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Thinking about Kim Davis - Input Junkie
September 15th, 2015
02:12 pm

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Thinking about Kim Davis
For some reason, I've found the Kim Davis situation more funny than enraging. This is no doubt a result of a flaw in my character, but it's led in some interesting directions.

At first, I was just amused that the Republicans had found a workplace quality of life issue that they could support.

Then, it occurred to me that what Davis was doing was structurally more like a strike than anything else-- not doing her job, and not letting anyone else do it, either. These days, unions have been included in the structures of orderly behavior, but it wasn't always so.

There were also people who were angry that Kim Davis was being seen as a martyr. I think it's possible to be a martyr to a bad cause, and that while possibly losing a plum job isn't a horrible death, it isn't nothing either. While Davis is responsible for her own actions, I also blame the people who contributed to her believing that doing something mean and self-destructive made sense.

Davis presumably wouldn't have started refusing to issue marriage licenses if she didn't have a lot of people supporting her.

I don't have a feeling for how many people are in Davis' position of being able to refuse to do their work while being very hard to fire. Tenured professors? It wouldn't surprise me if there's an interesting back story about why Davis' county clerk job was so well-defended.

I was annoyed at the news coverage of "Kim Davis is spending another day in jail".... there are innocent people spending decades in jail, and that isn't getting day by day coverage.

Which gets to the "she should just do her job or leave" thing. Does "do your job or leave" make sense as an absolute principle?

It's certainly convenient in terms of civilization to have compliant employees, but on the other hand, while it makes sense as a personal choice to endure that sort of cost for the ritual aspects of religion (like not being willing to work on a particular day of the week), what about jobs that require actual evil? I don't think anyone, or at least anyone reading this piece, believes that Schindler should have just done his job or resigned.

Normally, like Schindler, people who object to their jobs to that extent do covert sabotage, and not being public has different effects than taking a stand.

There's a lot of evil in the US justice system. I can hope that there are people dragging their feet about sending ill-founded warrants to the police, but I'm not seeing public support for non-compliant public officials who refuse to enforce victimless crime laws or judges who block outrageous mandatory minimum sentences.

I wasn't expecting to end up here, but I'm wondering if what we need are more people who refuse to do their jobs for good reasons, and more support for those people.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1073277.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:madfilkentist
Date:September 16th, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC)
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We have to grant that Davis really believes not just that people of the same sex shouldn't marry, but that she has the responsibility to keep them from getting married. It's too easy to dismiss people whose ideas we dislike as merely "hateful" or whatever the current word of dismissal is. She has her own kind of idealism, warped as it may be. I have more respect for her than for many of her supporters, who have simply grabbed onto "freedom of religion" as an excuse for preventing people from exercising their legal rights.

I don't like her being jailed for what amounts to a work stoppage; the difficulty is that as an elected official she can't be fired, and if she were fined some deep-pocket supporter would just have paid it for her. I doubt that the back story is anything more than that an elected official is assigned to do what previously seemed like a routine clerical task.

We do need to say more than that she isn't doing her job. We need to look at the situation and principle closely enough to recognize that she's claiming her religion compels her to obstruct the legal actions of people who are not harming anyone by exercising them.

The Denver City Council provides an interesting point of comparison. They threatened to prevent Chick Fil-A from getting a franchise because they didn't like the CEO's politics, though they backed away quickly. Would Kim Davis's supporters say they were just exercising their freedom of conscience?
From:whc
Date:September 16th, 2015 09:06 pm (UTC)
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The problem isn't just that she was refusing to do her job, she is an agent of the government and is bound by to constitution to avoid imposing her religion on people using her services.
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From:thnidu
Date:September 16th, 2015 10:04 pm (UTC)
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Exactly!
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From:whswhs
Date:September 17th, 2015 12:33 am (UTC)
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There's a difference between holding your nose and staying in your job, while covertly mitigating the harm you do, in an authoritarian régime where you could go to prison or worse, and in a liberal one where you're free to go do something else. You can even publicly announce your reasons and thus make a statement of opposition, one that will be taken seriously by many people.

