Kim Davis: A Model of Christian Conduct?

For those of you who have not followed the news, Kim Davis is the Kentucky County Clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses on the basis of her religious beliefs. Davis, a professing Christian, believes that homosexuality is a sin. After the US Supreme Court (in Obergfell v. Hodges) gave the legal right to homosexuals to marry in all 50 states, Davis, not wanting to issue any marriage licenses for homosexuals, decided not to issue any marriage licenses in her county. Many Christians view Davis as a courageous Christian who is standing up for her beliefs. Her case certainly indicates that Christians are more and more faced with hard circumstances because of their beliefs. However, Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses in her capacity as county clerk is not an example of courageous or obedient Christian conduct.[1]

I do not believe that Davis’s decision to remain in office and refuse to issue marriage licenses is the best way that she can model obedience to scripture in her situation. The US Supreme Court has given to homosexuals the legal right (according to US law) to marry. The governor of Kentucky has also ordered the county clerks in the state to give marriage licenses to homosexuals. I am aware that there are some who challenge the governor’s authority to give such an order. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has given to local governments the duty to recognize the marriages of homosexuals. Davis has been mandated by a higher authority, the US Supreme Court, to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals. I believe that by defying this authority, in the way that she is, Davis is modeling unbiblical rebellion against authority (cf. Rom. 13).

It is understandable that Davis’s conscience would be bothered if she signed marriage licenses for sodomites.[2] But she is not in a position where her only options are to refuse to issue the licenses or sin by agreeing to grant them. She also has the option of quitting her job. I believe that this would be the right thing for Davis to do as a Christian. If the government forced her to sin by requiring that she remain the county clerk and sanction homosexual marriages, she would be right simply to refuse to issue the licenses. But this is not a case where the government is forcing Davis to sin. She has the option to resign her position. By resigning her position Davis would show due honor to the authority of the civil government and be a better model of what it means to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ.

I am sure that I have said enough to spark a lively discussion. What are your thoughts?

[1] In criticizing Davis’s conduct I have decided not to focus on the fact that she is hardly a qualified defender of the biblical doctrine of marriage because she has divorced three times and married four times. Upholding the biblical condemnation of homosexuality while ignoring the biblical condemnation of divorce is hypocrisy. But even if Davis separated from her current husband (number 4) and tried to reconcile with her first husband, it would not justify her decision to hold office and refuse to carry out the duties of her office.

[2] However, I am not convinced that it is necessarily sinful for a county clerk to issue a marriage license to a homosexual couple in fulfillment of his or her duty as a government official. If the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is the reason that it would be sinful, aren’t there many other cases when it would be sinful for a county clerk to sign a marriage license? Wouldn’t it be sinful to issue a license to two unbelievers who obviously have no intention to honor God in their marriage? What about the case of serial divorcees? Why aren’t there Christian county clerks who refuse to sign such licenses? My point in asking these questions is that I doubt that it is the duty of a government official to make sure that a marriage is biblical before they may sign the marriage license. Having said that, I have sympathy for Christians who say they cannot in good conscience sign marriage licenses for homosexual couples.

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