The Law is a Blunt Instrument

Some Heritage Foundation guy* has an NYT op-ed today entitled: We Don't Need Kim Davis to be in Jail.

KIM DAVIS, the clerk in Rowan County, Ky., went to jail last week, and there was no good reason for her to be there. Americans can expect more conflicts over religious conscience and same-sex marriage if we don’t find a way to coexist peacefully. Ms. Davis has become a symbol of what happens when we don’t.

Some on the left say that you must do every aspect of your job, despite your beliefs, or resign. But this has never been the practice in the United States. We have a rich history of accommodating conscientious objectors in a variety of settings, including government employees. Do we really want to say that an otherwise competent employee must quit or go to jail if there is another alternative?

Kim Davis isn't in jail for doing her job badly, she's in jail for defying the law. It's probably true that putting her in jail is a pretty crude way to ensure that people in her county can get marriage licenses, but the powers of the court are limited. It can't make her either resign, let her deputies issue marriage licenses, or otherwise do her job, but it can put her in jail.

I don't like seeing her in jail. It can't be good for her and it's certainly a waste of public resources, but we can't have a country if public officials are allowed to openly flout the law. I can even see some parallels to the case of Bradley (or Chelsea) Manning.

* - The name of the Heritage guy is Ryan T. Anderson


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