From One Clerk To Another: Kim Davis Got It Wrong

Source: Religion dispatches

Author: Carlos Wilson

Emphasis Mine

Kim Davis, Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, has been jailed for her defiance of a court order to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Her view is that, by refusing to process any marriage license for anyone, she is engaging in an act of civil disobedience based on a position of Christian conscience.
It is an odd position for a clerk to take. I know that, because I am one. My day job is as a Presbyterian pastor, but I also serve as part-time Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Monmouth — our denomination’s county-government equivalent here in central New Jersey, a legislative assembly comprising elected “commissioners” from 45 congregations.
Part of my job as clerk is to serve as parliamentarian for our presbytery meetings: advising the moderator on Robert’s Rules of Order and our denominational Constitution. When called upon to dispense advice, we clerks are meant to keep our personal opinions to ourselves, speaking neutrally to matters of procedure and church governance.
Clerks are not decision-makers in our system; the presbytery is. Our task is to help that elected body do the hard work of governance, in ways that are both fair and faithful. Should we wish to participate in debate at a Presbytery meeting, we’re supposed to leave the clerk’s table and walk to a microphone in the audience — making it crystal-clear that we are speaking for ourselves, not for the church.
Our denomination has recently amended its Constitution to permit ministers to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies — a decision that happens to coincide with my own considered beliefs, based on my study of the scriptures. Until that denominational sea-change, I was frequently asked whether or not such marriages were permissible under church law.
My answer, at that time, was always “No.” My pastor’s heart — well-acquainted with the travails of faithful, committed LGBT couples in my community — wanted to say “Yes.” But my clerk’s mind told me I could not. That would have been unfaithful: not to my understanding of the gospel, but to the responsibilities I had pledged to fulfill as servant of the governing body.
Ms. Davis’ decision to close her office door to LGBT citizens (and, soon after, to all couples seeking licenses) reflects her personal theological position, but it fails to honor the position of the government she serves. She forgets that she herself does not issue licenses. The licenses do bear her signature — indicating that the paperwork was properly processed — but at the top of the license is not her name, but the words “Commonwealth of Kentucky.” States issue marriage licenses; county clerks do not.
Ms. Davis’ stubborn refusal to follow a federal judge’s order is indicative of two mistaken views that have become entrenched in much of conservative Christian culture: radical moral individualism and the establishment of Christianity as the de facto established religion of the land.
Ms. Davis has declared that she is acting on “God’s authority” and that her decision to issue marriage licenses is a choice between “heaven or hell.” Creedal statements, to her way of thinking, are an individual matter, between the believer and God. Those who profess correct beliefs earn God’s favor, but those who differ risk damnation. There is little sense, in her public remarks, that creedal formulations are products of a Christian community. In this uniquely American view, individual believers are charged with maintaining their own personal creeds, participating only in congregations whose collective creed jibes with their own personal standard of orthodoxy. Ms. Davis is transferring this outlook to her work as an elected public official. One has to wonder what — as a divorced-and-remarried person herself — she would make of a devoutly Roman Catholic county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to divorced citizens.
This intellectual sleight of hand arises from Ms. Davis’ second mistaken viewpoint. She clearly regards Christianity as the de facto national religion, despite the First Amendment to the Constitution and numerous judicial cases founded upon it. This wild assumption has become a popular meme in conservative media. Right-wing Christians have become a regular feature on newscasts, loudly decrying their persecution by a godless government, one that prevents them from imposing their personal moral convictions on society at large. Ms. Davis is making good use of  her fifteen minutes of fame to raise similar complaints.
I have not heard of any earthquakes striking Rowan County, Kentucky and throwing open the doors of the County Clerk’s jail cell —  as happened to the apostles Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Undoubtedly the only news to rock Ms. Davis’ world, since her self-righteous perp walk, has been the news that her Assistant Clerks, in the absence of their boss, have quietly started issuing marriage licenses again, some of them to same-sex couples.


What You Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report

Source: Patheos

Author: Libby Anne

Emphasis Mine 

New readers may be interested in my previous writings on the Duggars, including Carefully Scripted Lives: My Concerns about the Duggars, written in February 2012 and An Open Letter to Duggar Defenders, written in August 2014. 

When I first saw rumors circulating yesterday I didn’t pay any attention, because the accusations were vague and felt rehashed. Remember when the tabloids reported that Jessa Duggar had sex at the church immediately after her wedding, based on a word of an obviously satirical blogger who claimed to have been there? Yeah, I remember that too. There have been rumors circulating for years about Jim Bob blaming Josh for the loss of a political campaign, based on “sin in the camp,” so I thought it was probably just those rumors being rehashed in the way tabloids do.

But now there’s a police report. And now People Magazine has posted Josh’s confession. And now Josh has resigned from Family Research Council.

