I’ve refrained from posting any official commentary on Kim Davis because despite the hubbub, I don’t think it’s legally, philosophically, or theologically that interesting. Legally, she’s an elected official, sworn to uphold the law, and refusing to carry out that function when issued a court order. Since she can’t be fired outright, holding her in contempt is a legitimate alternative if she refuses to resign. Many think that she’s being punished with jail time instead of being fired, but the courts do not have the ability to fire her; she can only be impeached by the legislature. Philosophically, she has the right to resign and protest, exercising both free speech and freedom of religion, but I don’t think she gets to collect a salary from the government she’s protesting and not do her job. From a theological perspective, I don’t see the government as being the issuer or authorizer of sacred covenants, so even if you believe marriage is between a man and a woman, I don’t think you should get more angry about government recognition of same-sex marriage than you should about the government honoring power of attorney contracts between gay people. The covenant and the contract are completely separate, even in heterosexual marriages.
Where this gets interesting for me is when I juxtapose it with the notion of “at will employment”. Many states, including my home state of Georgia, have limited protection of jobs for employees. The employer can fire someone for pretty much any reason, as long as they are not stupid enough to make it obviously about race, gender, age, or other protected classes. The people I know who support Kim Davis, or at least her theological views, also tend to be people who think this is a good thing. They take the view that if you don’t like what’s happening at your job, leave and get another one. Conversely, if you get fired and you have value and cultivated skills, you’ll get another job. (The implication here is that if you aren’t able to get another job, something’s wrong with you because the market is efficient, but that’s a bit beyond the scope of this discussion).
Why, then, are the people who believe this not calling for Kim Davis to step down and get another job? If she doesn’t like what’s happening at her job, she should leave it.
What do you think?
2 thoughts on “Kim Davis and At Will Employment”
My knee jerk reaction is that Kim Davis is a worthless idiot who should be mocked and jailed. As I think things through more there are some ways I find myself not quite consistent. Imagine that instead she was a clerk in a state with some racist laws and she refused to do a racist act even though it was her job. Or the soldier ordered to do an unjust act. The more I reflect on Kim Davis the more I realize that my (and probably many others’) view that she should just do her job does mask the real reason, the fact that I believe that her act is immoral and doesn’t fit with my own values. I have a double standard. I’m okay with officials sometimes ignoring the law and acting their conscience when they are asked to do something I consider wrong but not okay when it is to avoid something I consider right. I am supportive for example of federal officers not prosecuting marijuana users in states where it is (somewhat) legal, and would support a police officer/prosecutor/judge not charging someone with as severe a crime in a 3 strikes state because I believe these laws are draconian and have disparate impact. So net net I think Kim Davis is a worthless idiot who should be mocked and jailed, not because I believe that all public officials should always follow the law against their beliefs but because I believe her beliefs are wrong, hurtful, and stupid. I’m guessing she feels the same way about mine.
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I hear you Neela, and appreciate the introspective perspective as well; we all could use a bit more of that.
Where she erred in my opinion is asserting that she has the right to keep the job. I’m all for her standing for her values; she just can’t hold the job and do it. The correct way to handle it would be quit, protest, and possibly find a way to sue the county for creating an environment where she had no choice to resign for religious reasons. I think the same is true for someone whose values I share; if a person protested enforcing a racist law, I wouldn’t expect them to be able to keep their job AND not follow the law. I think that position is consistent.