This week, NC Family president John Rustin talks with Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, about his client, Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, who is under fire for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her deeply held religious beliefs.
INTRODUCTION: Mat Staver is chairman and founder of the Liberty Counsel, which is a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization, and he is with us today to talk about Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who has been under fire for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky.
As many of our listeners know, Kim Davis spent six days in jail for refusing to violate her Biblically-based convictions about marriage, and she recently returned to her job after being released. Liberty Counsel is representing Ms. Davis in her ongoing legal case, and we will be talking with Mat about the significance of Kim Davis’ stance, and why it matters so much to the debate over religious liberty in our nation.
JOHN RUSTIN: Mat, tell us a little bit about Kim Davis if you would. She’s really been lambasted by the media, and has been portrayed in a very negative light. I guess this is not unexpected, but tell us about the real Kim Davis, who I am sure you have gotten to know quite well, and how this whole trial for her began?
Mat Staver: The ACLU plaintiffs at one time tried to discredit her and say she’s a hypocrite because she had multiple divorces, and how could she not want to give out marriage licenses to same-sex couples, who want to be together. The fact of the matter is, Kim Davis says [up until] four and a half year ago, she played in the devil’s playground, and she was not a saved person. But four and a half years ago all that changed, when her Godly mother-in-law died on a Sunday morning, and her dying wish was, “Kim, get your life together, go to church, try church.” So, that evening, she went to a church where for the first time she heard about a God who loved her, and gave Himself for her, and died for her sins, and freely forgives her and gives her the grace of forgiveness, and buries her sins in the depths of the ocean. And Kim Davis broke down and wept, and was a broken woman, and from that moment, she gave her life to Jesus, and is in love with Jesus, from that time on. And that really is what forms the basis of Kim Davis’ convictions. She has been a transformed women by the grace of Jesus Christ, her sins have been forgiven, and she will not dishonor Him by affixing her name and authority on a marriage license, which is not just a piece of paper but is issued under the name and authority of Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Court, that authorizes a marriage that is contrary to God’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. So, Kim Davis has worked in the Clerk’s office [as a deputy clerk] for 27 years. Her mother was the elected Clerk in the same county for 37 years before, and she retired. In 2014, Kim ran for the office, and she became the Clerk of Rowan County. And earlier in the year, she tried to ward off this conflict with religious freedom, if the Supreme Court would ultimately go the wrong way, as it did on June 26. And after that June 26th ruling came out, the following week, the ACLU had plaintiffs that went to her office to get a marriage license, and she would not issue the license because of her Biblical beliefs. And she got sued, and the long story basically is over a period of several weeks, the case rapidly advanced, and she ended up in court, and then the judge put her in jail for six days, where she spent time in jail because of her faith.
JOHN RUSTIN: What an incredible testimony and what a wonderful example for all of us of really standing on your convictions, and how important it is to do that! As this case has transpired, what specific accommodations did Kim Davis ask for from the judge, and even the governor of Kentucky that so far have been denied?
MAT STAVER: She’s asked for the same accommodations to the Governor, the legislature, and the court, and there’s multiple different options, but one of accommodations she is asking for—and she’s also joined by the Clerk’s Association that covers all of the Clerks of Kentucky in asking for this—is to remove the Clerk’s name in their authority title from the certificate, to have them issued under the Commonwealth of Kentucky. They can process it like they do an automobile notice or tax, a lien or judgment of a court. It’s not under the authority of the Clerk; they’re just a filing person. The court has the authority for the judgment. Don’t force them to put their name and their authority to authorize something that collides with their religious beliefs. That’s the request, and up till now no one has responded to that. Now, what happened was after she went to jail for six days, the judge threw her in jail, and he intimidated the other deputy Clerks, and said “If you don’t issue these licenses, I’ll throw you in jail,” and so while she was in jail, the other deputy clerks, at least one of them, issued a license or two. Then, she returned to work on a Monday after spending six days in jail. And then what she did was she took the licenses, and she removed her name from it, and she removed her authority, and she said that they’re issued under a federal court order. And so now her name is not on it, her title is not on it, and it’s issued pursuant to a federal court order. And at this point in time I think that the legislature, when they come back in session in January, will certainly address this and give religious accommodations. And so, that’s where we stand right now, and so far her actions have not been challenged, and that’s the direction that she’s going—not affixing her name or her title on these certificates.
JOHN RUSTIN: I think that’s a distinction that our listeners need to understand… Tell us about Kim’s time in jail, and why she was eventually released? What changed that allowed for her to be released?
MAT STAVER: The first time I went to go visit her was right after the day she was put in jail that evening. And I went in there, Kim Davis was in an orange jumpsuit, and she actually leads a women’s Bible study in her home county on Monday nights, so she’s always been on the other side of the equation, now she’s a prisoner. And we hugged each other, shed a few tears, and the first words out of her mouth was, “All is well.” I went in there to encourage her, and she ended up encouraging me. And that’s just the kind of woman that this is. It reminded me of the apostle Paul when he’s writing from a jail in the book of Philippians, he says “I am content in no matter what circumstance I find myself,” and he’s writing this from a jail. And this was Kim Davis, she was content, she was studying her Bible, she still had the joy of the Lord, [even though] her surroundings were the stark context of a jail. Nothing changed, what happened was we were there for a rally that was being put together by Mike Huckabee, and this was Tuesday after Labor Day, and just before that rally occurred, the judge issued an order without really any notice to anyone that he was releasing her on the condition that she not interfere with the deputy clerks issuing the licenses that apparently happened the several days before, under the threat of the jail to these deputy clerks. So, nothing really changed [in terms of why he released her].
