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This Week in God, 12.26.15

Kentucky's new Republican governor intervened this week to "help" anti-gay clerk Kin Davis. But if you think Davis' controversy is over, think again.
Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens as a couple speaks with her about getting a marriage license at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty)
Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens as a couple speaks with her about getting a marriage license at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky.
First up from the God Machine this week is a fresh look at one of the more notable religio-political figures of the year.
Remember Kim Davis? The Kentucky clerk generated national headlines when, motivated by her opposition to marriage equality, she refused to honor federal court rulings. Charged with contempt, Davis ended up in jail for several days and quickly became a Republican cause celebre.
Three months later, couples in Kentucky continue to enjoy equal marriage rights -- in Rowan County and elsewhere -- but the Bluegrass State has a new Republican governor who ran on a platform of "helping" Davis and far-right clerks like her. This week, as NBC News reported, a new policy was announced.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin issued an executive order Tuesday that will no longer require a county clerk's name to appear on marriage license forms. [...] In a news release, Bevin said he has ordered new marriage license forms to be created to ensure that "sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored."

As a practical matter, the shift doesn't open the door to outright discrimination, at least not entirely -- same-sex couples will still be able to get marriage licenses, just as they can now -- but it does create a new licensing process. As the Lexington Herald Leader reported, the new license "lists at the top of the form only the Commonwealth of Kentucky, not the county or the county clerk. There is a line at the bottom where an 'issuing official' may sign, but one of Davis' lawyers on Tuesday said that could be -- as Davis has arranged it in Rowan County -- a willing deputy clerk who signs only as a notary public."
Or put another way, the new GOP governor is creating a way for Davis and people like her to keep their jobs, even while refusing to do the parts of their job they find religiously objectionable.
So, is that the end of the mess? Not exactly. The Herald Leader added, "[C]ritics on Tuesday said state law establishes the contents of Kentucky marriage licenses, including an authorization statement and a signature by the county clerk, and a governor cannot change state law through an executive order. If the General Assembly wants to rewrite the law when it meets this winter, it can, but the language on marriage licenses otherwise cannot be altered, they said."
Since Bevin overlooked these apparent limits and acted anyway, expect another round of -- you guessed it -- litigation.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* An incredible story out of Kenya: "Their M.O. is a tried and terrifying one: Launch a raid, single out Christians, and then spray them with bullets. But when Al-Shabaab militants ambushed a bus Monday, things didn't go according to plan. A group of Kenyan Muslims shielded the Christian passengers and told the attackers they were prepared to die together. The Muslim passengers, who were mostly women, told the Islamic militants to kill them all or leave them alone, witnesses said."
* If American conservatives are interested in seeing what a real "war on Christmas" looks like, as opposed to the made-up version that sometimes gets discussed in the U.S., they should consider recent developments in China.
* Texas: "Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday ordered that a nativity scene showing the nation's founding fathers kneeling over a manger that held the Bill of Rights instead of baby Jesus be removed from the state Capitol, a local Fox affiliate reported."
* A related story out of Mississippi: "The American Humanist Association will file a lawsuit against Harrison County over its refusal to remove a Nativity scene from inside a county courthouse, the group announced Tuesday" (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).