Oath of Office

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I’ve been following the Kim Davis saga on the news. In case you live in a country that doesn’t air American news stories, Kim Davis is the county clerk in Kentucky who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On all the news channels I watch (in descending order of priority that would be Fox, CNN, CBS, ABC, and PBS), the hue and cry being raised is that, regardless of her religious convictions, as a government official she has taken an oath to obey the law and—like it or not—same-sex marriage “is now the law of the land.”

(I have put that in quotes because it is in fact not the law of the land. Contrary to what so many people believe, no ruling by the Supreme Court is anything other than a ruling on the constitutional interpretation regarding a specific case. So, same-sex marriage is not the law of the land and will not be a law until congress writes it up and passes it as such, and—just as a reminder—only congress can pass a law, no matter what President Obama seems to think to the contrary. However, since most people erroneously think of every syllable that comes out of the Supreme Court’s mouth as law of the land, and since that is how most of the media are talking about it, and because I don’t wish to get enmeshed in a lengthy constitutional legal argument, I will it pretend it is law.)

I have no particular feelings about same-sex marriage beyond the sort of vague, universal I’d-like-everyone-to-be-happy sentiment that most people feel about topics that do not directly affect them. But I do happen to think the “oath of office” argument is a very valid point and one with which I happen to agree. But my issue is not with Kim Davis so much as it is with the media. No news organization, conservative or liberal, has ever, until now, as far as I know, felt that the laws of the land and the oath of office to uphold those laws were significant enough to merit the condemnation of elected officials who chose to ignore them.

Case in point: When Gavin Newsome was mayor of San Francisco, same-sex marriages were against the law in California, yet Mr. Newsome, an elected official, was ballyhooed for very publicly ignoring his oath of office, flouting the law he had sworn to uphold, and personally issuing marriage licenses at city hall to same-sex couples from all over the state.

Case in point: In 2014, then Attorney General, Eric Holder, the top law enforcement officer in the nation, chose to ignore his oath of office and gave a speech to the states attorneys general in which he praised state prosecutors who declined to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage. He also gave a wink-and-a-nod to state legalization of marijuana, even though that drug remains illegal at the federal level.

Case in point: Four states have taken former Attorney General Eric Holder at his word and legalized the possession, sale, transportation, and cultivation of marijuana, even though all those activities remain illegal at the federal level, the elected officials of those states thereby ignoring both their oath of office and the “preemption doctrine” expressly laid out in Article VI, clause 2 of the constitution they swore to uphold and defend.

Case in point: President Obama himself correctly stated twenty-two times that he could not legally amend immigration law by himself, yet he then turned around and did precisely that through executive action.

Case in point: Currently, the elected officials at various levels in over two hundred cities, counties, and states across the country have decided to ignore federal law and their oath of office and have declared themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal aliens.

I could go on.

It makes no difference what your opinion is of any of these laws. It makes no difference what your conscience may dictate. If you are an official, at any level, from county clerk to president of the United States, you take an oath to “uphold” or “protect” and “defend” (the precise wording various somewhat with the level of the position and the location of the office held) both the constitution and the laws of this country and/or the state in which the oath is being given.

Since the President and the former Attorney General both saw fit to ignore and violate their oath, and since multiple officials at multiple levels of government all across this country have seen fit to follow their example, why is everyone getting wrapped around the axle because a country clerk sees fit to do what so many others above her have done? After all, it’s just a violation of her oath of office, and clearly no one at any level these days pays much attention to anything as quaint and old-fashioned as taking an oath.

In fact, I think we all ought to forget all about all laws of the land and just do what we personally think is right, and let the devil take the hindmost. And if there is one thing I can guarantee, it is that if our elected officials don’t see fit to honor their oath of office, the devil will take the hindmost.

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