Mike Huckabee appeared on “Morning Joe” this morning and tried to give a legal defense of Kim Davis’s refusal to sign marriage licenses in Kentucky. If you have not seen it yet, I encourage you to watch it. Some observations about this:
1. Huckabee’s defense of Davis is different from the one Davis’s lawyers offered in court. Davis’s lawyers contend that her first amendment right to religious freedom ought to be accommodated. They did not argue that the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell does not have the force of law. Davis’s lawyer explained her predicament yesterday in terms of religious liberty:
“Today, for the first time in history, an American citizen has been incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the union of one man and one woman… And she’s been ordered to stay there until she’s willing to change her mind, until she’s willing to change her conscience about what belief is.”
So Davis’s legal team has been making a religious liberty claim. Yet Huckabee argues here that the Supreme Court’s decision does not have the force of law. I agree with Huckabee that Obergefell is judicial tyranny, but his defense of Davis seems really strange. I’m no lawyer, but it’s hard to imagine any judge of any ideological persuasion buying this line.
2. Notice the looks on the faces of Joe, Mika, and the other hosts. Their tortured expressions reveal their nonplussed disbelief at Huckabee’s legal argument. They aren’t buying it. And what we witness in their response is likely what other Americans will feel as well.
3. Because Huckabee’s argument isn’t really based on religious liberty, I do not think that it is likely to persuade fair-minded Americans who might otherwise be open to a religious liberty claim in these kinds of cases. I’m concerned that this appearance isn’t really helping us to move the ball down the field—at least not in the direction that we want it to go. I am thankful that Huckabee wishes to defend Davis and do the right thing, but I’m skeptical whether this line will help the cause of religious liberty. It seems more likely to sow confusion and contempt toward our first freedom.
4. My view is that Christians in this kind of situation should not defy the law unless they have no other recourse. I think this is the apostolic standard (Acts 5:29; Rom. 13:1-7). Nevertheless, this case isn’t an easy one, and I think people of good conscience can differ whether Kim Davis should have resigned instead of defying the judge’s order. No matter your view on this question, I think it is an unnecessary and draconian overreach to put Kim Davis in jail for this. Even if you think her conscience is misguided (as the “Morning Joe” hosts obviously do), do you really think she should go to jail when other lesser measures were available to the judge? I don’t, and that is why I still believe her incarceration is unconscionable. I am disappointed that no one on the “Morning Joe” set seemed to be troubled at all that she was sent to jail for following her conscience.