Out of This World

Over the past month, the story of Kim Davis has taken up a fair amount of the news cycle. The story of the Rowan County clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and spent time in jail for contempt of court dominated the headlines for more than a week. For those who study and comment on religious liberty in this country, Kim Davis seems like the perfect storm. Her “stand” for her conscience brings together so many elements of the things that people who are concerned about religious liberty debate about, regardless of whether you would call yourself a liberal or a conservative in this field. And so much of what I would have to say on this issue I have said before in other times and other places. Davis has made a decision according to her conscience, has had the willingness to not only follow it through, but also to go to jail for it. I am surprisingly both outraged by, and sympathetic to her plight. I would love to talk about the legal ramifications of what she is doing (and I still might do that briefly), but my mind turns primarily to the spiritual consequences of Davis’s actions.

A quick note about the politics and the law, however. I am somewhat sympathetic to Davis from a political perspective. It must be tough when the law changes on you in such a fundamental way (at least for her). When Davis was elected to this position, upholding the laws of the land did not violate her conscience in any way. Now doing her job is a violation of her conscience in this particular respect. The fact of the matter is, however, that she is by law and agent of the state and as such has no recourse but to either fulfill her duties, resign her post, or go to jail.[1] All of those options are valid. (Oddly enough, Justice Scalia agrees with me about this.)

As a Christian, there are three things that bother me about the stance that Davis has taken. First, I am not sure that Davis’s actions are the best way to fulfill the Gospel Commission, which is the charge given to every Christian. Before Jesus left Earth, He told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you...” Now I could be literalist and argue that Jesus did not command the disciples in anything regarding signing marriage licenses, but I don’t think I need to make that point to see the flaw in Davis’s modus operandi. If the command that the Messiah, the founder and leader of our faith, gave us was to make disciples, our decisions as Christians in our interactions with others should be guided by this principle. In other words, when we interact with someone who is not of our faith, our eye should be towards how best to exemplify Christ and His character to this person. I have always found instructive the words of Ellen G. White on this question. In the book Ministry of Healing, she writes, “Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me."[2] Christ did not think of Himself in ministering to people, but thought of others first. Unfortunately, there is an inherent selfishness in the type of freedom of conscience practiced by Davis and those who believe as she does about the freedom of religion, that thinks of themselves and their rights first and foremost above the right of others. Davis thought first and foremost of her conscience and freedom to exercise her beliefs over the consciences and freedoms of those who she was called to serve. Even so, I am somewhat sympathetic to Davis’s plight. I don’t know that I would want a ton of people telling me how to act on my beliefs either. However, I am convinced that we ruin Christ’s reputation (and by extension make it harder to assist in the creation of disciples) when we present Christ as a God who seeks to constrain, restrict, and hate instead of showing Him to be the God of love and freedom that He is.

Second, it seems to me that everyone on Team Davis has forgotten the golden rule. Even people who are not Christians are familiar with the golden rule.[3] In Matthew 7:12 it is stated as, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” And while it is clear that Davis did not seek to treat those same-sex couples applying for licenses the way she would want to be treated if she were in a similar situation, I am more fascinated about the context of the golden rule. The statement in Matthew 7:12 starts with therefore because it is the concluding statement of a section of the text that begins with “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” In that same speech Jesus also warns against the hypocrisy of removing a mote from someone else’s eye while a beam exists in your own. These two principles are things we as straight Christians should think about before we condemn the LGBT community for wanting to be a part of the secular form of an institution that straight Christians have been destroying long before anyone else showed up and asked to join the club. If there is blame to be handed out for the downfall of marriage, it belongs to straight Christians who weakened marriage through sinfulness and infidelity. It is high time for the church in this sense to remove the beam from its own eye on the issue of marriage before we attempt to remove the mote from the LGBT community’s eye, if one even exists on this question.