Kim Davis's situation is a problematic one. On one hand, she's a government official, and as such she has an obligation to provide her services to the general public and to do her job. Ordinarily the remedy for her refusing to do so would be for her to be fired—though it is difficult to fire civil servants, probably more difficult than it ought to be. But I gather she was elected. The primary remedy with an elected official is that they don't get re-elected, though I suppose it's conceivable that her public position could win her more votes rather than fewer. But the backup remedy is an injunction telling her to do her job, with a contempt of court penalty if she doesn't. Isn't that more or less what happened to her?
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From:xiphias
Date:September 17th, 2015 01:35 am (UTC)
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The reason why county clerk is a well-defended position is that she's an elected official, and, as such, is subject to removal when her term is up, or through an impeachment process. Kentucky doesn't have a recall petition provision, and impeachment has to be done through the state legislature, not the local, and requires evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The attorney for the county was working with the state Attorney General's office to proffer criminal charges in order to lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings. The current situation, however, as I understand it, is that as long as she agrees not to interfere with other people doing THEIR jobs, they're willing to let the situation lie.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:September 17th, 2015 02:35 am (UTC)
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She's not refusing to do her job "for a good reason". What she's doing is trying to pass her bigotry off as Christian religious belief, which it very emphatically is not. Jesus did not say one word about homosexuality (or about abortion, for that matter.) He DID have a great deal to say about hypocrisy, which is what Kim Davis is exemplifying: she's the classic poster girl for Matthew 7:1-3.

I should think the true followers of Christ's teachings must find her mortifyingly embarrassing. In recent years, some of them have come to realize just how much the unChristian behavior of gay-hating 'Christian' bigots turns people (especially the young) off from their religion, and are starting to speak out against it. Even the Pope says that his Christian beliefs give him no right to judge people for being gay... so... how does this county clerk of a podunk town justify her claim that her precious 'beliefs' have any basis at all in Christian scripture?

She can't, because they have none. Her whole show-trial is nothing but publicity propaganda for the anti-GLBT hate groups. I guess you heard about the heavily-armed 'Christian' vigilantes who planned to 'protect' Kim Davis (with assault weapons) from being arrested if she broke the law again? Where is the line between support and insurrection?

I have no problem with the teachings of Jesus, nor with the people who live by them. However, I say Evangelical so-called 'Christianity' is not a religion, but a politically-agenda'd cult. Kim Davis can belong to any cult she likes, but her 'beliefs', such as they are, do not put her above the law.

It's really "apples and oranges" to drag Schindler into this. Schindler was trying to save the lives of innocent people who would otherwise be murdered. Kim Davis was trying to disrupt the lives of innocent people by denying them their legal right to get a marriage license. There is no valid comparison between them.
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From:whswhs
Date:September 17th, 2015 03:10 am (UTC)
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I don't think her actions are legitimate, as I discussed above. But I find it disturbing that, as someone who does not belong to her particular sect, you feel entitled to pronounce on what doctrines of her sect are valid, and to say that she's not entitled to claim to believe something that you think is not consistent with Christianity. That way lies state control of religion, which is a worse evil than any our society has to contend with; indeed I suspect that many people who applaud Kim Davis would like to have the state make such judgments, and I think they should be opposed by the strongest possible defense of freedom of conscience. Martin Luther was seriously flawed as far as freedom of conscience goes, but Protestantism as we know it exists because he felt entitled to tell the pope in his time that he had no authority over what other Christians believed; I doubt that he would have thought the current pope any more of an authority.