What happened exactly? Answering this question is sensitive because of the need to protect the identity Josh’s victims. According to TMZ, one of Josh’s victims has asked to have the unredacted police documents destroyed to protect her identity—and even the redacted police report gives more than enough information to guess at the victims’ identities. This is a problem.

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I should blog about this. This is not a gossip blog. I blog about weighty issues, and when I do blog about scandals like this I try to do so in a way that makes larger points, rather than just scoring cheap shots. That said, I’ve decided to go ahead and blog about this for several reasons. For one thing, I want you to have a reliable place to get good information (there’s still incorrect information circling out there). For another thing, I do think there are larger points to be made here. I’ll start by summarizing the police report.

In December 2006, someone called a hotline and reported that Josh Duggar had sexually molested several girls three and a half years before. Around the same time, Harpo Studios faxed an email they had received informing them of the allegations (the Duggars had been slated to be on Oprah) to the Department of Human Services. It seems that at the time of the assaults a family friend wrote a letter about what happened and put it in a book, and that book was loaned out years later and the letter discovered, and the person who discovered it wanted to disclose the information.

Jim Bob was called in and interviewed. He stated that Josh had sexually molested several girls over the course of a year. Jim Bob knew of this beginning in March 2002, when Josh was 14. Josh’s victims were children younger than him, and in some cases significantly so. For an entire year Jim Bob knew what was happening, but did not go to the police or seek treatment or outside intervention. In March 2003, with the incidents of molestation still occurring, Jim Bob said he and the elders at his church, to whom he had gone for advice, agreed that Josh should enter a treatment program.

But when one of the elders at Jim Bob’s church suggested sending Josh to a legitimate treatment program, Jim Bob demurred, reasoning that Josh would likely be exposed to more serious offenders and that that was not appropriate for the nature of his offense. So instead of sending Josh to an actual treatment program, Jim Bob sent him to Little Rock for four months to help a family friend with some remodeling.

When Josh returned in July 2003, Jim Bob took Josh to speak with a state trooper he knew personally about what had happened. The trooper gave Josh “a very stern talk” but didn’t file a report, reportedly reasoning that nothing needed to be done because Josh had already gone through a treatment program. Except of course that helping a family friend in Little Rock do some remodeling is not a treatment program. (The trooper who spoke with Josh was later convicted of child pornography.)

After interviewing the victims and other witnesses (all of whom corroborated Jim Bob’s story), police closed the case. Why? Because in Arkansas the statute of limitations for sexual assault is three years, and they were unable to find any evidence of any act of molestation or assault within the last three years. At this time Josh was 18. Police ascertained that Josh had at least five victims from at least two families.

I don’t know whether Josh has molested any children since 2003. I know very little about the science behind sexual molestation that occurs while the perpetrator is still a minor. There are some things I do know, though.

1. Sexual abuse should always always always be reported to the authorities immediately, even when the perpetrator is a minor. Jim Bob did not report what happened for well over a year, and when he finally did, he went to a trooper who was a family friend. This is a serious serious problem. The case of Zion and Glenda Dutro presents an especially hideous example of how badly reporting to cops who are personal acquaintances can go wrong (click through at your own risk). Don’t do this!

2. Professional counselors and treatment programs are a must in cases involving sexual abuse. Talking to your elders or doing manual labor for a couple of months does not constitute counseling or a treatment program. Josh told People that both he and his victims received counseling. But given that his parents stated in 2006 that the only treatment he received was several months of manual labor, I’m highly skeptical that his victims received any actual counseling themselves. I know of a large Christian homeschooling family where incest was discovered between two of the sons, partly as a result of a complete lack of sex education, and both were shamed for what happened, nothing was reported, and no counseling was receivedThis is a problem.

3. It is not okay to conceal a history of child molestation from parents of other children a perpetrator has regular contact with. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in protecting the identity of victims. But if someone is an offender against children, they have the potential to reoffend. People should not leave children alone with a person with a history of molesting children, and that means they need to know that a person has a history of molesting children. While Jim Bob told the elders at the family’s church about what had happened, neither they nor the elders notified the church members more generally. This is bad, as it put other children at risk.

4. Handling child molestation as “sin” rather than addressing the psychology behind it is a serious problem. In their statements to People, the Duggars spoke of Josh’s past wrongdoing as “past teenage mistakes” and spoke of growing closer to God through it. But it appears that Josh never had legitimate counseling or treatment to work through his problem. Some sexual things are normal for a teen to do—say, masturbating—but other sexual things are not typical behavior—say, molesting children—and those things need to be addressed professionally rather than simply as “sin” issues. Failing to do so places other children at risk.

