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Public officials bound by their oath of office — by statute, God

September 23, 2015
By PAUL D. ASFOUR , Lehigh Acres Citizen

I have watched with interest the soap opera playing out in Kentucky with County Clerk Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage licenses for same sex marriages. She claims it violates her religious beliefs and, therefore, she cannot, in good conscience, issue the licenses with her signature. She was jailed for contempt, but subsequently released. As someone who has taken an oath of office as a public official, I decided to review the oaths of office she took upon election to the Clerk's position to determine what she swore to do.

The first is in Kentucky Revised Statutes section 30A.020: Every clerk and deputy, in addition to the oath prescribed by Section 228 of the Constitution, shall, before entering on the duties of his office, take the following oath in presence of the Circuit Court: "I, ..., do swear that I will well and truly discharge the duties of the office of ... County Circuit Court clerk, according to the best of my skill and judgment, making the due entries and records of all orders, judgments, decrees, opinions and proceedings of the court, and carefully filing and preserving in my office all books and papers which come to my possession by virtue of my office; and that I will not knowingly or willingly commit any malfeasance of office, and will faithfully execute the duties of my office without favor, affection or partiality, so help me God."

Note the portion of the first sentence that requires her to discharge the duties of her office. The last sentence then requires her to execute those duties "without favor, affection or partiality." Of course, one of the duties of her office is to issue marriage licenses to those who may legally marry.

Also note the words " ... so help me God." When Davis took that oath, she swore to God that she would perform the duties of her position. She then violated her oath to God by refusing to do her job.

The other required oath is in Section 228 of the Kentucky Constitution. The relevant part states: "I do solemnly swear ... that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue to be a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to be best of my ability, the office of ... according to law; ...".

There is no wiggle room in either of the oaths Davis took. Whether one agrees or disagrees with same sex marriage is irrelevant. It is constitutional, as was determined by the United States Supreme Court. She swore to uphold the Constitution. Therefore, her choice is simple. Follow the law, as she swore to do or, if she cannot because of her religious beliefs, resign and spare us the hypocrisy.

Finally, I believe the judge who jailed Davis made a mistake. The mistake was releasing her before she either resigned or agreed to fully comply with the law she took oaths to uphold.

Paul D. Asfour is an assistant professor of justice studies at Florida Gulf Coast University.

 
 

 

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