Religious Liberty in a Secular Government

Kim Davis.

Some think she is a saint.

Some think she is a bigot.

Could be a little of both; a lot of saints are bigots.

That’s just the nature of the Gospel: God came to save the dredges, the broken, the casted out, the people who need him the most.


It is unsurprising that this is an uncomfortable subject for conservative Evangelicals.

Unsurprising that homosexuals are uncomfortable for conservative Evangelicals to be around.

They are being used to reveal our prejudice and self-righteousness; we claim we “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but is that even possible?

As someone I read recently put it, “shouldn’t we love the sinner because we are one also, and God loves us?”

Our hatred for sin should not be indignation; that is a manifestation of judgment.

Our hatred for sin should be sorrow and brokenness; that is a manifestation of mercy and compassion.

Mercy always triumphs over judgment. (and yes, that is in context)


But that is not the subject of this blog.

What is the subject of this blog is the place of religious liberty while under the employment of the secular government.

Prominent leaders on the Right, like Mike Huckabee, are stating that Ms. Davis was jailed because she is a Christian.

Queue the “phantom menace” persecution narrative.

But this is not true, not at all.

Ms. Davis was put in jail because as an elected public official, she refused to comply with the law.

Even after being given multiple workarounds, Ms. Davis still refused to sign the marriage certificates of homosexual couples.

She does so on the basis of “religious conviction.”


Now, many of you probably think that I am totally against any sort of public conviction concerning scripture and the Gospel.

You are mistaken on this.

There are many verses in scripture where the prophets or apostles defied the will of governments.

Or religious leaders.

Or whatever.

The clear case seems to be that you follow the law unless that law conflicts with God’s law.

But there is a problem applying this to Kim Davis.


First, Kim Davis is an elected official who is supposed to represent all of her constituents.

Second, the government is not forcing her to be gay or to approve of homosexuality; the government is forcing her to perform her duties as a representative of everyone in her county.

Third, was not imprisoned for her Christianity; she was imprisoned for trying to keep her elected position while willfully disobeying the law.

There is nothing that Ms. Davis is being asked to do that directly infringes upon her religious freedom.

But if you participate in leading our government, you have to put that freedom aside in some cases, order to serve everyone.

We live in a pluralist, Enlightenment democracy that was built as platform for all beliefs to co-exist peacefully as one nation.

It was a protest of the religious wars of Europe; the founders had seen the damage wrought on everyone in the name of God.

A secular platform, while not perfect, was seen to be a better option for a democracy than a divine-right monarchy or a theocracy.

So, Ms. Davis as an elected official, has set aside her religious freedom in order to respect the rights of others in our society.


That does not mean she has to agree with our government or our society.

That does not mean that she has to support gay marriage or like giving out the licenses.

But religious toleration (even if it is a defiance of one’s own beliefs) is necessary in matters of public commerce and society.

We do not have to like it, but we live here and that is how the system works.


Christians have defied the government in past; Christians in  Rome refused to say, “Caesar is Lord,” something I think we do every time we pledge allegiance to the flag.

Christians have defied the government when they have allowed injustice to be put on others.

Christians have always defied laws that hurt the public rights of individuals; we believe in the freedom that God gives us to choose to sin or choose to believe.

And as much as it sucks that most the world chooses the former, that is how God wills it to be.

It is not persecution to be told to do your job as elected official representing your entire constituency.

If Ms. Davis feels like she can no longer do her job, all she has to do is resign and find something else to do.

She could continue to hold on to her religious belief and conviction, and she would not be in contempt of her public duty.

That is why I caution young people who want to join the military as a Christian, because you will be asked to do things.

And if you don’t do them, you will be court martialed.

But that is the part of a soldier; you don’t take orders on the battlefield, people die or the wrong people die.

Christians who get into politics have a responsibility to their entire constituency.

The ones that voted for them.

And the ones that did not.

That means that you have religiously informed convictions, but at the end of the day, you have to follow the law.

That’s why there is a separation of church and state.

Without it, each place would be governed by the whims of whatever religion (or no religion) is present.


If we do not protect the rights of all, we are in danger of not having any rights at all.

And there may come a day when the government demands that we affirm something that scripture opposes or that we have to stop speaking in the name of Jesus.

Then we should all be willing to say, “There is only one God, the tri-une God Yahweh who sent us a Savior in the Son Jesus Christ; he is our Lord and we must serve him and be obedient to him.”

Ms. Davis was in jail because she misunderstands the nature of belief and public practice.

She can avoid legal trouble whenever she is ready to act like an elected official or resign.

Until then, if she believes her cause is just, then she accept the consequences; not parade around like some kind of hero.

Conviction comes at a price, that’s why we have to choose very carefully what hill we are willing to die on.

There is a ton of real persecution going on around the world; believers being jailed, tortured, and killed because they say the name of “Jesus” in the wrong way.

We have a long way to go before we catch up to that.

Ms. Davis is not a martyr; she needs to understand the Gospel and the truth is not something you can force or legislate people to follow.


Grace and Peace