The Oath of Office: What Kim Davis Doesn’t Get

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Kim Davis, the Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky remains in jail. She has supporters around the country, one of whom I had to ban from commenting on my site. I didn’t want to do it but after fair warning he gave me little choice. The man was taking advantage of my graciousness to hijack the comments section to preach at me and treat me and other commentators with a contempt that the Pharisee’s would have admired. When I informed him of this he played the aggrieved persecuted Christian victim of vile liberal oppression routine; but I digress…

Lost to many of Mrs. Davis’ supporters, including a number of presidential candidates, some who are sitting United States Senators, is the sacred importance of oath of office. All who serve in public office swear an oath to uphold the law taking office, even laws that we may not like. These oaths, be they local, state or federal all prescribe the conduct and duty of the oath taker. People who take these oaths often swear before God that they will faithfully uphold the laws of the land.

Kim Davis swore an oath, actually two of them and she is in violation of both of them. This is the oath that she took less than nine months ago when she took office as the Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, it is prescribed by law in the State of Kentucky and applies to all who hold that office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of ——————— according to law; and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”

The Kentucky legislature also stipulated in 1978:

Every clerk and deputy, in addition to the oath prescribed by Section 228 of the Constitution, shall, before entering on the duties of his office, take the following oath in presence of the Circuit Court: “I, ….., do swear that I will well and truly discharge the duties of the office of ………….. County Circuit Court clerk, according to the best of my skill and judgment, making the due entries and records of all orders, judgments, decrees, opinions and proceedings of the court, and carefully filing and preserving in my office all books and papers which come to my possession by virtue of my office; and that I will not knowingly or willingly commit any malfeasance of office, and will faithfully execute the duties of my office without favor, affection or partiality, so help me God.” The fact that the oath has been administered shall be entered on the record of the Circuit Court.

Effective: January 2, 1978 History: Created 1976 (1st Extra. Sess.) Ky. Acts ch. 21, sec. 2, effective January 2, 1978. 

I am no stranger to taking an oath of office, and as a Navy Chaplain also signing a document binding me to support people of all religions and their religious liberty. The first oath I took was an oath of enlistment in the California Army National Guard. I took that oath 34 years ago on August 25th 1981. It stated:

I, ________ do solemnly that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan) and the Governor of California (Jerry Brown)  and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.

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Re-taking the oath of office in 2006 on being promoted to Lieutenant Commander

That was the beginning. On June 19th 1983 I took an oath as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Army. This is an oath that I renewed with every promotion, and every new appointment in the different components of the military in which I have served; the Army, the Texas and Virginia Army National Guard, and finally the United States Navy. That oath states:

I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

I and all other military chaplains also sign a letter when appointed in which each of us agree to serve in a pluralistic environment and to treat each person with dignity, respect, and compassion, irrespective of differences in religious beliefs. For Chaplains that is kind of like the Star Fleet’s Prime Directive.

I have been in the military officer for 34 years, an officer for 32 years and a chaplain for 23 of those years. In that time I have served different Christian denominations, two of which were very conservative, but even so recognized the need to care for all in our charge. I have done my best to care for my soldiers, sailors and marines for all of those years regardless of their beliefs, which span the spectrum of America.

If I cannot in good conscience do something, or if I cannot meet their particular religious need because they need a specific person of their faith group to conduct that rite, sacrament or other ritual, it is my duty, my obligation, to help them find the right person. Likewise, if they come to me seeking counsel or an administrative matter that the service dictates that they see me for, I cannot and will not turn them away. Sadly, I have had to take care of some service members’ non-religious administrative needs that the service required the chaplain to do, because their chaplains refused them based on their chaplain not approving of their faith, or lifestyle. In this case, these service members had me to go to and did not have to seek a court order, like the people in Rowan County Kentucky who were refused by Kim Davis.

This is what so many of Mrs. Davis’ supporters do not understand. Public office is not a private business nor is it a religious office or church. Likewise, all Federal and State appointed chaplains are officers of the state who happen to be religious ministry professionals whose training, and endorsement by their religious bodies is to serve in secular institutions and to protect the liberty of those they serve.

Likewise, judges, clerks, officers of the military, or police all take oaths to serve. Supreme Court Justice Antonin “Big Tony” Scalia said in regard to judges:

“[I]n my view the choice for the judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted, constitutional laws and sabotaging death penalty cases. He has, after all, taken an oath to apply the laws and has been given no power to supplant them with rules of his own.”

President John F. Kennedy who faced severe criticism from Protestants because of his Catholic faith told the Houston Ministerial Association:

“I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views — in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. 

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.”

That is the true test of a public official in a pluralistic country. Sadly, like Mrs. Davis, some of her biggest name supporters do not understand that, and truly that is dangerous. Like all public officials, elected, appointed, or commissioned, Mrs. Davis took an oath of office to the state, not her church. If, less than nine months ago, she took those oaths knowing that she would break them then she lied. In doing so lied by swearing with her hand on the Bible and in the name of God.

Please do not preach to me about her relgious rights, if she is willing to lie with her hand on the Bible in the name of God, then she is not worthy of the office.

Have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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11 Comments

Filed under civil rights, ethics, faith, History, laws and legislation, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion

11 responses to “The Oath of Office: What Kim Davis Doesn’t Get

  1. Jim

    Perhaps the very idea of America is being hijacked by a vocal minority to create a new America not visualized by the vast silent majority across this country. We have a new America that wants to destroy the heroic but imperfect America. Maybe we should drag George Washington down for owning slaves; maybe we should lock this woman up forever for not following a policy that the government court created. In the America I grew up in the idea of marriage being between a man and a woman was pretty solid.

