Former Adventist Defends Kim Davis

Last week, when the news broke that Pope Francis had met with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the national controversy over her case was re-ignited.

Her attorney, Mat Staver, and his legal organization Liberty Counsel, sent out a press release about the visit last Tuesday, September 29, after the Pope left the US. Staver reported that the meeting was a private one between the pontiff and Kim Davis and her husband Joe, and that the Pope had clasped Davis’ hands, thanked her for her courage, and exhorted that she “stay strong.”

Amid the ensuing furor over the Pope’s apparent backing of Davis’ controversial stand, the Vatican issued a statement asserting that Pope Francis did not know the details of her case, and that the meeting "should not be considered a form of support of her position.”

Staver, meanwhile, has talked about how the meeting with the Pope validates his arguments about the importance of conscientious objection. He has helped keep Davis in the spotlight, while also bringing national attention to the Liberty Counsel and himself.

Attorney Mathew Staver is an evangelical activist, representing the conservative side across the US in debates over abortion, gay marriage and religion's place in the public sphere. His Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which he and his wife Anita (also an attorney) founded in 1989, bills itself as a nonprofit committed to "restoring the culture by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family.”

Mat Staver is also a former Seventh-day Adventist, who graduated from Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University) majoring in theology and minoring in history and Biblical languages. He earned a masters in religion from Andrews University, and then pastored in Kentucky.

While declining to do an interview with Spectrum (probably due to the intense level of media enquiries he is already getting), Staver, now 59, did confirm basic facts about his Adventist background for us.

Staver became an Adventist in 1975, after hearing an Adventist evangelist speak. (His mother was a Catholic.) He was a member of the church until 1984. He did not tell us why he left, but other news reports have quoted him citing theological differences.

He went to law school at the University of Kentucky after watching a film about abortion, with the aim of getting involved on the legal battleground for conservative social issues, and graduated in 1987.

In his commercial practice after becoming a lawyer, Staver represented Adventist entities Florida Hospital and the Sunbelt Health System, he told Spectrum. “I have a great respect for the Adventist church,” he said.

Nevertheless, after nearly a decade in the church, Staver became a self-defined Evangelical, and started Liberty Counsel. The organization has grown steadily in terms of staff and profile. Liberty Counsel employs 10 attorneys who last year worked on 142 active cases, pro bono. The group is funded by donations, which totaled more than $4 million last year.

Liberty Counsel has been at the forefront of many social legal cases involving “traditional family values,” coming down on the side of the far religious right. The nonprofit has fought for the right to discriminate in employment based on sexual orientation, contested a library program that awarded to “witchcraft” certificates to Harry Potter fans, sued the Massachusetts judiciary in a failed attempt to block the nation's first same-sex marriages in 2004 and successfully argued in the US Supreme Court that anti-abortion activists should be allowed to protest outside clinics. Liberty Counsel also has a program that plans trips to Israel and strengthens ties between Americans and Israel.

Were Staver’s ultra-conservative politics honed during his time at Southern and Andrews? It’s hard to say. But his arguments for freedom of religion and speech, advocating for rights like prayer in schools, differ from the traditional political-issue distance that the Adventist church maintains, and its strong focus on the separation of church and state.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (and keynote speaker at Spectrum’s 2008 conference), has said there is “an enormous amount of bluster” in Staver’s legal arguments.

Along with many civil liberties advocates — some of whom have labeled the Liberty Counsel a “hate group” because of its stance against gay rights — Lynn strongly disagrees with the actions of Kim Davis, and Mat Staver’s stance in defending her. "When you make heroes out of people who refuse to accept the rule of law and who fail to acknowledge the dignity of other human beings,” he told the Associated Press, “you are on a very dangerous path."

Photo: Orlando Sentinel

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So this guy has a mixed record, as do most people in his position. Kim Davis created her own problems, and it’s hard to defend her. She’s no hero, of course, and those who have defended her, have not helped the cause of Christianity; but being opposed to same sex “marriage” has nothing to do with acknowledging the “dignity” of anyone. And then there’s Barry Lynn, who comes awfully close to advocating for freedom from religion, rather than freedom of religion.

