Editor’s Note: A guest post from constitutional attorney and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City)…
While so many Americans were stunned yesterday to see Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis hauled to jail simply for refusing to compromise her deeply held religious beliefs, many observers missed the most frightening aspect of the tragedy. In an alarming display of hubris, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning proclaimed to Davis in open court:
“The idea of natural law superceding [sic] this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed.”
Apparently, this judge was absent on that day in his high school Civics class when it was explained that “in the Year of our Lord, 1776,” one the most influential documents in all human history, The Declaration of Independence, began with these famous lines:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the LAWS OF NATURE AND OF NATURE’S GOD entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
In other words, the idea that the Natural Law (both the general revelation we find in God’s creation and the special revelation we find in Scripture) is superior to any man-made authority is the CENTRAL IDEA–and seminal founding principle–of our constitutional republic.
In America, we appeal and owe our allegiance to a HIGHER AUTHORITY than any man–be he a tyrant, a king, a judge, or any agent of the state. Not only does the Natural Law supersede the judge’s personal opinions, the very authority of the court itself is based upon the existence of that Law, and our Sovereign Creator who established all the underlying, universal rules.
So, yes, Judge Bunning. The Laws of God are indeed higher than your meager authority, and the “dangerous precedent” is the one that YOU just set.
County Clerk Kim Davis should be immediately released from federal custody. The Bill of Rights lists the free exercise of religion as our first freedom, and exercising that basic liberty must never be regarded as a crime.
It’s important to note that Judge Bunning had other available options. In court documents filed Wednesday, the attorneys for Mrs. Davis presented at least three alternative outcomes to avoid sending her to prison for contempt. The court could have ordered instead that:
- other officials may issue marriage licenses in the county;
- marriage licenses could be distributed at the state level; and/or
- the existing forms could be modified to remove Davis’ name.
The judge chose none of those logical alternatives, but instead dropped the hammer–as he boldly proclaimed his court’s authority transcends that of God Himself.
As Ryan T. Anderson wrote a few days ago at The Daily Signal, there are many ways to avoid this crisis, and maintain the “reasonable accommodation” for people of sincere religious faith that has always been a hallmark of our federal and state laws.
North Carolina, for example, passed a law this year that allows magistrates and clerks a quiet, respectful procedure to recuse themselves from from facilitating same-sex marriages without facing a penalty. As Anderson says, this is an example of public policy that “can create a win-win situation: where all eligible couples can receive a license and where as many employees as possible can be accommodated.”
Another good example would have been the statute I tried to get passed in Louisiana this past spring. If enacted, HB 707 would have prevented draconian state action against anyone for merely standing by their sincere religious beliefs about marriage. But it would also have allowed for the law (however it changes) to go forward, and services to be provided, and everyone to peaceably co-exist. That would be a real “win-win” for all citizens–and our Constitution. We’ll bring similar legislation back next year, because EVERY state will have to do so now.
In the meantime, as all this is sorted out in the courts, more people need to heed the clarion call. This is not a drill, and it’s time to wake up the neighbors. Our God-given, constitutional rights are in serious jeopardy–right now. When religious freedom is taken from a people, their political freedom soon follows. Always remember that. The time to stand and fight for liberty is upon us.