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Task 1

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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.
$ \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad \quad$ OR
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.
Material 1
Clerk in Kentucky Chooses Jail Over Deal on Same-Sex Marriage
ASHLAND, Ky[1]. — 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 couples.
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 prompted her
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 problems.”
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 conservatives.
“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 outlier[2].
“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[3] in June. Faced with the ruling, Ms. Davis, an Apostolic Christian[4], 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[5] Alabama governor who stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to try to block its integration[6].
“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).

[1] Ky: Kentucky
[2] outlier: a person situated away or detached from the main body or system; German: Ausreißer; Exot
[3] Supreme Court ruling: cf ll. 10f
[4] Apostolic Christian: a member of a fundamentalist Christian community
[5] segregationist: politician fighting for the continuation of racial segregation especially
[6] integration: the process of ending systematic racial segregation as prescribed by civil rights legislation in the 1960s
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Culture Wars - Tearing Apart the US?

$\blacktriangleright$  1. Outline legal battle
  • Supreme Court's ruling in June: legalizing same-sex marriage
  • Ms. Davis - a fundamentalist Kentucky county clerk - ordered her office to deny same-sex couples the marriage license
  • Apostolic belief prevents her from acknowledging gay nuptials
  • various couples sued her due to that
  • court obtained assurance from Davis's deputies that they would conduct same-sex marriages although Davis had forbidden it
  • court claims that Ms. Davis has willfully disobeyed a lawfully issued order
  • court requested her to issue licenses to gay couples
  • Ms. Davis defied that order
  • court then ordered her detention due to contempt of court
  • court gave Ms. Davis another chance: if she would give her deputies the permission to convey same-sex nuptials, she would have been released
  • Ms. Davis rejected this offer $\rightarrow$ got jailed
$\blacktriangleright$  2. Analyse means which illustrate different positions
  • Means: "Evidence"
    $\rightarrow$ Interpretation
In General:
  • audience is not being addressed directly
    $\rightarrow$ controversial topic, factual presentation
  • article doesn't broadcast one specific opinion
    $\rightarrow$ readers are asked to draw their own conclusions in respect of topicality
Pro Same-Sex Marriage:
  • contrast: "Judge […] secured commitments from […] deputies to begin providing the licenses" (l. 8)
    $\rightarrow$ Davis's deputies willing to go against her order
    $\rightarrow$ pointlessness of denying same-sex couples the right to marry, population is not against it
  • quotation Judge Bunning: "willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order" (l. 10)
    $\rightarrow$ lends position of pro same-sex marriage credibility but also empowerment / acknowledgment
  • alliteration: "immediately intensified" (l. 12)
    $\rightarrow$ highlights urgency of that case and the issue in general
  • irony: "one of three of Kentucky's 120 county clerks" (l. 13)
    $\rightarrow$ poor relevance of their opinion
  • alliteration: "charged cause for Christian conservatives" (l. 16)
    $\rightarrow$ catchy, memorable
  • exaggeration: "went beyond their wishes" (l. 25)
    $\rightarrow$ taking the issue seriously, people do everything in their power to support same-sex marriage
  • contrast: "sympathetic figure to religious conservatives […] also an outlier" (l. 27-29)
    $\rightarrow$ realisation of Davis as a harmful representative of old-fashioned beliefs but also as some kind of lunatic that cannot affect homosexual people
  • metaphor: "tempest in a teapot" (l. 30)
    $\rightarrow$ event has been exaggerated out of proportion
    $\rightarrow$ irrelevance of protest of Davis
  • irony: "big backlash […] is one clerk from a county of under 25,000 people" (l. 32-33)
    $\rightarrow$ Davis has no power over decisions over same-sex nuptials
  • irony: "she's out George Wallace-ing George Wallace" (l. 43)
    $\rightarrow$ Davis reached opposite of what she had expected to aim at
  • metaphor: "religious liberty is not a sword with which government [can impose] beliefs on others" (l. 53-54)
    $\rightarrow$ religion cannot be forced upon people, not even the government can do this
Con Same-Sex Marriage:
  • metaphor: "symbol of religious opposition to same-sex marriage" (l. 1-2)
    $\rightarrow$ suggests fame
  • aid of politicians: "Republican presidential candidates declared their support for her" (l. 15)