I deeply dislike right-wing authoritarianism, but I don't see left-wing authoritarianism as an improvement on it. And I'm sorry, but that's how your comment sounds to me.
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From:kalimac
Date:September 18th, 2015 08:11 am (UTC)
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Not being a Christian, I have no truck in the "what is Christian" debate, but it seems to me that telling Davis off for her version of the religion is an appropriate response to her supporters' claim that she was imprisoned for being a Christian, as if anyone not talking her position wasn't one.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:September 20th, 2015 10:19 pm (UTC)
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I don't belong to her "particular sect", and am not now a Christian, but I was in fact brought up as one, and know the Christian Bible rather thoroughly. Where is the difference between my "feeling entitled" to express my opinion that what she is claiming is not Christianity, and you feeling entitled to express your opinion that I have no right to express one?

Very interesting that expressing an opinion with which you disagree is immediately labeled "left-wing-authoritarianism". I would say that that label applies far more accurately to people who try to silence other peoples' opinions by calling them 'politically incorrect'.

I do not say what Christianity is, or is not. The writers of the Gospels did that. The basic premise of Christianity is that Jesus is the son of God; therefore in the eyes of believers in Christianity, his word tops that of both Martin Luther and the Pope (any Pope) and - according to the Gospels - he was very clear on what he expected from his followers.

One can, of course, take the view that all of this is just fairy-tales, and that belief in fairy-tales ought not to be exempted under the laws of this nation. I'd be fine with that. However, if we MUST have exemptions for irrational beliefs, let's at least insist that they be consistent irrational beliefs. There is not one single verse of the words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth that supports Kim Davis's claims that her 'beliefs' about homosexuality have anything at all to do with Christ's teachings.

If you disagree, dig up a verse from any of the four Gospels and explain why you think it does support it.


Edited at 2015-09-20 10:20 pm (UTC)
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From:madfilkentist
Date:September 17th, 2015 02:49 pm (UTC)
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A "cult" is simply a religion that hasn't gained traction in society. Jesus's teachings were a cult in his time, being seriously out of line with mainstream Jewish teachings. I think the case for calling Kim Davis's Apostolic variant of Christianity a cult is weaker than the one against Jesus's variant of Judaism.
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From:agrumer
Date:September 17th, 2015 06:20 pm (UTC)
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But by that same reasoning, categorizing Davis’s faith as a “cult” is even less relevant to a discussion of 1st Amendment issues in the US.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:September 17th, 2015 10:01 pm (UTC)
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Exactly.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:September 20th, 2015 10:41 pm (UTC)
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The reasoning is wrong because the definition is wrong. Here, let me Google that for you.
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From:acelightning
Date:September 17th, 2015 09:26 am (UTC)
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I feel that, if you work at a job, and the job description gets changed to include requiring you to do something that you have strong moral objections to, you should first discuss it with your superiors, and, if it's not possible to undo the change in requirements, then the only way to conform to your moral belief seems to be to leave that job. Since Ms. Davis was elected to her position, the only thing she can do is resign from the job. But that wouldn't give her the opportunity to say that she is refusing to do her job, and proclaiming that the licenses issued by her subordinates are invalid, because she is "under God's authority" (given to her, she implies, directly by God), and get a lot of media attention and a lot of support from misinformed homophobic wingnuts.

Seriously, all she has to do is quit, and let an acting clerk, or her deputies, or whoever else inherits her clerical powers under the law, do the job she finds morally repugnant. She doesn't have the right to interfere with their performance of such duties.

(And don't even get me started on her highly selective interpretations of the book of Leviticus...)

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From:kalimac
Date:September 18th, 2015 08:04 am (UTC)
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Or let others in the office do it without your participation.
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From:acelightning
Date:September 18th, 2015 10:07 am (UTC)
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Instead, she refuses to participate, while vociferously and repetitively announcing that all marriage licenses issued by her office without her participation are invalid. The State Supreme Court disagrees, and upholds the validity of those marriage licenses. But Ms. Davis believes she has "God's authority", which puts her above both the State and the US Supreme Courts.

If she just wanted to keep from condoning same-sex marriage because it violates her personal beliefs, she could have just quit. But she seems determined to prevent as many same-sex marriages as she can, regardless of anyone else's beliefs, (mis)using her power as County Clerk to do so - whicn, of course, violates the principle of separation of religious and governmental functions.


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