But we’ve come to a sad state when an honest disagreement over homosexual “rights” gets an organization labeled as a “hate group.” And when people have to leave their jobs for expressing an opinion or supporting a law which runs counter to the current version of political correctness (as with Brendan Eich), we’ve entered an dangerous time for freedom of speech.


Kim Davis needs to quit being vilified by SDA’s who value religious liberty. She had a legitimate claim on request for a religious accommodation and that fix is a pretty simple one if it was sought: removing her name from the marriage certificates. Very simple, but neither the Federal Judge that jailed her, nor the governor of the state (both of which have the power) have acted upon even looking at the possibility.

In saying that, we can’t allow religious expression, a protected right, become a trump card to all other rights, nor should it become the step child of protected rights. Since the US Supreme Court has ruled that all bans to same sex marriage are unconstitutional a sea change in the law has resulted with the inevitable clash of rights. It will take years to sort out, and one way that it can be done in a decent manner is for both sides of this debate to quite calling for zero sum solutions and attempt to find sensible compromises that don’t wreck discrimination laws, nor place one right above the other.

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Yet further evidence that neither conservative Adventism and conservative secular politics, nor liberal Adventism and liberal secular politics, are necessarily logical cousins.


it is shame that the court ruled on Marraige rather than deciding on civil unions, The issue is property rights and public recognition of a relationship. Marraige for good or evil is considered a religious Union. The best solution would be to have the Govenor release her with pay up until thre next election period. Then appoint an associate as intern Clerk. She is neither a hero or a victim, just a bad fit for the position. Tom Z


Mat and Anita Staver, unlike some former Adventists, are not at all hostile to the Adventist Church. Liberty Counsel is a very competent litigation organization. I know this because Mat was my former local counsel in a religious liberty case I handled in federal court in Florida. For many years Mat was the Dean of the Liberty University School of Law. Although Liberty is a Baptist school, Mat worked to get the University to agree to have me join the law school faculty. (The issue being that I’m an Adventist and not a Baptist.) Although I did not end up teaching at Liberty (God lead me to Regent Law instead), the University agreed to accept an Adventist. Mat and Anita were always extremely cordial to me.

I cannot understand any Adventist being hostile to Kim Davis’ religious liberty claim. Her situation is exactly like the one faced by an Adventist who, after being hired, is told that the job requires her to engage in an activity that conflicts with conscience (like working on Sabbath). The standard federal law remedy is to try to accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs. That is what happened in Kim Davis’ case, the accommodation is that she will not be required to have her name on same sex marriage certificates. This is an outcome that every reasonable Adventist should applaud. I thank Mat for, once again, defending religious freedom.

This is one issue where the church has actually been much more favorable to LGBT rights than it normally has. I couldn’t believe how the editor of Liberty Magazine was able to get out a piece critical of Kim Davis using her position as a weapon against the constitutional rights of constituents. Also another Adventist (independent?) website was equally critical of her position, not because they supported SSM but instead because Kim Davis represents the government and is the exact opposite of separation of church and state.

The church lawyers deserve some applause for calling this case correctly. A rare showing of something that those of us in the LGBT community can appreciate.

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Well it seems that Norway and Denmark sda unions were inspired by Kim Davis to boycott all the ordinations: and that’s ‘my way or the norway’

I’m Jewish. I supervise the meat department at Safeway. I refuse to sell pork to the Catholics and I won’t let any of my staff do so, either. Religious Liberty!

I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. I am a doctor, chief medical officer at Loma Linda. I refuse to give my Adventist patient a life-saving blood transfusion nor will I allow an of the staff to do so. Religious Liberty!

I’m an Adventist. I’m the chief county clerk. I cannot in good conscience issue a marriage license to a gay couple. However, I allow my staff to do so. Religious Liberty!


This is good news. I have wondered how the SDA church that has opposed the religious right for so long, would react now that it is basically in bed with the relgious right on the issue of SSM. The church may yet see the light and stop focusing on fellows in bed together, and realize it has made strange bedfellows with those who want a right to discriminate against LGBT folks.

