Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by John Erickson

John Erickson, sports, coming out.Kim Davis, the defiant county clerk, is currently sitting in isolation in a jail cell after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, even after she was ordered by a judge to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage or be held in contempt of court.

Everywhere I turn on both social media or in person people are talking about Ms. Davis, her actions, personal history and for some weird reason her hair and looks.   I’m all for individuals taking a virulent stand against an individual who chooses to not uphold the law of the land as well as continually acting in an unjust discriminatory way but bringing her looks or anything else about her physical appearance into the narrative is not only just plain wrong it is sexism in its worst form.
Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 3.56.49 PMThe old saying goes: “two wrongs don’t make a right.” As a community, we must come together now more than ever to correct the wrongs we see occurring in the world disguised as religious freedom and make sure that we are both holding to the strictest of standards and the morality that many in the religious right claim we lack.

Although conservative religious individuals and political pundits are claiming the current American zeitgeist is being monopolized by liberal, left-wing policies that demoralize and destroy the current state of American society, it is in the narrative of sexism and body shaming where the lines of who is standing on the right and wrong sides of history gets blurred.

Since Davis is arguing her case on moral grounds it is completely valid to bring in her past personal indiscretions into account. Her lack of respect or follow through for what she believes to be the holy and sanctimonious institutions exemplifies the hypocrisy of the religious right and those now claiming that they have the right to refuse service or other rights to LGBT individuals.

What is wrong is the way in which we as a community, (although completely just and right about this case), haven’t learned that the same hateful and poisonous language so often thrown our way by individuals, groups, and now Presidential hopefuls, only keeps us on their same bigoted and ignorant levels. No one is telling Kim Davis that she cannot have her religious beliefs but what she is being told is that she cannot hold an office where she takes an oath to uphold the law only to pick and choose what laws she wishes to uphold. Kim Davis is a bigot but she still deserves the same right to believe whatever she wants to believe, no matter how wrong it may seem, just as much as we are now, finally, after such a long, arduous fight, have the right to marry.

I always wondered why my favorite U.S. Supreme Court decision was Reynolds v. United States. Looking back upon it, I see how it applies to so many decisions that have both adversely and advantageously effected the struggles both the LGBT and feminist communities experienced when trying to achieve full equality under the law. An individual can believe whatever they want to believe but when those actions inflict undue harm onto others, they are breaking the law, taking away another person’s rights and creating a world where government exists in name only and where people can pick and choose which laws to follow or not.

Screen-shot-2015-09-02-at-2.45.41-PM-360x360Kim Davis does need a lot of things but saying or suggesting that she needs a haircut, a makeover, or even to lose weight, makes those that continue to repeat it no better than she is; to state such statements doesn’t purport the ideal that #LoveWins, which took over social media just mere months ago, but changes the whole narrative to symbolize that sexism and hate are more important than love and equality.

John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation and the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association. When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter @JErickson85

Categories: Academics, Academy, Activism, American History, Belief, Bible, Body, Breaking News, Christianity, Church Doctrine, civil rights, Community, Education, Ethics, Evangelicalism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Ethics, Gender, Gender and Power, Gender and Sexuality, General, God, Human Rights, In the News, LGBTQ, Marriage, Media, Politics, Power relations, Scholarship, Scripture, Sexism, Sexuality, Social Justice, Theology, White Privilege

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15 replies

  1. Thank you for writing this, John!


  2. John, you are right on point but what happens when you are a public official and are charged with enforcing an unfair or immoral law ala Hitler?


    • Kim Davis is free to choose to break the law, as is anyone else who chooses a life of crime or cannot obey in good conscience, but there are consequences for choosing to behave in this way, just as there would have been for anyone who chose to stand against Hitler.

      The problem isn’t her refusal to uphold the law, a law she took an oath to uphold I might add, but that she is not prepared to face the consequences of her choice. She wants special dispensation so that she can break the law with impunity and keep her job, whilst refusing to do her job, that is the problem


  3. John, my question echoes Bernadette’s. The “law of the land” is not always just. We applaud those people who have gone against “public officials” (if you will) during the upheaval of the civil rights movement in this country. We (at least officially) believe that discriminating against people because of their skin color is not just, nor is it moral. I do not agree with Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex people, but she and many others believe they are holding up a greater “law” than the “law of the land” currently in place. How can we effectively navigate that space?


    • I think Bernadette and Esther have highlighted that we are still living in a world where the ‘law of the land’ is still very much colored and gendered. It also brings up the very presence fact that while America likes to believe we are functioning under a “Separate Church and State,” religious beliefs are still very much rooted not only in our justice system but in our very understanding of our nation, our legal system, and our ‘way of life.’

      The struggle that John brings to the front is that while people are combating hatred, injustice, and bigotry to not become the very things you are fighting against.


    • The law of this country is secular. What if a Wahabi Muslim worked in for a state motor vehicle office and said he could not issue driver’s licenses to women because it is against his religion? I bet all these people who support this woman would say that is different. Is isn’t. Note: only in Saudi Arabia and the area controlled my ISIS is this form of Islam practiced extensively. In almost all other Muslim countries women can drive. Not there.


      • On paper, the law and the justice system is secular. But if that was the case then sworn oaths in courtrooms would not use the Bible, Prop 8 and the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice argument would not be centered on the use of rhetoric of the miracle of soul/spirit at the moment of conception, and our very currency and seen in every government building would not have the inscription of “In God We Trust.” While it is not as extreme of a connection and interplay as seen in other countries, it is still very much present.


  4. What she needs is a class, or a series of classes, in old-fashioned civics, classes that teach her that the U.S. is a land of laws (even though they’re not always fair and just and good laws) and not a theocracy. Thanks for writing this very thoughtful blog. You’re right when you say that two wrongs don’t make a right. Aren’t we supposed to know this already??


  5. Kim Davis knew she would be fired or jailed. She used the opportunity to get her point across at her own risk and that’s what gives her credibility as a person, even if we disagree with her opinion. It would be a good thing if Davis could understand how much courage it sometimes takes for gay people to be openly gay!!


    • You’re exactly right Meg! Davis has the privilege that comes along with being able to discriminate against other who do not. She makes 80,000 a year in Kentucky (that’s a lot of money to make in that state) and it is off the taxpayers who are not so fortunate or lucky to have the same types of security that she does.


  6. Bernadette got it rigjt from the beginning – what more can we say?


  7. I really enjoyed this post because of the message behind it. I don’t think that a lot of people realize that when they use hateful language towards someone they disagree with, they aren’t making any progress and they are going down to the same level as the judgmental person they are disagreeing with. I thought that this situation was especially interesting because people were commenting on Davis’ appearance instead of civilly responding to her undesirable views. If everyone was able to cordially talk about their differences instead of attacking appearances, then I think there might be more possibility for improvement.


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