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Kim Davis Case A Religious Liberty Loser

Poll says Kentucky clerk's defiance a shipwreck for religious liberty cause

On TAC today, Pat Buchanan says the Kim Davis case represents rebellion brewing in the heartland. Excerpts:

Some conservatives say that Kim Davis as a public official has to carry out court orders, even those she believes to be immoral, or quit. Yet the course she took has undeniably advanced her cause in our unending culture war.

For she rallied and inspired many with her witness, defiance, and willingness to go to jail. She set an example of nonviolent resistance. She treated same-sex marriage not as some great social leap forward, but as a moral abomination. Many among the silent majority were surely nodding in approval.

She has also exposed the breadth and depth of the division in the country between an older Christian America and new Secular America.


Indeed, from the raw politics of the Summer of Trump, it seems clear that Middle America has come to believe it has been had, and that the state that rules the nation is hostile to the country they love, and needs to be resisted and defied.

This is wishful thinking on Buchanan’s part. Take a look at the YouGov poll results on the Davis affair, taken September 4-7. They’re fascinating. The main takeaways:

      • 62 percent of those polled support jailing people for contempt of court; only 15 percent said they opposed it
      • Of Republicans polled, 64 percent said they supported jailing people for contempt of court
      • Strong majorities in every demographic category (except for African-Americans) supported jailing people for contempt of court The region where support for jailing them was strongest? The South, Kim Davis’s home region
      • An overall majority of people (53 percent) believe religious liberty is under threat in America. Four out of five Republicans believe that, and 55 percent of Independents do. The only demographics that didn’t believe that? Democrats, those making over $100K per year, and those living in the Midwest (though in the Midwestern case, it was a plurality).
      • A slight overall majority (52 percent) believes that elected officials should not be given a religious exemption from doing their job, though the numbers break down along partisan and regional lines. Republicans alone among the political orientations are divided equally.
      • Majorities in all regions except the South believe elected officials should be required do their jobs regardless of their conscience — and in the South, the “do your job” faction polled a 47 percent plurality, versus 38 percent of Southerners who believe in the conscience deferment, and 16 percent who aren’t sure.
      • An overall majority said Kim Davis, in particular, ought to have gone to jail for contempt of court. Interestingly, Republicans, who answered generically that someone in Davis’s position should go to jail, were evenly split when Davis’s name came up.
      • Big majorities across every demographic category say that Kim Davis ought to resign as a matter of principle. It’s not even close. Only 22 percent of people say she should keep her job and remain defiant

Look at all the details here.

HuffPo’s summary report, with helpful graphics, is here.

To summarize: most Americans believe religious liberty is at risk in America today, but they do not believe that as an elected official, Kim Davis has a plausible religious liberty claim in this case. They believe the judge was right to send her to jail, and believe that she ought to resign.

There is no Buchananite “silent majority.” Buchanan says that Davis “undeniably advanced her cause” in the culture war, and I can agree with that, as long as the emphasis is on the word “her.” She has also advanced Mike Huckabee’s bid to become the Jesse Jackson of white conservative Evangelicals. But she has in no way advanced the cause of protecting religious liberty — a cause that for now, according to the poll results, remains popular. 

Think of it: most people in this country are (rightly) worried about the future of religious liberty. But if “religious liberty” comes to mean in the public’s mind “the right of elected officials to refuse to obey the law when their conscience tells them not to,” we Christians are going to lose down the road, and we are going to lose big.

Like I said before, Kim Davis is a shipwreck for religious liberty.



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