Straight in the Eye

Straight in the Eye: Thoughts About Ethics and About Redemption, Upon the Death of a Fox Lake, Ill. Police Lieutenant

By Ken K. Gourdin

Now comes word that thousands of man-hours and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars were expended in vain on a search for the alleged killer of Fox Lake Ill. Police Lieutenant Charles Gliniewicz, even though such a killer never existed. It turns out that the lieutenant elaborately staged his own death after apparently embezzling thousands of dollars from the departments Explorer program, a program for youth who are considering law enforcement careers. See here, last accessed November 5, 2015: The lieutenant apparently was seeking a hit man to kill the city manager before the latter could expose the lieutenant’s misdeeds.

See here, last accessed November 8, 2015:

Attempting to escape responsibility for what you’ve done by taking your own life is one thing; attempting to do so by seeking to take another’s life is entirely another. That said, I’ve written before (and in a similar vein) about former law enforcement officers losing the public trust, as well as their efforts to regain it. See here, last accessed November 5, 2015:

I should confess my blind spots at the outset: While I have always been on the outside looking in at the profession, no one who has followed this blog for any length of time (let alone anyone who has read what I have written that has been published in print) will ever mistake me for an unfair critic of law enforcement. Which is more, I was a police Explorer scout for two years in a town that very possibly, in many respects, is not unlike the one where the lieutenant served.

Perhaps the lieutenant did much good in his long law enforcement career, and perhaps it is unfair that he will be remembered, not for anything noble, but rather for his thievery and for his apparent attempt to escape earthly responsibility for what he did. As Shakespeare wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them. The good often is interred with their bones.” (Though, as I said, escaping responsibility by taking your own life is one thing: attempting to do so by seeking to take another’s life is another thing entirely.)

But the eyes of the public are always on those who serve them, and the servants always should keep uppermost in their minds the fact that even one lapse in judgment (let alone a pattern of self-dealing that appears to be the case here) is enough for the public to feel justified in revoking its trust—perhaps permanently.

As much as I believe in the Christian concepts of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption, and as much as I believe love and trust go hand-in-hand in many cases, unfortunately, perhaps they do not go hand-in- so in all cases. In at least some cases, as relatively easy as it might be to engage in repentance, to forgive, and to offer and to receive redemption, love and trust, conversely, are separate qualities: while the Christian ethic commands us to love everyone, Jesus Christ also commanded His servants to be “as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves.” Thus, perhaps it is possible to forgive, and even to love, someone while still not fully trusting him, and to wisely withhold one’s trust while not withholding one’s love.

Thus, even if the lieutenant had succeeded in restoring that which his thievery had taken from the public fisc (and even in regaining a measure of the public’s trust) the members of the community he served would have been justified in not restoring their trust in him to a sufficient degree that he retained his position even after his misdeeds had come to light.

The new village administrator, Gliniwiecz wrote, hated him and the Explorer program. Alas, the lieutenant’s implied protestations that he, in fact, loved the Explorer program are belied by the fact that he apparently embezzled thousands of dollars from it. (If I’d been the lieutenant, I would’ve loved the Explorer program, too, if it’d been that kind of a cash cow for me . . .)

I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve had my psyche poked, probed, and prodded enough that perhaps my amateur opinion on the matter is worth more than that of the average layperson: the lieutenant’s attempt to deflect blame from where it belongs onto the city manager strikes me as rather a self-serving psychological defense mechanism.

The issue isn’t what the city manager thought of the lieutenant or of the Explorer program, though true it may be that such worthwhile programs too often fall victim to petty small-town politics. The issue is that the city manager apparently saw the lieutenant for what he was: a petty thief with a self-serving persecution complex who was hiding behind a badge and a gun.

The betrayal of the public trust by even an average law enforcement officer is bad enough. Such a betrayal by one who was charged with setting an example for youth who apparently wished to follow in his footsteps (which now, apparently, have proven to be wayward), not to mention his duty to be an example to the law enforcement officers under his command, is doubly so.

His apparently-staged death, along with the seeming misdeeds that preceded it, reflects poorly on all of law enforcement, to be sure, and it certainly does no favors for the public trust without which the law cannot be enforced effectively. But more than that, it provides even more fodder for critics of law enforcement whose criticisms already too often are justified, and it also plays cynically on the emotions of those of us whose first instinct is to rise to law enforcement’s defense in the face of such criticisms.

