First up from the God Machine this week is a lingering question about the religio-political story that's captured much of the nation's attention: the bizarre actions of Kim Davis, the Clerk of Courts in Rowan County, Kentucky.
As you've probably heard, Davis is paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses, but she refuses to provide licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing “God’s authority.” Davis and her lawyers have filed several appeals, all of which lost. This week, after brazenly defying court orders, Davis found herself in jail for contempt of court.
But all week, one thing about this story has bugged me: doesn't Davis have a lawyer? Someone to represent her legal interests? What kind of counsel would go along with Davis' scheme to ignore her oath, the law, a Supreme Court ruling, and court orders?
A report from Right Wing Watch answers this question nicely.
Yesterday, Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, appeared on “Crosstalk” to defend Davis, claiming that she is simply trying to do her job, or at least, her job as she sees it. He even likened her to a Jewish person living under Nazi rule.
That's not a joke, by the way. Staver argued this week, "[W]hat happened in Nazi Germany, what happened there first, they removed the Jews from government public employment, then they stopped patronizing them in their private businesses, then they continued to stigmatize them, then they were the ‘problems,’ then they killed them." He added, "The fact of the matter is, she has a right to this employment and you don’t lose your constitutional liberties just because you are employed by the government.”
A day later, Staver repeated the Nazi analogy: "Back in the 1930s, it began with the Jews, where they were evicted from public employment, then boycotted in their private employment, then stigmatized and that led to the gas chambers. This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.”
Staver's name is probably unfamiliar to much of the American mainstream, but for those who follow the religious right movement closely, he's a familiar figure -- best known for pushing an odd, anti-gay worldview. His group, Liberty Counsel, was created by the late right-wing televangelist Jerry Falwell.
Davis, in other words, appears to be making some poor choices, based in part on dubious legal guidance. Indeed, some in Kentucky's legal community believe Staver and his partners "may have violated their duty to tell her she had no case."
Also from the God Machine this week:
* This was inevitable: "What atheists, vegans, Hindus and Satanic cultists have in common lately is an eye for the statehouse grounds of Arkansas. The groups have separately proposed public displays of their own spiritual values in Little Rock now that the state government has approved a Ten Commandments memorial for the Capitol grounds."
* Apparently, women are supposed to approach this situation with a "contrite heart": "Pope Francis will allow Roman Catholic priests to absolve women who have had abortions if they seek forgiveness during the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, the Vatican announced Tuesday."
* A costly lawsuit just waiting to happen: "A Georgia school district is investigating after video of a mass baptism was posted on YouTube. The video, posted by First Baptist Villa Rica, was shot on school grounds just before football practice."
* Oh my: "A Florida gun manufacturer is facing criticism for creating an assault rifle with a Bible verse on it that's meant to stop 'Muslim terrorists' from using it. Images of the AR-15 Crusader rifle posted online by Spike's Tactical in Apopka show an emblem of a cross inside a shield similar to those used by the Knights Templar during the Crusades on one side."