JOHN RUSTIN: In your opinion, how important is Kim Davis’ case and all of the attention it has brought upon this issue? And how important is this case to the future of religious liberty in our nation?
MAT STAVER: It’s critical, and as I answer that, let me address this one question that people say, “Well, she’s an elected clerk of the of Rowan County, she should just do her job or resign.” Listen to the implications of that. If you’re a Christian, and you believe in marriage as the union of a man and a woman—not just because they passed it by 75 percent, not just because it’s been the law of Kentucky or America or throughout millennia of human history—but if you believe in that because it’s the natural created order, and it’s coming from the lips of Jesus, then you should just not run for office, and you should resign if you’re in office. And not only if you’re an elected official, but if you’re an employee, you ought to just get out of the government employment altogether. But by the way, don’t stop there because if you’re a baker or if you’re a florist, or if you’re a wedding photographer, and now pretty soon if you’re in a church or a Christian college, you better just shut down or compromise your values—that’s the implications of it. So, Kim Davis would not step down, and I think that’s one message we need to have. Man your post, stand your guard, don’t step down. If you do, what happens is Christians will be cleansed from the marketplace, and it’s not just in these public professions of clerks. It’s going to be Christian schools and Christian colleges, and pastors and churches—this is going to be a broad collision with religious freedom. So, Kim Davis by far is not the first one to have this collision, she certainly will not be the last one, and she is an example of what is coming, and what is here. Everyone to a greater or lesser extent will to have to address this issue, you are going to have to make a decision.
JOHN RUSTIN: I do agree that by virtue of events like this and by the actions of the United States Supreme Court and others, we are all going to be confronted with this issue, and we need to give some serious thought to how we respond.
In North Carolina, as you may be aware, a religious liberty law was passed earlier this year, and the North Carolina Family Policy Council worked on the bill, and it is meant to protect public servants like Kim Davis. In fact, that law, Senate Bill 2, allows certain public officials in North Carolina—namely magistrates and assistant and deputy registers of deeds—to recuse themselves from participation in civil marriages “based upon a sincerely held religious objection.” Do you think if there was a similar law in place in Kentucky that it might have prevented the difficult choice and circumstances that Kim Davis has faced between her job and her religious convictions?
MAT STAVER: Absolutely, and in fact in North Carolina we filed suit on behalf of some magistrate judges to protect religious freedom. And the policy council and others and the legislature got together, and they overwhelmingly passed this in the House and Senate, the governor vetoed it, as you know, and that veto was overridden. So that is the law in North Carolina. That’s an example that the rest of the states can follow and should follow.
JOHN RUSTIN: I couldn’t agree more. Kim Davis has really been vilified by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) activists and the political Left in general. She’s been called a “bigot” and much worse. What does this case tell us about the willingness of LGBT community to practice true “tolerance” when it comes to religious beliefs that don’t line up with their liberal definition of marriage?
MAT STAVER: Let me address Kim in this broader agenda here because it’s very concerning, and everyone needs to know about this. Kim Davis loves Jesus, and therefore she loves people. She would take water out to some of the people that protested against her. She loves everyone, and she doesn’t have an ill will toward anyone, and she’s always said this has never been a gay and lesbian issue for her, but it’s an issue of obedience, and of following God in this issue of marriage. But Kim was vilified as a hater, [and] we were vilified as a hate group and organization. [She’s received] death threats—her husband picked up the phone, they had to change their phone number after this. I mean over and over, whether it’s emails or phone calls, constant death threats. And so this intolerance is something that’s always been there. They use the word tolerance, but it’s never been about tolerance, and it’s not about just you being accepting or quiet, it’s about you participating and promoting and celebrating a sexual relationship that’s contrary to God’s design for His created order. And if you do not, then you’ll be vilified, you’ll be demonized, you’ll be threatened, and you’ll be pushed out of your business, and you’ll be pushed into oblivion. This is the intolerance of this agenda that we see manifested in the Kim Davis case, but it’s something that is everywhere on this particular issue. So, be prepared that not only do you have to make a decision, but when you stand for the Lord on this issue, be prepared, and make sure that your prayer life and your prayer intercessors are surrounding you because you will be targeted in a significant way.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s a great admonition for our listeners. We unfortunately are close to being out of time for this week, but what are the most important things that our listeners can do to help support folks like Kim Davis and others who are really standing across our nation for religious liberty?
MAT STAVER: The Kim Davis case is certainly not over, and we have other cases like it as well, although her case is just the most visible. So pray for Kim Davis and her family, pray that her case and her family will also be protected, but also that this will raise the conscience of people around the country, and I think it’s even doing it around the world, to really stand up. Pray that the church does rise up and reflect the Jesus Christ and understands the times in which we live. You can also go to the Liberty Council website, at www.LC.org, for more information about the Liberty Council, and if you know of any other conflicts or issues like this, then please get us involved and let us know so we can be on the ground and help people like Kim Davis.
JOHN RUSTIN: Excellent. Well, Mat Staver thank you so much for joining us today on Family Policy Matters and for your great work defending religious liberty across our nation, we’re extremely grateful for you and your efforts.
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