At bottom, unfortunately, it seems that the lieutenant not only was a self-serving petty thief, he was also a coward who was unwilling to look in the mirror unflinchingly and see himself for who he apparently had become. Still, if we’re not careful, it’s possible, when we’re left alone in the darkness of night to ponder the paths we choose, for even the best and most scrupulous of us to compartmentalize and to rationalize things that, in the harsh glare of the noonday sun, clearly are wrong.

And perhaps there was another, more altruistic motivation for the lieutenant’s apparently-selfish final act: his death in the line of duty likely would entitle survivors to life insurance on which his department (or another entity) had paid the premiums, as well as to at least a portion of his pension. Had his misdeeds come to light before his death, those benefits would have been lost (though whether they will be retained in any event by their intended beneficiaries in light of the manner in which the lieutenant died is an open question).

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Fiorina, Powers, and Candidates’ Looks

Demented? On Carly Fiorina’s Looks, on the Criticism of Those Looks by the Ladies on The View, and on Kirsten Powers’s Defense of Fiorina

By Ken K. Gourdin

I often disagree with Kirsten Powers. If we were members of the same representative assembly, we would be on opposite sides of the aisle. But I respect Ms. Powers because, perhaps more than anyone else I have heard, she’s willing to call out those who align with her politically when they cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed, or when they do or say things that are out of bounds.

Indeed, there are times (rare though they may be) when all isn’t fair in love, war, and politics and where the ends really don’t justify the political means. However else we might disagree, Ms. Powers recognizes this. Thus, it is read with great interest that I read Ms. Powers’s column in USA Today regarding the treatment Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina received from the panelists on the television talk show The View, one of whom implied that Ms. Fiorina’s smile is fake and called it “demented.” For her column, see here (last accessed November 11, 2015):

One wonders if, in the interest of being consistent, any of The View’s ladies leveled a similar criticism against presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s plan to be more spontaneous (see, e.g., Amy Chozick (September 7, 2015) “Hillary Clinton to show more humor and heart,” The New York Times, accessed on line on November 11, 2015 at the following address:  

Ms. Powers notes the ideological imbalance in The View’s panel of hosts. In and of itself, that’s not necessarily a problem as long as viewers know what they’re in for: true to its title, viewers are going to receive a single perspective on issues discussed.  Those who are apt to agree with the panel’s take on things are free to tune in, while there are plenty of other viewing options for anyone else. She also notes that the fact that many people find Ms. Fiorina’s treatment on The View problematic isn’t simply because of their lack of a sense of humor.

One thing Ms. Powers didn’t note is that formerly, there was more ideological diversity on The View’s panel when the more conservative Elizabeth Hasselbeck was among its number. Although Fox News often is excoriated (overwhelmingly by those who don’t watch it) as lacking ideological diversity, Ms. Powers herself, as a frequent Fox News contributor, is evidence against that assertion. Ironically, Ms. Hasselbeck left The View for Fox News.

Along with the ladies on The View, Fellow Republican candidate Donald Trump rightly was excoriated for criticizing Ms. Fiorina for her looks, asking who would vote for someone with a face like that. Mr. Trump later backpedaled with what struck me as a disingenous assertion that he thinks Ms. Fiorina is “beautiful.” Color me, for one, skeptical about that assertion, Mr. Trump.

As Ms. Powers pointed out in her column, this election shouldn’t be about anyone’s looks: rather, it should be about her policies and about her ability to govern. Ms. Fiorina may lack experience in the political and policy arenas, respectively, and she may need to compensate for that by surrounding herself with the right people, but personally, I have no question that she would be able to govern effectively as long as she has the right people around her.

The White House’s current occupant, by contrast, seems to be afflicted with a case of pathological brilliance: he seems to think he’s the smartest person in any room he enters, and, since his brilliance is self-evident, that anyone with whom he deals should simply defer to him on that basis alone. (And while we’re on that subject, Mr. Trump, too, seems to be afflicted with that malady: I don’t think it’s any less of a problem when it occurs among Republicans than it is when it occurs among Democrats.)

Still, if someone (whether Republican or Democrat) insists on making this election about looks, I would be far more inclined to vote for Ms. Fiorina on that basis than I ever would be to vote for Mrs. Clinton—or for Mr. Trump, for that matter. Who would vote for someone with a face like that? The opinions of Mr. Trump and the ladies of The View to the contrary notwithstanding, I, for one, hope I look half as good as Ms. Fiorina does now when I’m her age.

Don’t misunderstand: It’s not that I think that all criticism of Ms. Fiorina is out of bounds. I simply think that such criticism should be based on her positions on the issues. Personally, I don’t care if she looks as demented as the Medusa—as long as she can govern effectively.