    This didn’t work out to good for the Romans and it probably won’t work out for us; she just didn’t get the memo from you.

    • padresteve

      Jim

      Thank you as always for your comments. I didn’t write this with you in mind but am pleased that you took the time to read and respond. We still need to go have some beers together.

      As far as this goes, at least you are consistent and invoke the same arguments and reasoning as those who opposed the abolition of slavery, except that minority today is not blacks and abolitionists who are vocal minority, but Gays.

      In responding I am reminded of those salient words of the Declaration, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”

      Speaking of George Washington emancipated his slaves upon his death and set conditions that none of his descendants could reclaim them. You also should read his comments about the institution of slavery before the Constitutional convention. He knew it was dividing the country and was doomed. But I digress…

      But I wonder how extending liberty to Gays harms the country. Didn’t the founders themselves desire to form a more perfect Union? Did not Jefferson in response to those who wanted to establish a state church said “but it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god, it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg…” Just how I wonder it hurts Christian heterosexuals for gays to be allowed to marry, other than the fact it offends their religious views, it does them no harm.

      But in other countries religion is used against Christians in general, and in places like Russia the state persecutes Evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians along with gays in the name of the Orthodox Church. Religion makes strange bedfellows. But that is what Mrs. Davis is doing, using her religious beliefs to deny the rights of others, in her county not just gays but heterosexuals too because she wanted to be fair. In doing so she broke the oath that she took to uphold the law. That is why she is jail.

      Actually the argument that homosexuality was a cause of the Roman Empire was debunked in the 1700s. The great English Historian Edward Gibbon ascribed the fall of Rome on the Christian Church. Don’t suppose you have read his 6 volume work on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

      I think I have answered everything in your response, and I do appreciate your comments, as you do not simply quote selected scriptures out of context like the man I banned.

      You my friend are always welcome here. Have a wonderful holiday. As a surveyor I know you work hard. Blessings

      Steve+

    • padresteve

      Jim,

      One last thing. Something that you will probably agree with; at least the officers who left Federal service to serve the Confederacy at least had the honor and integrity to resign. I admire the integrity of Longstreet who while he never regretted his decision or service also had the honor to reconcile and re-enter the service of the government and political party that he rebelled against. While John Mosby and Little Billy Mahone were not serving officers, and both fought valiantly for the Confederacy, both also reconciled. Maybe there is hope yet for Mrs. Davis. Again, have a great holiday.

  2. Marty

    The people Jesus dealt with were considered sinners and low-lifes by the Religious Right of that time. Certainly the Samaritans were godless by the Jews’ standards. Yet, Jesus treated them with compassion. I think Kim Davis and her supporters are definitely failing the WWJD test.

  3. Padre,

    I think you finally found the end of your argument and a reason to recuse yourself from continuing this ongoing theme. Do you really think an oath means anything, any longer. Don’t you know that taking an oath is so archaic and gone the way of the dinosaur. Many on both sides of the political spectrum believe that the government has been lying to the public since 1776. How many US Presidents had affairs while they were in office. President Clinton even went on to argue what the legal definition of is…is. President Kennedy was no saint when it came to obeying his martial oaths. President Grant had at least two major scandals following the Civil War, President Harding had the Teapot Dome issues come up after his death, President Nixon, Regan, and Bush Jr

  4. Padre,

    Sorry, I hit send before I finished my thoughts.

    Presidents Nixon and Regan had major scandals that have hurt their legacy and in Nixon’s case ended his term of office. President Bush Jr. at best crafted a very narrow pretense to take the nation into a major war and he even dispatched Sectary of State Powell to the UN to imply that war was the only answer.

    All of this leads me to Ms. Davis and her oath. Does a oath really mean anything? Our society rewards those who fudge on their oath to protect and defend the nation and maybe Ms. Davis is getting set up to run for President.

    Please understand the sarcasm behind these comments but also the seriousness of the remark. I still think she is being duped into being a self imposed martyr but the lawyers behind her are criminals of the most dangerous kind. Those that argue that an oath is not worth the paper the Bible was printed on. They know they law, they know the legal importance of an oath and they don’t care as long as they can argue the meaning of serve and protect. And the Presidential candidates that are supporting her are just they type to bend the rules if they get into office.

    I know you haven’t commented on this yet but the only candidate that I know of who has said the right thing about Ms. Davis is Lindsey Graham. Are there any others that I have missed. I would love to know what you find out about them.

    Sleep well and have a beer and barbeque for Ms. Davis tomorrow.

    • padresteve

      Rob

      I did get the sarcasm as I am getting to know you pretty well on the site. Since you also have taken the oath you understand its seriousness. The presidents you mentioned all violated the law in some way, but none went out of the way to deny constitutional rights of Americans, unlike Woodrow Wilson who upon taking office violated the rights of blacks by firing every black Federal employee save the Buffalo soldiers.

      Apart from Lindsey, Jeb and Carley are the only ones to say she should obey the law or resign.

      Have a great day!

      Blessings

      Steve+

      • Marty

        Lindsey & Carley also dared to criticize the Donald. I’m glad at least a couple candidates have some guts.

  5. Marty

    I loved the part in the oath about not having taken part in a duel! Wonder if that has disqualified anyone in the last hundred years or so? Seriously, if Mrs Davis were allowed to turn people away because of her religious beliefs, where would it end? Say someone didn’t get baptized the “right” way, could she say No to them too? What if they used “trespasses” instead of “debts” in the Lord’s Prayer–another deal-breaker? I can’t speak for Catholics, but I know there’s one thing Protestants are really good at: disagreeing. If people were allowed to deny other people’s rights based on individual beliefs, we might as well forget the whole idea of rights.

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