Why Kim Davis Perfectly Reflects America's Broken Politics

A survey conducted in February found that most Republicans supported officially making the United States a Christian Nation. In 2013, a poll by the First Amendment Center found that 51% of Americans erroneously believe the US was founded as a Christian nation.

Who could blame that 51%? We share a collective memory of pledging allegiance to one nation “under God”, to religious tests being applied to presidential candidates like John F Kennedy who, as a Catholic, had to make clear he wouldn’t take orders from Rome to be elected. We have been fed a steady diet of God – the Christian one – in our politics for decades.

Kennedy had to answer religious questions though the Constitution is clear no religious test is allowed to hold public office. That “under God” part of the pledge? It wasn’t added until 1954, when we were out of our minds with fear over The Red Menace. The 1980s brought us the Moral Majority. Savvy political minds realized harnessing the power of an Evangelical voting block could sweep an actor into the highest office in the land. Right-wing Christians cloaked themselves in the Constitution, claimed it for their god and systematically began rewriting history.

The Constitution is amazing in that it is a straightforward document, yet it’s open for interpretation and amendment. It sets down the core of our republic, our democracy and the basis for all law. Nowhere in our founding document does the word “God” appear. Not even once.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon, when Kim Davis, right-wing Evangelical poster child of the moment, was released from jail. The Kentucky county clerk was held on contempt charges for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it violated her Christian beliefs. Just how fleeting her Christian celebrity will be is in the hands of Mike Huckabee and other religio-political zealots, who currently find her ridiculous act of civil disobedience useful to fundraising and campaigning.

Instead of her husband pulling the car around to unceremoniously take her home after her six-day ordeal, former Arkansas Governor, preacher, author, musician and Republican presidential candidate Huckabee set the stage. Literally. Davis walked out of the jail to the stirring 1980’s Survivor classic Eye of The Tiger and into the warm embrace of a tearful Huckabee; the whole scene was witnessed by an adoring crowd holding up bibles and crosses affixed to sticks, in ecstasy over her release.

Dramatic? You bet – and by design. What should have been nothing more than a blip the national radar turned into a Mike Huckabee stump speech tent revival. Davis gave glory to God, vowing to not affix her name to the secular marriage certificate of a same-sex couple, Huckabee whipped the crowd into an frenzy, screaming that he would go to jail in Davis’s place before giving into the “tyranny” of our government.

How I wish I could have enjoyed watching that video clip over and over again like a hilarious compilation of cat videos. It should have been funny. But it’s not. This is the America we live in today - one where our government is deemed tyrannical for upholding the equal protection clause laid out in the Constitution of the United States – in this case by legalizing same-sex marriage nationally – and where one segment of Christianity dominates a disproportionate amount of discourse.

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in May of 35,000 Americans from all 50 states to paint a current picture of religion in the US. Over 70% of people identified as Christian, only 5% as non-Christian. We are certainly a nation of Christians. What we are not is a Christian nation.

Of the 70%, the majority – 25% – identified as Evangelical, the core right-wing political base of the Republican Party. These are the single-issue voters, focusing on the likes of abortion, guns and gays. They are the people who come to the polls in the off year elections no one is watching. They pass laws in statehouses that give pharmacists the right to refuse Plan B to a woman on a religious basis. They spit out doctored videos and claim taxpayer dollars are going to fund abortion and harvest fetal organs. They insert creationism into our textbooks and want taxpayer money to fund homeschoolers and populate school boards to alter curricula to favor a right-wing way of thinking.

Inserting religion into law is discriminatory in nature. Dragging it into elected office is unfortunately commonplace. It has taken decades for it to make its way into every aspect of our political process and extracting it – if we ever can – will likely take even longer. Making people like Kim Davis martyr-of-the-moment does nothing but distract us from the very real threat to the promise of religious freedom for all.


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