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Heidi Keilbaugh Responds

Heidi Keilbaugh Responds to My Commentary on the James Barker Shooting – Our Dialogue

By Ken K. Gourdin

Note: James Barker’s girlfriend, Heidi Keilbaugh has responded to my commentary o the shooting of Barker. The commentary can be found here (last accessed October 21, 2015): Because her response is somewhat difficult to follow (likely it was composed in the heat of the moment), rather than posting it in its entirety, I have opted to excerpt what I believe to be her most relevant points and to respond to them individually, instead.

* * *

Ma’am, if you should read this, as I said in response to coverage of this incident which appeared in, I believe, the Deseret News, I’m sorry for your loss. No one should have to lose a loved one in that manner.

* “Kenn Im just reading this for the first time, I must say this is terrible …”

You’re entitled to your opinion. I might respectfully suggest that, perhaps seeking out the opinions of those who have opined on Mr. Barker’s death with which you know you will disagree, or opining on them once you find them, is not the healthiest, most productive, best use of your time.

* “… so so opinionated …”

That’s what a blog is, Ma’am. It’s a forum for the writer’s opinion. I’ll grant you that not all opinions are created equal. Some are better than others. I understand why you hold the opinion you do and why you think the officer’s actions were wrong. I understand why you think my opinion is ill-informed and mistaken. Conversely, I admit, I come from a very strong pro-police, pro-prosecution orientation, and my evaluation even of tragic events such as this is going to be colored by that perspective.

* “… completely omits the fact that James had very peacefully [and] very softly voiced offered to go home before he was pushed …”

I never saw that offer reported. Perhaps it was recorded by the officer’s body cam, and I simply missed it. That having been said, if all Mr. Barker wanted to do was to go home, he didn’t have to become belligerent, angry, and aggressive, as the officer’s body cam clearly shows he did. Even if, granting for the sake of discussion, this officer is not a Dale Carnegie graduate, and even if I don’t like how an officer approaches me or the questions he asks, I must be wise enough to pick my battles and to realize that I’m not going to win any battles I try to fight with the officer in the heat of the confrontation itself. Rather, I must demur and save any evidence I might have about poor or improper treatment at the hands of law enforcement for a later investigation by the officer’s agency, by the Division of Peace Officer Standards and Training, by the County Attorney, or as a result of a civil action I might file.

From what you’ve said, as well as from some of what has been reported in the media, it certainly seems as though Mr. Barker’s actions on that day were out of character for him. While I realize there is no comparison because I am still alive, I certainly have had moments, days even, that I wish I could take back, that I could relive and do differently. Given the chance, I’m sure Mr. Barker would take those moments, would take that day, back, would relive them, and would do them differently. But sadly, however much I regret those moments, in some cases, they’re all the other people involved have to judge me by. Similarly, however atypical it may have been, the only thing this officer had to judge Mr. Barker by was his behavior in their encounter.

In any event, there is abundant case law which says that if an officer asks me to identify myself, I must do so. I understand you disagree, but you’re swimming against a swift current of court opinions that run in the opposite direction. Like it or not, the law is what it is until it is changed. I can understand why you might advocate for such changes, and you’re perfectly free to do so: let’s see whom you can persuade to agree with you.

* “… he was pushed [and] a gun was pulled on him before he even lifted the shovel …”

We’ll simply have to disagree, but the officer responded the way he did because Mr. Barker failed to obey his commands and instead became belligerent, angry, and aggressive. And he didn’t have to lift the shovel in order for the officer’s use of force potentially to be reasonable: he simply had to refuse to drop it. And Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is not simply a shill or an apologist for law enforcement: whether one agrees or disagrees with his finding regarding any particular use of deadly force by law enforcement, if he believes a shooting is unjustified, he is going to find it unjustified. That was not the result in this case.

* “… This officer Matthew Taylor was not trained in de escalation techniques …”

That’s an interesting assertion. I would be interested in how you know that. If you are party to a lawsuit and found that information as a result of the discovery process, I might respectfully suggest that it is not in your best interest to lay that card (or any others you might have in your hand) down for public display before the matter is litigated, or before it otherwise is resolved.

* “… [and] cornered a civilian on private property who did nothing wrong …”

The officer was on private property because he was summoned there in response to a complaint, and the officer couldn’t have known whether Mr. Barker had done or was about to do anything wrong without an opportunity to investigate, which is exactly what the officer was there to do.

