go over…

  14. Christ has already set the LAW of what those religious homophobes need to do in Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets “, and it’s reward of doing so in Luke 10:25-37…..”What is written in the Law?”… “Do this and you will live.”

    But kkkhristians aka religious homophobes disguised as “Christians” follow their anti-Christ Law and false prophets to do evil things unto others as what they would NOT want others to do unto them. That’s why homophobes will not have eternal life.

    This is how kkkhristians demonstrate their hate to Christ. John 14:15 If you love me, obey my commands, and will use words not from Him but from Moses and Paul to then lie, deceive, judge gay wrongly, condemn and hate gays with discrimination laws to physically harm them.

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