Culture Wars - Tearing Apart the US?
Outline the legal battle that led to Kim Davis' imprisonment.
Analyse the means that are employed to illustrate the different positions in the Kentucky conflict.
Comment / Creative Writing
Discuss to what extent exercising one's religious freedom should be allowed to limit other people's rights. Refer to both this article and your coursework in your answer.
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Imagine you are Sophie Becker, a German high-school student, spending a year in a welcoming American family in Kentucky. Since you have read the New York Times
article below and regularly follow the news, you cannot understand what the arguments concerning Kim Davis are really about. That is why you ask your host brother Peter Smith, who is actively involved in the local church community, for explanations and react to them appropriately.
Write the opening passages of the conversation between you and your host brother.
Clerk in Kentucky Chooses Jail Over Deal on Same-Sex Marriage
. — A Kentucky county clerk who has become a
symbol of religious opposition to same-sex marriage was jailed
Thursday after defying a federal court order to issue licenses to gay
The clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan County, Ky., was ordered detained
for contempt of court and later rejected a proposal to allow her
deputies to process same-sex marriage licenses that could have
Instead, on a day when one of Ms. Davis’s lawyers said she would not
retreat from or modify her stand despite a Supreme Court ruling
legalizing same-sex marriage, Judge David L. Bunning of United
States District Court secured commitments from five of Ms. Davis’s
deputies to begin providing the licenses. At least two couples planned
to seek marriage licenses Friday.
“The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully
issued order,” Judge Bunning said. “If you give people the opportunity
to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes
The judge’s decision to jail Ms. Davis […] immediately intensified
the attention focused on her, a longtime government worker who is
one of three of Kentucky’s 120 county clerks who contend that their
religious beliefs keep them from recognizing same-sex nuptials. Within hours of Ms. Davis’s imprisonment, some
Republican presidential candidates declared their support for her, a sign that her
case was becoming an increasingly charged cause for Christian
“Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny,” Senator
Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said in a statement.
A lawyer for Ms. Davis, Roger Gannam, sharply criticized the ruling
and portrayed it as a stark warning to
Christians across the country.
“Today, for the first time in history, an American citizen has been
incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the
union of one man and one woman,” Mr. Gannam said after a hearing
that stretched deep into Thursday afternoon. “And she’s been ordered
to stay there until she’s willing to change her mind, until she’s willing
to change her conscience about what belief is.” […]
Judge Bunning’s decision went beyond the wishes of the couples who
sued the clerk this summer; their lawyers had asked that she be fined.
Some advocates for gay rights quickly expressed concern that Ms.
Davis’s jailing would make her a sympathetic figure to religious
conservatives and prompt lawmakers in Kentucky and elsewhere to
push for new laws carving out exemptions for public officials who
oppose same-sex marriage. But they also described Ms. Davis as an
“I think this is a tempest in a teapot,” said Marc Solomon, national
campaign director of Freedom to Marry, which was active in the push
for same-sex marriages to be recognized. “If the big backlash and the
mass resistance that our opponents promised is one clerk from a
county of under 25,000 people, I think we’re in very good shape.”
Ms. Davis’s appearance before Judge Bunning, and her subsequent
detention, was a signal development in
a case that surfaced soon after
the Supreme Court’s ruling in June. Faced with the ruling, Ms. Davis,
an Apostolic Christian, directed her office to stop providing marriage
licenses to any applicants.
“Marriage is between one man and one woman,” Ms. Davis said
during a frequently tearful turn on the witness stand on Thursday.
When Mr. Gannam, one of her lawyers, asked whether she approved
of same-sex marriage, she replied, “It’s not of God.” […]
The standoff here, many law professors said, is somewhat reminiscent
of the 1960s civil rights battles, with Ms. Davis in the role of George
C. Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor who stood in the
doorway of the University of Alabama to try to block its integration.
“In a way, she’s out George Wallace-ing George Wallace,” said
Howard M. Wasserman, a law professor at Florida International
University. “It does now feel like the civil rights era, with people
ignoring court orders,
taking a stand and being held in contempt.”
With Ms. Davis jailed, the agreements by her deputy clerks left gay
and straight couples poised to receive marriage licenses in the county
for the first time in months.
“We’re going to the courthouse tomorrow to get our marriage license;
we’re very excited about that,” said
April Miller, who sued after she
and her partner were denied a license. “We’re saddened by the fact
that Ms. Davis has been incarcerated. We look forward to tomorrow;
as a couple, it will be a very important day in our lives.”
A lawyer for the couples, William Sharp, said Thursday’s ruling
demonstrated that “religious liberty is not a sword with which
government, through its employees, may impose particular religious
beliefs on others.”
Outside the courthouse, protesters expressed disparate messages. The
rainbow flag, a symbol of the gay rights movement, was on display
along with signs that carried messages like “Sodomy is sin.” Some
people shouted their opinions through loudspeakers and megaphones,
and faced off, sometimes inches apart, with their opponents.
After the ruling, Ms. Davis’s husband, Joe Davis, was among those
unhappy with the proceedings inside.
“Tell Judge Bunning,” Mr. Davis said, “he’s a butt.”
Binder, Alan and Lewin, Tamar. Clerk in Kentucky Chooses Jail over Deal on Same-Sex Marriage. The New York Times
(3 September 2015).
 Ky: Kentucky
 outlier: a person situated away or detached from the main body or system; German: Ausreißer; Exot
 Supreme Court ruling: cf ll. 10f
 Apostolic Christian: a member of a fundamentalist Christian community
 segregationist: politician fighting for the continuation of racial segregation especially
 integration: the process of ending systematic racial segregation as prescribed by civil rights legislation in the 1960s