* Ms. Keilbaugh says that Mr. Barker was looking for work “FOR THE FUTURE …” (Emphasis hers)

OK. I’m certainly willing to grant that Mr. Barker probably confided more in you about his intentions that day than I will ever know, but if he was simply looking for future work, the question I have is, why did he shout at the officer, “I’m doing my business!”? And while I’ll grant you that doing business without a license certainly is a minor infraction, other questions I have are (1) Did he have such a license? And (2) If he did, why didn’t he simply tell the officer, “Sir, snow removal is my business; I have a license, and here is a copy”?

* Mr. Barker “… was asked by ME to to go out and pull up ICE off of the sidewalks …” [capitalization as in original]

I wouldn’t necessarily blame people for being skeptical or suspicious of my intentions if I made such an offer to someone I didn’t know well. More than a few home invasions likely have been preceded by just such an offer from strangers, or from relative strangers. Wouldn’t a better method be for someone wishing to do so to advertise his services, perhaps by posting an ad on one or more Web sites (I’m sure that could be done for free or at a minimal cost), or by posting fliers in the neighborhood advertising such a service and inviting people in need of it to call?

In at least one other place in print, I have said that a robust dialogue regarding police-public interactions, police use of force, police training, and how such incidents are investigated and (if necessary) prosecuted should occur, and that anyone with a reasonable proposal for reform should be welcome at the table.

I’m sure you’ll have a seat at that table; I probably won’t. As you yourself have suggested, I’m simply a (perhaps ill-informed) blogger with a limited-circulation blog whom few people likely bother to read, and my limited influence persists even when my opinions appear in more widely circulated media (such as in print). Your megaphone and bully pulpit certainly are bigger than mine. Perhaps that is as it should be. Again, I’m sorry for your loss. If how officers are trained, evaluated, disciplined, and (if necessary) prosecuted needs to change, I hope you are successful in helping to implement those changes.  Although I suspect we will continue to disagree, I certainly bear you no personal ill will. Indeed, I wish you well.

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Megyn Kelly Talks With Evil Incarnate

A Brief Thought on Megyn Kelly’s Interview With (Depending Upon Whom One Speaks or Listens To) One of America’s Most Dangerous Men

By Ken K. Gourdin

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly spoke with Charles Koch last night. First, let’s get the critical definition out of the way:

Dangerous (Adj.) = An adjective applied to anyone who supports causes with which I/we disagree, especially when such support is monetary in nature, and especially when it is significant

After all, it’s one thing to talk a good game, but the people who actually put their money where their mouths are, they’re the really dangerous ones. Thanks to the vivid descriptions offered up by his detractors, in my mind, Mr. Koch had assumed the mythical proportions of the monster who used to hide under my bed.

Which is to say, even if he existed (to the best of my knowledge, I had never seen Mr. Koch before last night; he doesn’t seem to require the spotlight nearly as much as some other people of means, who are running for office), I, as a rational, reasonably fearless, intelligent adult, had concluded that he couldn’t possibly be nearly as bad as his detractors say he is. Other than that, I hadn’t paid him much attention—which had been easy to do, since, as I said, he seems largely to shun the spotlight, is somewhat soft-spoken, and seems more likely to turn his own cheek than to slap yours if he feels you’ve slighted him.

Mr. Koch strikes me as greatly earnest, completely genuine, and entirely sincere. In other words, he’s easy for some people to demonize.

Or, perhaps (in contrast to Mr. Koch’s many detractors) I’m simply a bad judge of character.

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Trusting God

Is God “Arbitrary” and “Capricious”? Some Thoughts on Trying to Understand God’s Inscrutable Mind Amid Life’s Challenges, Struggles, and Disappointments, and on Waiting for the Lord

By Ken K. Gourdin

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what, precisely, it means to “wait upon” the Lord. Personally, I like a particular clause from Isaiah 49:23, which says, “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” While the scripture may be referring to Christ’s first coming, to His second coming, or to both, there are various circumstances in which we “wait for” the Lord. The Apostle Paul writes of having courage enough to avoid succumbing to negativity despite various vexing circumstances—of being “troubled on every side, yet not distressed”; of being “perplexed, but not in despair”; of being “persecuted, but not forsaken”; of being “cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

While I’m acutely aware that many people have waited for the Lord far longer than I have to be delivered from circumstances that are far more trying and far direr, I am a personal witness that we need not be vexed, or troubled, or distressed, or to despair, or to feel forsaken as we wait on the Lord to deliver us from such circumstances. However long we must wait, I know that ultimately, we will not be ashamed, no matter how many people in the great and spacious building of Lehi’s dream point their fingers at us and laugh, telling us, “You thought God was going to deliver you. Well, so much for that!” If we wonder, as did Joseph Smith, “O God, where art Thou, and where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1).  If we wonder, as Christ did, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Ultimately—sooner or later, however long we must wait for the Lord, however long and hard the road, whether deliverance comes in mortality or after—we need not be ashamed, and the Lord will deliver us.

