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Damon Linker is right to say that the person now known as Kentucky Clerk should resign if she can’t fulfill the law the terms of her job require her to fulfill.

Mollie Hemingway is right to say that the attacks on Kentucky Clerk are utterly malicious and utterly mendacious.

There are really two significant stories here: one concerns Christians who think that they ought to be able to dissent from government and get paid by it at the same time; the other concerns secular liberals whose one principle in relation to the repugnant cultural other is “Any stick to beat a dog.”

UPDATE: I tried to comment on Noah’s response to this post, but WordPress didn’t let me. Or I don’t think it let me. Anyway two things: first, did I really sound “outraged”? I didn’t feel outraged. Perhaps I need to work on tone management.

Second, about the question of “significance:” if Kim Davis is a unique figure, then Noah is right, the story isn’t significant. But she may not be a unique figure. There seem to be a number of conservative Christians in America with a complex (possibly contradictory) attitude towards this country: on the one hand, a default patriotism and law-and-order mentality, often rooted in the belief that America is a “Christian nation,” that makes them comfortable with holding government jobs;  and on the other hand, a belief that like the Apostles they should “obey God rather than man” and therefore should always be ready to dissent from the powers that be. This leads to someone like Kim Davis thinking that it’s possible for her to swear to uphold the law — but to refrain from upholding the law when it’s one her conscience disagrees with. If a large number of Americans, even in just a few states, feel the same way, then that will have consequences for elections, for laws, for the social fabric. And such consequences would be significant. Enough people have spoken out in support of Kim Davis to make me think that it’s not a trivial story.

about the author

Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the author most recently of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography.

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