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Kentucky clerk case driving wedge into conservative Christian camp
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The case of a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples has not only galvanized pro and anti same-sex marriage camps but may have also created a divide among conservative Christians. - photo by Matthew Brown
The case of a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples has not only galvanized pro and anti same-sex marriage camps but may have also created a divide among conservative Christians.

"Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has become a hero to many conservative Christians who see her refusal to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage as a litmus test for religious liberty in an increasingly secular culture," the Associated Press reported over the weekend. "But lost in the uproar are the voices of Christians, some equally conservative, who disagree with Davis' stance and worry that holding her out as a martyr will ultimately hurt the cause of religious liberty."

Davis, who had been sued in federal court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to both gay or straight couples, returned to work Monday for the first time since being jailed for disobeying a federal judge, the AP reported. She said she was faced with a "seemingly impossible choice" between following her conscience and losing her freedom over denying marriage licenses to gay couples.

In the interim, Davis' deputies are issuing marriage licenses and her name has been removed from the document a solution she had asked state officials to codify to address her concerns.

When legalization of same-sex marriage appeared inevitable, religious conservatives had shifted their strategy from stopping legalization to seeking protections for religious objectors, the weekend AP article explained. Gay marriage opponents talked about exemptions for institutional religion or small businesses from marriage or nondiscrimination laws.

"But Davis' position as a government official has some of those same conservative leaders warning that she may not be the ideal figure to rally around," the AP reported. "As Rod Dreher, a senior editor at 'The American Conservative,' put it in a recent essay, Davis' case is 'not the hill to die on.' Rather, a line in the sand should be drawn 'when they start trying to tell us how to run our own religious institutions churches, schools, hospitals, and the like and trying to close them or otherwise destroy them for refusing to accept LGBT ideology."

Dreher is among almost 20 conservative Christian thought leaders who have weighed in on the Davis case, articulating both support and reservations about her tactics, according to the list compiled by the Colson Center website BreakPoint.org.

"The state of Kentucky had two ways to deal with an elected official like Davis: impeachment or accommodation of her religious beliefs," wrote Joe Carter, senior editor of the Acton Institute. "Either option would have resolved the issue and established a precedent. Instead, a federal court rushed to intervene and brought in men with guns to throw the clerk in jailand resolved nothing."

Karen Swallow Prior wrote the case brings up a broader issue facing Christianity in America: "The crucial matter the church is facing, as demonstrated by this conflict between one individual believer and the state, concerns the kind of relationship we as a church can demand or expect with the government in a post-Christian era. It will not be an easy question to answer, but it's the one before us today."
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