I don’t think we do ourselves a service by concluding that the Lord is absent or that He is apathetic or that we’re simply not good enough when the answers don’t come, even though some of them may never come in mortality. Mortality is designed as a test: in some phases, it’s an open-book test, and we can use the scriptures as our guide. In some phases, even cheating is allowed when the Spirit whispers the answers to us. And in some phases, it’s a closed-book test in which neither of these resources seem immediately available to us. For some (perhaps many) of life’s trials, we won’t know the answers until the Lord reviews our lives with us and explains why it was that, at certain moments, He seemed absent, or apathetic, or silent.

I find tremendous comfort in this passage from Page 43 of Discourses of Brigham Young, which was included in his volume of Teachings of Presidents of the Church (Chapter 6):

If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.

I think one of the key phrases from the endowment is “by their own experience.” If God is constantly leading us around as someone might lead a bull with a ring in its nose around, there will be limited (if any) value in this supposed testing period called mortality. Sometimes, just as an experimenter might alter conditions in a lab to observe the alteration’s effect, conditions here in mortality are altered—by God; by man’s inhumanity to man; by “hap crappening”; by one or more of life’s innumerable vicissitudes. Why? So God can see the alteration’s effect: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do whatsoever things the Lord their God shall command them.” Eve understood the importance of mortality as a test: “It is better for us to pass through sorrow, that we may know the good from the evil.”

I also like this, from Elder Dallin H. Oaks:…timing?lang=eng.

We prepare in the way the Lord has directed. We hold ourselves in readiness to act on the Lord’s timing. He will tell us when the time is right to take the next step. For now, we simply concentrate on our own assignments and on what we have been asked to do today. In this we are also mindful of the Lord’s assurance: “I will hasten my work in its time” (D&C 88:73). . . .

The achievement of some important goals in our lives is subject to more than the timing of the Lord. Some personal achievements are also subject to the agency of others. . . .

. . . Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ prepares us for whatever life brings. This kind of faith prepares us to deal with life’s opportunities—to take advantage of those that are received and to persist through the disappointments of those that are lost. In the exercise of that faith, we should commit ourselves to the priorities and standards we will follow on matters we do not control and persist faithfully in those commitments, whatever happens to us because of the agency of others or the timing of the Lord. When we do this, we will have a constancy in our lives that will give us direction and peace. Whatever the circumstances beyond our control, our commitments and standards can be constant.

. . . If we have faith in God and if we are committed to the fundamentals of keeping His commandments and putting Him first in our lives, we do not need to plan every single event—even every important event—and we should not feel rejected or depressed if some things—even some very important things—do not happen at the time we had planned or hoped or prayed. . . .

Commit yourself to put the Lord first in your life, keep His commandments, and do what the Lord’s servants ask you to do. Then your feet are on the pathway to eternal life. Then it does not matter whether you are called to be a bishop or a Relief Society president, whether you are married or single, or whether you die tomorrow. You do not know what will happen. Do your best on what is fundamental and personal and then trust in the Lord and His timing. . . .

Whatever the case, no one who “waits for the Lord” ultimately will be ashamed.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about why God can seem so arbitrary and capricious in granting or delaying or withholding blessings. On a thread at Mormon Dialogue & Discussion, another poster commented on God’s seeming indifference or absence in regard to answers to prayer. Why, for example, are prayers over lost keys seemingly answered, while the prayers of the starving in Africa seemingly go ignored. In response, I pointed out that It’s not that [e.g., the prayers of the starving in Africa are ignored while prayers over seemingly-more-trivial matters such as lost keys are answered], and it’s not that, “Well, I always knew that Heavenly Dad loves you best!”, as one might say in a fit of “spiritual sibling rivalry.” It’s that God has his own purposes for granting or for delaying (or even for withholding) blessings, even if we don’t understand them. I agree: a lot of the things that happen in this Second Act wouldn’t make sense to me, either, if I didn’t know that there was a pre-mortal First Act and that there will be a post-mortal Third Act. The reason why the whole play doesn’t make sense is because we only know about the Second Act: We can’t remember the First Act, and the Third Act hasn’t been presented yet.