    $\rightarrow$ not alone with her opinion, empowered by politicians that fight for her, turns into governmental issue
  • climax: "judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny" (l. 17)
    $\rightarrow$ criticism that anarchy rules jurisdiction
  • simile: "criticized the ruling […] as a stark warning to Christians" (l. 19-20)
    $\rightarrow$ fear that soon, atheism will be imposed upon Christians by law
  • exaggeration: "belief of conscience" (l. 21)
    $\rightarrow$ declaration that being against homosexuality is not morally incorrect, but this depicts Davis as conscientious, as just doing her duty to god and not having done anything wrong
  • personification: "hearing that stretched deep into Thursday afternoon" (l. 22-23)
    $\rightarrow$ emphasizing length and seriousness of issue
  • anaphora: "until she's willing to change her mind, until she's willing to change her conscience" (l. 23-24)
    $\rightarrow$ sounds as if she were forced to fundamentally change her beliefs and everything she ever did
  • appeal: "tell Judge Bunning […] he's a butt" (l. 60)
    $\rightarrow$ clear statement of opinion, disdain and disrespect of jurisdiction, law and hence the government
$\blacktriangleright$  3.1 Discuss religious freedom with regard to limiting other people's rights
Possible information for Introduction:
  • life in 21st century: religion is still relevant or maybe more relevant than ever - despite technological progress, open-mindedness,…
  • what does religious freedom mean anyway?
  • how do people practice their religious freedom?
  • what kinds of people's rights exist?
Main Part - allowing people to exercise their religious freedom in order to limit other people's rights
Pro arguments:
  • religious institutions (like church) should not be constrained to conduct marriages that their belief is against (same-sex marriage for instance)
    $\rightarrow$ this limits the rights of gay couples
    $\rightarrow$ they could still get married at another church or at the register office
  • education & upbringing: as parents you have the right to impose your religion upon your children as long as they are not full-aged, this might limit the child's rights in respect of their future
    $\rightarrow$ Amish people deny their children the right to go to a normal school and do home-schooling, only sharing their lifestyle and beliefs with them
    $\rightarrow$ although Amish children are basically cut off the outside world, they have a period when they are 16 where they can experience the "outside world" and where they can choose whether they want to continue with the Amish lifestyle or whether they want to break out from it
  • certain professions: health care professionals should be allowed to refuse to participate in providing an abortion for example as a matter of conscience
    $\rightarrow$ should find someone else who will substitute them
Con arguments:
  • Kim Davis: if same-sex marriage conflicts with her religious convictions, she could have asked to move to a position that wouldn't have confronted her with a spiritual predicament
    $\rightarrow$ people should have the right to exercise their religious freedom, but Davis should not be a county clerk if she is unwilling to do that job
  • companies: have a duty towards their employees
    $\rightarrow$ Hobby Lobby (arts & crafts store owned by hardcore believers) refused to pay certain forms of birth control (emergency contraception or IUDs), offended their belief
    $\rightarrow$ employers or insurance companies denying health-care coverage due to moral or religious objections
    $\rightarrow$ will result in loss of employees and a general poor reputation
  • work: government should allow people to practice their faith like not working on holy days
    $\rightarrow$ but that won't protect them if their not working would have consequences on their co-workers who might have to accommodate their schedule
  • religious freedom has become an overused term: wedding vendors who refuse to deal with gay couples
    $\rightarrow$ they are actually politically and culturally dissenting from gay rights
    $\rightarrow$ national laws protect people from discrimination of race, but not of sexual orientation
  • professions: counseling, referral or pharmaceutical services
    $\rightarrow$ should not be allowed to refuse to serve people who do not share their beliefs or lifestyle
    $\rightarrow$ exerting a form of social control - nobody should be in charge of controlling people's life
Possible Conclusion:
  • wrong to trying to impose your faith upon other people - even worse when you try to strip them off certain rights
  • if people condemn something, they just claim that it is due to their religion, and that God has exempted them
    $\rightarrow$ if you can't beat them, you out-God them
  • okay to express concerns and even to not deal with "non-believers" as long as you don't put them at any risks or deny them a right that they are actually entitled to
$\blacktriangleright$  Write opening passage of conversation
Hey Peter! Do you have a moment?