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Kim Davis is the one government employee in her political chain that Honored her Oath to the US Constitution

Regarding the Supreme Court ruling of gay marriage, we should remember the US Constitution is the RULE of Law, The Branches and the Duty Defined for the Members.

Article 1. Section 1. says the Congress and Senate make Law,not judges.

Article 3. Section 1. Congress and Senate are charged with the duty to remove the judges.Article 3. defines the duties of the judges.

Article 5. Is the process to amend the US Constitution. All laws have to measure up to the standard of the Constitution.Congress is the branch that debates,establishes, revises or repeals a law.Not Judges.

Article 6. makes clear the US Constitution is Supreme with no compromise.

The US Constitution is repetitive for the purpose of enforcing what was not enforced.It is simply a dereliction of duty to continue to fill any document with redundant language over a lack of enforcement.

After the Articles and Amendments in the US Constitution Congress is given a charge, “The Congress shall have power to enforce this article with appropriate legislation.” The Congress is derelict of duty if it does not correct the judges who do not have the authority to make law. You cannot honor your oath and call the Supreme Court Ruling the law of the land. You should move to have the US Congress and US Senate do their job. There is no Case Law supported in the US Constitution.

James 3:1-12

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Article III, Section 2:

The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States."

Amendment XIV:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.”

The SCOTUS has ruled that same sex marriages are legal. There is only one way to change this: appeal to SCOTUS again. What chance they would take it again?

SCOTUS interprets the law and it becomes final

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Kim Davis did the right thing. We aught to obey God rather than men.

For example, I was in agreement with the Seattle florist lady who had sold flowers to those same guys in the past & always treated them kindly, but at the point of being asked to participate in the gay wedding ceremony, she declined. The difference is we don’t discriminate the selling of our product based on the choices being made by others (there’s no sin in the selling of flowers to unbelievers), but when someone else wants to force us to participate with them in a sinful act, then we certainly must refuse (just as a clergyman cannot be forced to perform the ceremony).

Actually, John, she sought to do the right thing the wrong way. Let me explain as best I can. When the SCOTUS ruled that same sex marriages were constitutional Kim faced a dilemma with her faith and her service to the public. Her job as clerk was to verify that the couple seeking marriage were of age, that neither were currently married, etc. She isn’t endorsing their union. She is simply making sure they are legally grounded in being married. But on the certificate in KY the clerk’s name is on it. Hence, Ms. Davis felt that by signing that document she was some who endorsing that union. Ok, we respect that feeling. So what should she have done?

Well, there are protocols in place for people of faith who find their faith practice coming into a clash with work requirements. She could have sought that accommodation and did, but before doing so she commanded her deputy clerks who were willing to issue the certificates not to issue them. At that point she was placing her faith above her duty as a clerk in a way that impeded upon those seeking the marriage certificate. She enforcing her beliefs on their rights. That is where she was wrong and it ended up where she was put into jail for contempt of court. Five days there and there comes a new view from Ms. Davis to allow her deputies to issue the license, the thing she should have done in the first place.

The florist is a different matter. Not a public servant. She is a private business individual. Where her problems are emerging from is WA state has placed into their state anti discrimination laws protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. I am in support of her stance about the ceremony (its her convictions and I honor that), but finding balance where we are not wrecking anti-discrimination law is tough. We don’t want religious rights becoming a step child to other protected rights, but we also do not want religious rights trumping all other rights because its religious. It is an agonizing case to be sure, as are the bakers and the photographer cases (all in states that have state anti discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity). I think in many cases accommodation and exemptions could be made that would satisfy all people involved. Example: taking an already baked cake generic and selling it to the gay couple for them to decorate or have someone decorate may be a way to solve that issue.

Same sex marriage has made a sea change in the law on many levels and it is going to take years to sort it out. There will be winners and losers on both the religious and the gay sides of the aisle. It is going to be an uncomfortable process ahead.

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