Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples
Van Jones: Dishonest to try to cloak her in same garments as Rosa Parks
Editor’s Note: Van Jones is president of Dream Corps and Rebuild the Dream, which promote innovative solutions for America’s economy. He was President Barack Obama’s green jobs adviser in 2009. A best-selling author, he is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy. Follow him on Twitter @VanJones68. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
I hope for all of our sakes that we hear a lot more from leaders like Perry moving forward – and a whole lot less from bomb throwers like Donald Trump.
I, too, believe that each individual has the moral duty to defy any law that he or she deems unjust.
Of course, he or she must do so nonviolently. And he or she must do so publicly, willingly accepting all the legal and personal consequences. These two requirements separate the nonviolent dissenter from the terrorist or the common criminal, who scheme in the darkness and do everything they can to evade capture.
No liberal should deny these basic tenets of justice-seeking. All the great sages are unanimous on this point, from Thoreau to Gandhi.
It is hypocritical for those of us on the left to suggest that this moral duty falls upon the shoulders only of liberals pursuing liberal aims. The duty to resist unjust laws falls upon every human being. It is, in fact, the final check against tyranny – on the right or left.
But that said: There are different kinds of laws. Thus there are different kinds of lawbreakers.
And this is where I part company with Kim Davis and her most vocal supporters, including my friend Gov. Mike Huckabee. They compare her defiance to the actions of Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
These comparisons are misguided.
Parks, King, Fannie Lou Hamer, the freedom riders and countless others went to jail in defiance of bigoted local laws and practices. They broke local laws – often (though not always) to extend the protections of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in places that refused to honor those rulings.
Yes, Kim Davis is a lawbreaker, for reasons of conscience. That in itself is no dishonor.
But Davis is a particular kind of lawbreaker – one who is using her local authority to try to block federal, judicial rulings. And those decisions are specifically designed to recognize the rights of a historically despised minority group.
That kind of lawbreaking puts Kim Davis more in the tradition of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, not of Martin Luther King.
Wallace was an ardent segregationist. He notoriously stood in the schoolhouse door, to keep African-American students from integrating white schools. Just like Kim Davis, Wallace was trying to use his local powers to defy the courts.
The federal courts in the 1950s and 1960s were newly asserting that a despised out-group had basic rights. That’s exactly what our Supreme Court is doing today, regarding gay men and lesbians.
Just like Kim Davis, Wallace’s objections were guided by his own moral compass and his own reading of scripture. So Davis does stand in a tradition of scripture-based civil disobedience, and she should claim it.
But it is dishonest to try to cloak her in the same garments as Parks or King.
To the contrary: Kim Davis is the living heir to the long tradition of local segregationists, whom King specifically denounced at the 1963 March on Washington. He accused them of having their “lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification” because they refused to obey federal court orders to protect the vulnerable minority group of that day.
The key to nonviolent civil disobedience is the willingness to step forward honestly and accept all the consequences, legal and otherwise, for one’s stand.
Kim Davis and her supporters should do so. And one of the consequences is that future generations will view her as exactly the same kind of person Wallace was.
And rightly so.