Finally, the quandary that Davis found herself in is emblematic of the very reason why Christianity does not work best in conjunction with secular power. The Gospel of John records the story of Jesus before Pilate prior to His crucifixion. When Pilate asks Jesus if He is King of the Jews, Jesus responds, “My kingdomis not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Sometimes I think we as Christians have forgotten what we should be fighting for. We are fighting (if that is even the right word) to introduce humanity to a separated Savior who only desires a new relationship He created. The kingdom we ultimately serve is not in Rowan County, Kentucky. We are members of a Kingdom that is not of this world. It makes me wonder why we spend so much time trying to dominate this one.

[1] Eugene Volokh makes an interesting counterpoint about a religious exemption for Davis under Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I would counter by asking how Davis did not see a need for a religious exemption until 3 months after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell.

[3] As they should be – the principle can be found in some form or another in over 20 world religions.

Jason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7093

Also she is concerned about violating her oath of office, ignoring the injunction in the gospels against swearing oaths.

Note: In Matt 26:64, Jesus does NOT make an oath. He is obeying His own injunction about letting His un’oathed words tell the truth. That the questioner made references to oaths is irrelevant.


Kim Davis was an extremely sympathetic figure, when interviewed at length by Megyn Kelly on Fox News last night. She boldly proclaimed that she would be happy to return to prison again, rather than go against her beliefs.

It is a shame that the Kentucky legislature will not designate an alternate to issue those licenses, which would " take her off the hook"

That said, to secular onlookers, she seems hypocritical, when she has been married FOUR times, and has out-of-wedlock born twins.

She has the effrontery to deny marriage to a monogamous same-sex couple who have been devoted to each other for the past seventeen years!

Tax payers like herself, who merely wanted to avail themselves of a myriad of tax advantages that legal marriage affords, and have been denied them for seventeen years! A good Jewish words for this, is "chutzpah!

In fairness, her Christian conversion was recent.

Megyn Kelly did raise a "slippery slope " issue. Could an Islamist clerk at a Departmemt of Vehicle’s office, deny women drivers licenses? Or another devout Muslim government official try to impose Sharia Law on non-Muslim applicants?

Relgious Liberty issues arise when one relgion tries to apply through LEGAL EDICTS, their doctrinal views on non-believers or adherents of another religion.

This was precisely the case some years ago, in California, when same sex marriage was being voted upon in “Proposition Eight”. At that time the Adventists were “in bed” with the Mormons and the Catholics in vehemently trying to impose their views of marriage on the secular majority by legal means.

Regrettably, the Adventists used as their spokesman, a thrice married, “serial monogamist”, who appeared as morally tainted to onlookers as now does Kim Davis.

This man appeared ridiculous, when he promoted the “one man one women” mantra as being Biblical. Not only did “one man, one woman” not apply to himself, but neither did it apply to most Old Testamemt patriarchs and heroes, who were largely polygamists.

With the Catholic Pope addressing Congress and Adventists previewing the imposition of future Sunday Laws, we Adventists need to bend over backwards in not attempting to legally impose our doctrinal views on others not of our religious persuasion.

Otherwise we will “not have a leg to stand on” when others impose their religious views on us!

This surely was the ultimate ESSENCE of Religious Liberty, before we got messily involved like Kim Davis, on a same sex marriage mission.


“The kingdom we ultimately serve is not in Rowan County, Kentucky. We are members of a Kingdom that is not of this world. It makes me wonder why we spend so much time trying to dominate this one.”

Excellent question and one that deserves to be reflected upon long and hard…


The specifics of her stance don’t particularly matter. What is at stake here, is freedom of conscience. A new SDA convert would have a similar problem with the Sabbath.