Also in response to that same poster, I pointed out that whether we see God (if he exists, as agnostics ask) as unfair depends a lot on the other qualities we believe He has. One poster skeptically asked, “Tender mercies for the children God really loves? Application of these tender mercies is totally capricious.” I responded, “To the mortal mind, perhaps,” and added that the hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way is one of my favorites:

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.

He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful Saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour.

The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His works in vain.

God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

I also pointed out that whether we see God as arbitrary and capricious depends on what else we might believe about him. For example, I quoted 1 Corinthians 2:11—For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God”; and Isaiah 55:8-9—“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I also pointed out that whether we see God as arbitrary and capricous depends on the other attributes we believe He has. “I realize,” I wrote, “that the implications of all of these answers can be quite complicated to the mortal mind, but the answers themselves are quite simple.” They are such questions as the following:

  • Is God perfectly benevolent?
  • Is He perfectly fair and just?
  • Is He omniscient?
  • Is He omnipotent?
  • Does He love us?
  • Is our trust in Him independent of what happens to us, even though we might not understand everything that happens to us?

If the answers to these questions are “Yes,” then I submit that this goes a long way to answering the sorts of questions and dilemmas posed in this thread.  If He is perfectly benevolent, fair, just, omnipotent, and omniscient; if He loves us; and if our trust in Him is independent of what happens to us, then there must be reasons why He intervenes in some circumstances, but apparently not in others, even if we do not understand those reasons.

One of the reasons why life isn’t simple enough to be able to conclude that God—in His alleged arbitrariness and capriciousness—grants blessings to some of His children while delaying them (or even denying them outright) to others is because, whether we recognize it and want to admit it or not, all of us have fallen into each of those categories at various times. I shared my experience of undergoing two failed operations each of which was followed by completely immobilizing my lower body in plaster for six weeks, then learning that the wide medical consensus was that the best alternative was to try that same procedure—again!

I wrote that I believe Doctrine and Covenants 130:21: “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” For example, I believe there are blessings that accrue from obeying the law of chastity (that a man or a woman should only have sex with his or her spouse): I’m not going to get a sexually-transmitted infection if I don’t engage in behavior that puts me at risk for doing so; I’m going to avoid the potentially-deleterious effects (and, conversely, am more likely to enjoy good health) if I don’t drink, smoke, use illicit substances, or use licit substances in ways in which they are not prescribed. That’s the law of the harvest. I’ll reap what I sow: if I obey the Word of Wisdom (the prohibition in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints against coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and harmful drugs), I lessen the chances of incurring consequences that will negatively impact my physical and spiritual health.

I also believe the scripture that says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7 KJV). However, while I am far from perfect, and while there is a multitude of things I need to work on in order to improve my standing before God, I’m neither any better nor any worse than the average Latter-day Saint. Yet, from a certain perspective, it could be argued that I haven’t received at least some of the blessings that one might think should accrue from that level of faithfulness. What to do? I could conclude that such a state of affairs means that I’m not right before God or that He doesn’t love me, but I don’t think that’s it: I can’t explain why certain blessings I have earnestly sought have been withheld from me except to say that I don’t know exactly what His plan is for me, a la Isaiah 55:8-9.

Matthew 7:7 notwithstanding, we may pray for a certain obstacle or a certain burden to be removed, but what God does instead is open a different path around the obstacle or increase our strength to bear that particular burden.  And while I may be “perplexed, but [hopefully] not in despair,” about why certain blessings apparently been delayed or withheld (or may even be denied me in this life), on the other hand, I have received clear, unmistakable witnesses of God’s love for me at key points in my life.  I’ve written before of having undergone four surgical operations in a span of about 27 months: the first two each were followed by six weeks with my lower body completely immobilized in plaster, after which, when I was cut out of the cast, x-rays were taken, and I was informed that neither of the procedures was successful and that the conventional medical wisdom of the time was to try, yet again, a procedure which was similar to the first two. We got at least 3-4 different opinions, all of which said that same thing.

