The opposition expressed by Dr. Ben Carson to a Muslim serving as President places the situation of Kim Davis in context. Davis is the County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because such marriages are inconsistent with her religious beliefs as an Apostolic Christian. She defied a federal court order to issue the licenses stating that she was acting “under God’s authority.”
Carson’s statements reflect the Islamophobic fear that it is the collective goal of Muslims to impose sharia law in countries within which they reside, meaning that the tenets of Islam governing the conduct of citizens would supersede the provisions of civil law. In other words, Islamophobes fear that a Muslim would do exactly what Kim Davis has done: Refuse to perform a duty imposed upon her by civil law because it conflicts, in her opinion, with the requirements of religious “law” as set forth in the Bible.
A universal requirement for elected and appointed officials of the federal, state and local governments is that they take an oath of office committing them to obey the Constitution of the United States. The oath underpins the rule of law in this country, including the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution that were described by Thomas Jefferson as creating “the wall of separation between Church & State.” That wall is what has allowed Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, members of other religions and non-believers to live in harmony and to make the United States the nation it is today.
I grew up in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. Old Order Amish choose, as a matter of their particular variation of the Christian faith, not to hold civil office. The principled choice available to Davis would have been to resign her office if she believed that its duties conflicted with her religious beliefs. Had she done so would have been entitled to the same respect afforded to others such as the Amish who make sacrifices in the course of adhering to their religious values.
On the other hand, her decision to violate her oath and the support that she has received for doing so from current and former elected officials, such as Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas should sent a chill up and down the spines of all Americans. The proposition that a government official can deprive a person of a legal right because that right conflicts with the personal belief of the government official is a direct threat to the rule of law.
September 22, 2015