This is not a case of the law interfering with Kim Davis’ ability to practice her faith. That would indeed be a grave matter. This is a case of her faith interfering with her ability to uphold the law as a public official. You have every right to believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old, but you can’t expect to keep your job at the U.S. Geological Survey if you won’t backdate the rocks. And if they fired you, we would not call you persecuted. We would say, "Well, science is clearly not your field."
This is not someone being persecuted for her faith. This is someone being punished for failing to do her job, then being in contempt of court. Calling it persecution is insulting to the people who really are fighting for their right to live out their beliefs — as human beings, not as elected officials with $80,000 annual salaries.
Religious persecution of Christians is real and ongoing. It is what is happening in North Korea, where tens of thousands of Christians live in forced labor camps. It is what is happening in Saudi Arabia, where even building churches is prohibited. But it is not what is happening to Kim Davis.
In China, pastors are imprisoned, churches closed and crosses torn down.
In America, a county clerk is — displaying a baffling lack of understanding when it comes to the law of the land, and presidential candidates are enabling her.
Once more, with feeling: You don’t have to do your job. But equally the taxpayers do not have to pay you. You have the right to your beliefs. You do not have the right to be a county clerk.
If your job offends you, cast it out.


i agree completely that kim’s case has an element of selfishness in it…i think she knew how her constituents felt about the supreme court’s same-sex marriage ruling, and that they’d rally to make her a poster child for their cause…

i think she was just looking ahead at her own re-election chances…


This evening, seven Republican candidates, including Donald Trump, will honor Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. Kim Davis, you may recall, was jailed after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Not only do these Republicans seem oblivious to the Constitutionally-required separation between church and state. They don’t seem to understand or care about the inconsistency between their praise for Kim Davis for putting her religion before her public duty, and their skepticism (or outright rejection of the possibility, in the case of Ben Carson) that an American Muslim could ever put public duty before religion.
Your thoughts?


This case is far less complicated than most would make it.
As some have mentioned the circumstances changed in the middle of her term and made the issue. Notice I dont say the “Law” changed because a Supreme Court decision is not a federal law nor is it a state law.
It can be an impetus to make or change one but that hasn’t happened yet.
The defense of marriage act was the law of the entire country prior to this as was the State of Kentucky who passed their law on the same subject by a 78% majority.
The problem is the Supreme Court didnt strike down the Kentucky law it struck down the federal one since that was the case brought before it. Davis doesnt work for the Feds. She works for the State.
Now some activist will likely say that it doesnt matter what the State law said because the Federal one trumps it.
The problem is that isnt always so.
Where for example is all the feds running into Washington, Oregon, Colorado and even in their hometown Washington DC where recreational marijuana is legal on a State basis?
So we see the principal of all of the above doesnt have anything to do with Law, legal precedent or anything except activist Politicians, Presidents and Supreme Court Justices who have far overreached.
The basis for overturning the law is so poorly constructed that the main reason the 4 dissenting justices voted no was that the same argument could be used to marry any number of people in any combination including some incestious ones.
Be that as it may, she requested an accommodation since she stated that she didnt want her name on the documents. A simple, tiny request easily granted and the Governor has said that accommodation was legal and would be a legitimate and legally recognized document.
Did that fix it? No. Activists have sued again claiming they are being stigmatized because their license does not have her name on it.
Some people wont take yes for an answer.
Really, who is going to know or care who signed your marriage license? Can a single one of you right now honestly remember the name of the person who signed their marriage license?
Arent even the supporters of Gay marriage upset at the malicious and frivolous lawsuit in this case?

For those running to be the Republican nominee for president, there is an astonishing lack in their understanding of the Constitution. The president must adhere to the Constitution and cannot favor or reject anyone on the basis of religion.

Kim Davis was an elected official, not by popular vote. She chose to be elected and uphold the U.S. Constitution. If she will not do this, she should be impeached, just as should any public official taking an oath to abide by the Constitution. If she cannot follow this, she should honorably resign.

The same would go for anyone, but Sabbath observers do have the legal right to try to adjust to employer’s requirements and if that is not possible, she could be fired for that same reason. There is no guarantee that employers must adjust their work schedules if it is impossible to do so without suffering economic loss. (I had an experience years ago with a supervisor who would not accommodate my leaving a few minutes early, and I was forced to quit with no immediate job future as family breadwinner.


“If there is blame to be handed out for the downfall of marriage, it belongs to straight Christians who weakened marriage through sinfulness and infidelity. It is high time for the church in this sense to remove the beam from its own eye on the issue of marriage before we attempt to remove the mote from the LGBT community’s eye, if one even exists on this question.”