Instead, my parents found a surgeon who was willing to buck the weight of conventional medical opinion, to try a different procedure, and to opt for a postoperative course that could (but not necessarily would) not result in my being put into a body cast, but, rather, being allowed to recuperate in a wheelchair. My parents were much more cautious than I was: my optimism was much more unbridled; given everything I’d gone through to that point, perhaps a reasonable, sensible person would conclude that my optimism was, naive … pie-in-the-sky. I cannot explain why I felt such optimism, why I felt that I wouldn’t be put into a cast after either of the two operations he performed on me within a span of about three weeks’ time … why, when I took the matter to the Lord, including praying fervently on both occasions as I lay on an operating table waiting for the doctor and his team to “do their thing” … I felt such a sense of unbridled optimism and peace. I only know that I did, and the results were consistent with that sense of optimism. They were followed sixteen months later by another successful operation: I had misgivings about undergoing this one because, unlike the ones he’d performed previously, this particular surgeon told me I would definitely be put into a cast postoperatively … (I thought, “Well, even if it’s not what I would prefer, at least I know exactly what to expect this time”) … only for him to hedge on the day of the surgery, telling me, “Well, it depends on what I find when I get in there.” What happened? For the third time in a row, no cast.

In some ways, those failed operations and what followed set me back … permanently.  I don’t know how someone completely recovers from something like that; if it does happen, I imagine it would have to be pretty rare. Sometimes, when I feel the rare urge to throw myself a Pity Party (but the trouble with Pity Parties is that the guest list rarely is more than one name long ), I ask myself why those two operations had to fail.  Did the Lord have a purpose in it? I believe He did, if, even after all of these years, I don’t fully understand it (Isaiah 55:8-9).  On the other hand, I’m still able to get around reasonably well. While some days are better than others, I’m able to walk (and otherwise to move) comparatively/relatively free of pain. Would that have happened had I not found the second surgeon who was willing to go out on a limb and try something different? I seriously doubt it; I would probably be in a wheelchair today if he hadn’t.

No one lives the kind of life I’ve lived without some serious emotional scars, in addition to physical trauma. While I’ve graduated three times (twice with honors), I’ve never quite been able to find a comfortable occupational niche. (Before I die, I would like to work one day for an employer who thinks I’m good for something besides answering phones! ) My professional aspirations have been derailed (perhaps permanently) by a lack of licensure, third (and advanced) degree notwithstanding, primarily, if not entirely, due to a complicated behavioral health history. (Every day, I wonder if getting that advanced degree was worth it: it seems that the only thing it did for me was put me under a massive load of seemingly-crushing debt with limited ability to repay it, since my earning power is circumscribed. I have spent the better part of the last 20 years crashing from one employment misadventure to the next, with long periods of unemployment and underemployment in between.

All of this, after receiving what I thought was a clear answer that I should pursue the most advanced degree I have received, and realizing (if only in retrospect) that there was no way I could have made it through my very tumultuous graduate education without divine help. (I’ve quoted Francis Webster’s account of his feeling like someone was pushing his handcart, but looking back and seeing no one, several times: that’s how I felt during most of my graduate education. Like Bro. Webster, I chose a spot in the distance where I said I would quit (usually the end of the semester), but, somehow, (and I don’t think I could have done it without God’s help), like Bro. Webster, I found the will and the wherewithal to keep going.  I thought I’d finally reached the top of the mountain when I graduated, but I was denied licensure six months later. I had been giving serious thought to reapplying, and I sought a psychological evaluation in support of a new application … but the idiot who administered it to me concluded he thinks I may have a personality disorder.  In doing so, he ignored an earlier evaluation that concluded that my particular diagnosis is in “sustained full remission.” I’d love to forget about the later eval and simply disclose the earlier one to licensing authorities, but if I do that, they would accuse me of lack of candor; but, of course, even if I disclose both of them to licensing authorities, they’ll give greater weight to the second one than to the first, because it’s more recent.

Meanwhile, my erstwhile professional aspirations now have been relegated to the status of a very expensive avocational hobby. Ironically, it seems that my strongest suits forever are destined to be used avocationally rather than vocationally. Why? I dunno. I don’t regret getting that particular degree, even though it hangs like an albatross around my neck and makes me overqualified for jobs for which I might otherwise be considered without it. I wonder every day if I should regret it. Generally, depening on what I’m applying for, I either: (1) list it, but disclose my lack of licensure; or (2) don’t bother listing it, and find creative ways to describe what I was doing with those several years I spent pursuing it. And, just as I sometimes do with those two earlier failed operations, I ask, “Lord, that was pretty much a waste, wasn’t it?” And in response, the Lord says, “Ken, don’t forget how you felt while waiting to be put to sleep on January 24 and February 14, 1984, and on June 7, 1985.” Those were my Oliver Cowdery, “Did-I-not-speak-peace-to-your-mind” moments (see Doctrine and Covenants 6:23).