5. In too many cases, church elders fail to report sexual abuse to the proper authorities. We’ve seen this before, again, and again, and again. It is not clear from the police report whether Jim Bob spoke with his church’s elders about the incidents of molestation first in March 2003 or whether he spoke with them earlier as well. But even if he only spoke with them in March 2003, they still failed to immediately report the incidents to the authorities as they should have. According to Jim Bob, the elders agreed that he should report the situation to the authorities once Josh returned from the remodeling project in Little Rock, and one of the elders went with him when he did so. This was both too late (they should have reported it immediately) and too little (the report was made to a trooper who was a friend).

6. Local police and state troopers need to take sexual molestation seriously and follow the law with regards to reporting it. The trooper Jim Bob and Josh spoke with was a mandatory reporter and should by law have filed a report and launched an investigation. He failed to do so, and as a result the statute of limitations ran out before any action could be taken. This particular trooper was later convicted of child abuse, spent time in prison, then reoffended and is now back in prison. This was a serious, serious law enforcement fail.

7. Good sex education is very important. I don’t know for sure what sort of sex education Josh Duggar received, but I do know that children homeschooled through the Christian program the Duggars used with Josh (ATI) are generally woefully uneducated when it comes to sex. Parents who avoid more comprehensive sex education often see themselves as trying to avoid awakening children’s sexuality too early, but these efforts can end very very badly because leaving children completely ignorant about sex can be a serious problem.

8. The good Christian family aura can hide underlying problems. If I had a dollar for every time someone has praised the Duggars for being a perfect example of a good Christian family, I’d be rich. Sweet smiles and matching clothes can cover up a lot and make people assume that things are more perfect than they are. I know what it’s like to force a smile for family pictures people later ooo and ahh over, even as I’m crying inside. We need to remember that.

9. Sheltering children from the world doesn’t work. For years now, I have seen commenters across the internet praise the Duggars for raising godly children away from the materialism and sexualization of the modern world. Sorry guys, it doesn’t work like that. Please stop promoting the Duggars’ lifestyle by claiming that it has protected these children from the evils of the world! It hasn’t.

10. Homeschooling can limit children’s ability to report abuse. Children who attend school have contact with teachers, counselors, and other adults they can go to for help, or for advice about problems in their home situations. Both Josh and his victims were home schooled, which almost certainly limited the number of trusted adults they could go to for help, especially given that their social activities appear to have revolved around their church and other likeminded families who probably also believed in dealing with such problems in-house. According to the police report, some of the victims did try to get help. It’s just that their avenues for obtaining said help were sadly limited.

I still feel weird about posting this because of the gossipy angle so much of the media is giving it. So, I’d like to make a suggestion. When you see people talking about this story, whether on facebook or in person or in a comment section, steer the conversation toward the more substantive issues. Let’s use the attention the tabloids and other news sources are giving this story to educate the public about the problems with dealing with sexual molestation in house, the importance of sex education, and the dangers of judging the character of a family by outward appearances alone.

And while you’re at it, please remind people to protect the identities of the victims.


For further reading, see:

What Did Josh Duggar’s Counseling Look Like?



Fairness in advertising

CBS is scheduled to run to run a pro fundamentalist Christian, anti-abortion advertisement this Sunday during a professional football game broadcast,  The issue here is not that CBS is running this ad, but they have refused for years to run issue-oriented ads.  See:

We might hope that this ad fails as did Tebow’s feeble football efforts in last weeks Senior Bowl.   It has also been observed that since abortions were not legal in the Philippines at that time, the premise of the ad may be a lie:

” In 2004, PETA wanted to run a commercial during the Super Bowl that would have urged people not to buy furs. wanted to run a Super Bowl commercial pointing out that Bush had increased the deficit. And the United Church of Christ wanted to air an ad showing a bouncer refusing to let a gay couple enter a Church. The tagline was, “Jesus Didn’t Turn People away. Neither do we.” The Super Bowl rejected those ads because, they said, they will not run commercials that “touch on and/or take a position on one side of a current controversial issue of public importance.”

This year, a gay dating site wanted to run an ad during the Super Bowl. It was rejected. And then the far-right group Focus On The Family told the Super Bowl they’d like to run a 30-second anti-abortion ad featuring University of Florida’s star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother. Oh, sure, said the Super Bowl, as long as you pay the $3 million price tag. To which many progressives in the U.S. are replying, “WTF?”

The ad proposes to tell the story of Tebow’s mom who, in 1987, was pregnant with Tim while she worked as a missionary in the Philippines. She contracted amoebic dysentery and, according to her, doctors told her she should have an abortion. Instead, she went ahead with her pregnancy and gave birth to the future Heisman Trophy winner who is now so grateful to Jesus, he wears Bible verses on his face during football games. He apparently also believes his mom’s experience gives him the right to tell women what they should do with their bodies — their wombs, to be precise.