Yes. Thank-you for articulating this so clearly.


Law School, first day. 1 minute into the first class. Maybe 30 seconds into it:

“The Law is what Judges say it is.”

Trust me on this. It is indeed Federal Law and the Constitution that Gays must be issued marriage licenses.


Kim Davis is cited in an Advertisement sponsored by a group of SDA believers who apparently broke with the church decades ago. In a full-page NYT spread on the “beast” of Catholicism this Sabbath, the "image to the beast in Protestantism, and their changing of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday in disobedience to God, Kim Davis is mentioned as an example of how God’s people will be persecuted for their convictions in these last days.

While the legal and ethical issues are “lead-heavy,” the paranoid reactionary emotions are not and we must assume some responsibility for them. A shameful ad given the Pope’s visit and warm reception for uplifting the poor and calling for reconciliation and dialogue.


This article is quite correct in noting the use of civil coercion in God’s name as the essential problem with Kim Davis’s claim to be a martyr for religious liberty. This is not about a church official or institution refusing, on the basis of Biblical teachings, to countenance homosexual behavior on the part of church members, employees, or students, or a comparable refusal by the same entities to endorse or perform gay weddings. For the state to forbid such entities to withhold their blessing from gay relationships would indeed be a religious liberty issue. But the Davis case, by contrast, involves the use of civil power—not ecclesiastical power—as a means of denying public services to citizens on the basis of one’s faith.

With this in view, Kim Davis is far more a precursor of those who will persecute God’s people at the time of the end, in the Sabbath/Sunday crisis, than a type of those who will then suffer persecution. The end-time Sunday law, like Kim Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to gays, will involve the use of civil power to regulate choices belonging strictly within the purview of the individual conscience.

Regarding Ms. Davis’ personal history, we do need to be fair in recognizing that even though she has been married four times, three of those marriages took place prior to her conversion as a Christian. Whatever our view of her actions as a public servant, we need to be considerate of the reality that God can transform the most disordered of lives.

One other point. Someone has brought up what Jesus said about oath-taking (Matt. 5:33-37), as if this disallows oaths of the judicial genre. But quite obviously Jesus wasn’t speaking of the judicial oath in the above passage, as He consented to be placed under such an oath at His own trial (Matt. 26:63-64).

In sum, we need to keep these issues carefully analyzed, with issues of personal morality meticulously distinguished from questions involving the line between church and state. The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior is clear and unqualified (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-10; I Tim. 1:10). But so is our Lord’s prohibition of force used in His name (Matt. 26:52), grounded on the principle that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).


The biggest problem for American SDA’s, more so than others, is an inability to see any daylight between the Bible and the U.S. Constitution and between secular US politics and church/individual stances on various issues.


Ms. Davis did right in asking for an accommodation, which an accommodation is possible, but for some reason not being acted upon. Whether the private or public sector people of faith have protections for their faith and practice and can request an accommodation. Often the request isn’t done in the best way, and most often it is looked upon as either nutty or, in this case, discriminatory. But we need to realize that religion is a protected right just like race, gender, age, and in some states, sexual orientation. Why should religion be the step child of protected rights by default? I find that untenable.

I am fully in support of Ms Davis’ right to refuse service and request and accommodation. As it is, how she has conducted herself afterwards has certainly muddied the request and certainly not in her favor.

Religion must not trump all other rights, but neither should it become the automatic step-child. Religion is demonized enough when requests for accommodation are made. It isn’t accurate nor right that it is. And the Court was addressed on this very point our church’s amicus: don’t let disagreement with same sex marriage by people of faith be categorized as animus and look for places by which accommodations can be made. It seems that neither is really acceptable for some.

a citizen has the right to their own beliefs. a sworn agent of the state much act within the outline Of legal duties or resign the position. Yes she was elected by popular vote. But in assuming office she affirmed to carry out the duties of that office if those duties change by legal means, Her honorable choice is to resign and allow the state to elect a servant compatible with the law., Her resignation could still be the basis of political martyrdom. to stand for ones beliefs is honorable. To become a shill for a politalical cause is less so. tom z