Sure! What's up?
Do you remember the article in The New York Times? About that clerk Kim Davis?
Of course… how could I forget such an embarrassing event?! What is it with her?
I was wondering what that was all about… I don't really get it, like, what's the deal with it?
Well, I guess you don't have issues like that in Germany.
I am not quite sure about that…
Okay, so see, this is what's always happening in America. Something happens, the media constantly broadcasts it and everybody in the whole country gets upset about it. The thing here is, Davis refused to conduct the nuptials for same-sex couples and even ordered her deputies to do the same.
Hold on one second. She did what? Isn't America supposed to be the country of unlimited opportunities, of freedom of choices, and whatnot?
That's what it's supposed to be, yeah. But not every church or religious belief is so tolerant as ours…
But isn't it against the law to not having married them? I mean, you guys can be lucky that you have a law that allows same-sex marriage in Kentucky. In Germany, those couples can't get married.
Sure, we can call ourselves lucky, but not everyone sees it that way. Those Apostolic Christians are pretty fundamentalist and defy everything that goes against their beliefs because they live in their own world in which anything that goes against their opinion needs to be eliminated. The church I am going doesn't really differentiate between such things. Our preacher always claims that love is love, no matter what religion you believe in, no matter how old you are, no matter what gender you are - I think you get what I am saying. This makes it easy for me to believe in my religion, because I am comfortable with it, I know that all my church ever teaches me is peace and love.
I know, your church is awesome - I wish every church was like that…! So, why do the Apostolic Christians think that they are right then?
I guess that's what they have been taught for centuries. And imagine, if you only had access to one specific opinion and lifestyle, how would you get out of it then? If you even had the chance to do so, and given the fact that you had the wish AND the willpower to do it… These people are so deeply lost in their religion that they don't see anything else. And if you believe that everything you believe is the one and only thing, wouldn't you want other people to benefit from it?
Not so sure about that Kim Davis woman, though…
Yeah, most likely she doesn't want people to benefit from the good sides of her religion. She just thinks that same-sex marriage is against God.
She is actively standing in the way of happiness and true contentment for those couples. How can someone truly religious do such a thing? Don't they always preach to love your next one like yourself?
Well, Sophie, we all have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty if we feel it violates our conscience. However, that’s not what is happening with Kim Davis. Kim Davis is rather discriminating; issuing same-sex marriage licenses is not in conflict with her religion. By doing her duty, Kim Davis is not going against her church, or against God.
As an appointed official, she has a public duty! If she truly feels she cannot issue marriage licenses because of her conscience, she can do one of two things: delegate the task to someone else or step down.
Well, Sophie, we all have a "human right" to refuse to discharge a duty if we feel it violates our conscience. However, that’s not what is happening with Kim Davis. By doing her duty, Kim Davis is not going against her church, or against God, not any more than a Catholic judge who marries heterosexuals who have been divorced and are remarrying without having an annulment. I admire Kim Davis a little for standing by her religious principles. And I sympathize with her inner struggle.
But since she was elected, and can't be fired for refusing to perform the duties of her job, isn't the reasonable thing to quit?
Hm, I don't really have an answer for that…
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