Now, questions have arisen questioning whether Tebow and Mom’s story is even true. As was pointed out by numerous lawyers during the past couple of weeks, the Tebows’ Tale of Tim’s Miracle Birth leaves out an important detail that makes the story doubtful. You see, abortion has been illegal under any circumstances in the Philippines since the 1930s. Doctors who perform abortions there face six years in prison, and their patients are looking at two to six years. It’s therefore highly doubtful that a doctor would have suggested an abortion to begin with, and even if one had, who’s to know whether Mrs. Tebow took the jail sentence into consideration when making her, ahem, choice.

Needless to say, the Tebows’ ad has angered lots of people, especially women’s rights groups. The Washington Post ran an op-ed opposing the ad, and Dave Zirin, who writes for Sports Illustrated about sports and politics, said of the Super Bowl’s decision, “The hypocrisy boggles the mind.”

see:  (John Grooms)

From The Center for Inquiry:

CBS has decided to run an anti-choice ad from Focus on the Family during the Super Bowl. This ad, which features college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, will use Tebow’s personal story to advocate an anti-choice stance. The Center for Inquiry supports Freedom of Speech. At the same time, however, CFI also unwaveringly supports a woman’s right to choose. We are also deeply troubled by an apparent ideological bias in CBS’s choice of which commercials to air during the Super Bowl. Therefore, we cannot simply let an ad that advances an overtly Christian religious position at the expense of women’s rights air to over a hundred million people without a response.

We full-heartedly back Focus on the Family’s freedom to advocate the views expressed in its ad and CBS’s right air it. We must point out, however, that CBS has recently rejected advocacy ads from organizations such as PETA,, and the United Church of Christ because they were deemed “too political.” We do not understand how the Focus on the Family ad avoids this label. The ad is at least as divisive and politically charged as the ads that CBS has refused to air in the past. The content of this ad asserts that Christian religious beliefs should overrule the Constitutional rights and reproductive freedom of half the American population.

Because CBS has shown an ideological bias in rejecting progressive advocacy advertisements, we must oppose CBS’s arbitrary decision to air Focus on the Family?s commercial. We have written a letter to CBS’s executives and advertisement directors asking them not to air this ad on the grounds discussed above. The text of that letter is as follows:

“Dear CBS Executive,

The Center for Inquiry wishes to convey to you our concern over CBS’s decision to air an anti-choice advertisement sponsored by Focus on the Family during Super Bowl XLIV. The Center for Inquiry is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering a secular society based on the principles of science, reason, and humanist values. While we fully support and defend CBS’s free speech right to air any ad it chooses to, we must oppose the decision to air the Focus on the Family ad on the grounds that CBS has refused to air ads by other organizations–including PETA,, and the United Church of Christ–that were deemed “too political.” CBS has shown a troubling ideological bias by choosing to air a divisive political ad by Focus on the Family while also refusing to air ads by other organizations, many of which are politically progressive.

The Focus on the Family ad is at least as divisive and politically charged as ads that CBS has refused to air in the past. The content of this ad endangers women’s health and subjugates their rights under Roe v. Wade by asserting that Christian religious beliefs should overrule the freedoms and well-being concerns of half the American population. While we recognize that the decision to have an abortion is never an easy one, the Center for Inquiry holds as its position that the decision of whether or not to have an abortion should be made between a woman, her family, and her doctor. This position is shared by approximately 70% of the American population, the Supreme Court, and the one-in-five American women who will need an abortion at some point in their life.

The Super Bowl is an entertainment event that brings people together regardless of background, faith, ideology or political affiliation. In the past, CBS has shown great discretion in rejecting overtly political or controversial ads for airing during nationally televised events. It has prohibited advocacy from such groups as PETA,, The United Church of Christ, and other groups that carry an implicit endorsement for one side in a public debate. Additionally, NBC made the decision last year to not air anti-choice messages during the Super Bowl on the grounds that they were overtly political. By offering one of the most prestigious advertising spots to Focus on the Family this year, CBS is breaking with a longstanding tradition of keeping politics and religion out of national sporting events.

We sincerely hope that you will reconsider your decision to air this divisive, misleading, and overtly political and religious ad during Super Bowl XLIV.

Thank you for your consideration.”

Given the importance of this issue, we ask that you take the time to write your own letter as well, if you choose to. Feel free to use any language from our letter in yours. Listed below are the names and public email addresses of CBS’s Sports Communication Directors.

Leslie Anne Wade, Sr. VP Sports Communication:
Jerry Caraccioli, Communications Director, CBS Sports:
Robin Brendle, Communications Director, CBS Sports:
Jennifer Sabatelle, Communications Director, CBS Sports:

Thank you for your continued support.


Ronald A. Lindsay
President and CEO

Toni Van Pelt

Vice President and Director of Public Policy

(Emphasis mine)