In 2015, a well-known Christian pastor received a letter from a “judge—a very significant judge in a very significant court.” In this letter the judge lamented, “One of the duties of a judge is to marry people. I am now under government mandate to marry people of the same sex. I cannot do that. I cannot do that.” The pastor, prophetically stated in his sermon, “He will lose his position. Clerks, Christian clerks across the country, who issue marriage licenses, and can’t do that either, are losing their jobs. The takeover is going to be massive. Christian people in high places are going to be replaced by people who will do what this court says you must do.”
Here it is 2017 and the pastor’s warning rings true. This past week the Wyoming Supreme Court publicly censured Judge Ruth Neely for refusing, on religious grounds, to perform same-sex marriages.
Remember Kim Davis? In 2015, the Kentucky clerk did a stint in jail for refusing to perform or authorize marriage licenses of same sex couples—on religious grounds. As The Atlantic reported at the time, “She was just the only one who refused either to perform her job, or quit it. In Texas, Rusk County Clerk Joyce Lewis-Kugle stepped down, as did Live Oak County Clerk Karen Irving. Cleburn County, Arkansas, lost its clerk, as did Grenada County, Mississippi; the clerk’s office in Decatur County, Tennessee, lost its entire staff.”
Kim Davis’ story was updated recently. The ACLU had asked the court to order her pay over $230,000 in legal fees. Federal Magistrate Edward B. Atkins denied their request. He stated since the plaintiffs did not win their case the ACLU was not entitled to the legal fees.
Was this a victory for religious liberty? Was the right to freedom of religious conviction upheld by the courts? Before the question can be answered a little background is in order.
As the result of Davis’ time in jail the law, in Kentucky, was changed. As Breitbart reported, “Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed an executive order eliminating the provision requiring a county clerk’s name and title to appear on a state marriage license. The Kentucky General Assembly later made the executive order permanent by an act of the legislature, thus eliminating the point of contention in the ACLU’s lawsuit.” This was the reason the ACLU did not win their case.
A victory for religious liberty? Hardly, simply an executive order by an elected official. What if Matt Bevin was not the governor? Would a Democratic governor have signed a similar order protecting the religious beliefs “objecting clerks?” Has religious liberty now become the plaything of elected officials and the courts?
What has happened to “certain unalienable rights?” Those unalienable rights, granted by the Creator, expressed in the Declaration. What happened to the Bill of Rights? The Rights that protect us from government overreach.
Probably, this is not the last of Kim Davis’ legal troubles.
Now back to Judge Ruth Neely. In their decision to censure her, the court wrote to the effect that Judge Neely shall either perform no marriage ceremonies or she shall perform marriage ceremonies regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation.
Thankfully the Court did not go as far as the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics desired. They asked that she be removed from her position.
Interestingly, Judge Neely never refused to perform a same sex marriage, she was never asked too. She simply stated publicly that her religious beliefs prohibited her from performing one. Under oath she testified, “If I ever were to receive a request to perform a same-sex marriage, which has never happened, I would ensure that the couple received the services that they requested by very kindly giving them the names and phone numbers of other magistrates who could perform their wedding.”
Is the pastor correct in his assertion, “Christian people in high places are going to be replaced by people who will do what this court says you must do?” Is the day coming, even in the United States, when practicing Christians will vanish completely from public life?