I’d love for life to be an endless succession of found keys and miraculous cures and rainbows and sunshine and roses in response to earnest, fervent prayers. But for most of us, life is a mixed bag: sometimes, there are found keys, but if not, maybe there are kind locksmiths who help us out of our predicament without charging us nearly what their work is worth (or even without charging us at all); sometimes, there are miraculous cures, but if not, hopefully, there is strength to endure, and ability to see lessons learned from adverse circumstances, even if no cure is forthcoming (I’ve seen that, even though I’ve never had a terminal illness); there are rainbows, but maybe we have to live through torrential downpours in order to be granted the privilege of seeing them; there are roses, but, as the song says so well, “Every rose has its thorns” ; there are brilliant sunrises, but perhaps not before very dark, gloomy nights.

Too many of us Mormons have a Checklist™—go on a 2-year (or eighteen-month) proselyting mission; come home; go to school; pick a major; settle down; get married; graduate; start a career; et cetera—which is great when it works, unless it doesn’t. Doing what’s right isn’t simply a matter of checking things off of a list. If we happen to get blessings because of our faithfulness, all the better. Yes, God is merciful and benevolent, but He’s also a Sovereign. Though I don’t deny that He has blessed me, I don’t know why He hasn’t yet seen fit to grant blessings that, according to “The Checklist” ™, I should have gotten a long time ago. To borrow and slightly alter an expression purportedly used by Job, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord hath withheld. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” One thing I know for sure is that (as I have said on the Blog before; see here (last accessed October 13, 2015: God isn’t Santa Claus, giving “presents” to those who are “good” while giving “lumps of coal” to those who are not. (Heck, for someone who’s supposed to be so good at giving out “lumps of coal” to the wicked, God sure seems to have doled them out a lot of diamonds, instead! Same substance … carbon … simply exposed to heat and pressure for a different period of time!)

The reality is, many of the “wicked” are going to do better, at least in the short run and at least in material (and other measurable) terms than many of the righteous are. The reality is, quid pro quo obedience, while we who have been denied some blessings here in mortality stomp our widdo feet and shake our widdo fists at how unfair the Sovereign Lord of the Universe is being, doesn’t work very well. By and large, we should obey (and should do the good things we do as a result) because such obedience is its own reward, because it fills our souls and makes us happy rather than because of anything we expect from God. As Rabbi Harold Kushner said, “Expecting to have a trouble-free life because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you’re a vegetarian.” As the GEICO campaign might put it, “Bulls charge people: It’s what they do.” Similarly, there’s no escaping the fact that sometimes, life simply sucks; its what it does.

And even the best blessings we could possibly hope for in mortality pale in comparison to the blessings we can expect thereafter if we remain faithful.  When it comes to mortality, though, those who expect too much, even from God, had best take the advice of the Dread Pirate, “Roberts,” in his conversation with Inigo Montoya as the two prepare to duel in the film, The Princess Bride. Intrigued by some of the clues he lets slip during that conversation (and suspecting he may be the six-fingered man whom Inigo has sought since he was a boy) Inigo asks him, “Who are you?” “Roberts” replies, “No one of consequence.” Whereupon Inigo insists, “I must know.” And “Roberts” says, “Get used to disappointment.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints points out that many of our goals—even our most righteous, worthy, noble goals—cannot be brought to pass without someone else choosing to exercise his free will in a particular manner. Elder Oaks says:

[S]ome of our most important plans cannot be brought to pass without the agency and actions of others. A missionary cannot baptize five persons this month without the agency and action of five other persons. A missionary can plan and work and do all within his or her power, but the desired result will depend upon the additional agency and action of others.

Consequently, a missionary’s goals ought to be based upon the missionary’s personal agency and action, not upon the agency or action of others.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (October 2003) “Timing,” Ensign, accessed on line at the following address on October 13, 2015:

While I am no longer a full-time missionary, the same principle applies to me: I cannot Become One with someone else who meets my single, indispensable, non-negotiable qualification of reciprocating my interest (or I hers) unless and until someone else does, indeed, choose to reciprocate my interest (or I hers). (In the meantime, if no one can really see what she’s looking at, that’s not my problem: subject to other commitments, I have the the ability to come, to go, and to do as I please; to eat what I want when I want; to do or to see what I want without wondering what she will think of me for wanting to do it or to see it; and so on. Are these things a pale imitation or a poor alternative to Becoming One with someone? Perhaps, but I’m a pragmatist: I’ll take what I can get.) I cannot get a job out of which I may be able to make a career unless and until someone chooses to hire me. And so on.

Perhaps (indeed, it’s even likely) that the women who haven’t reciprocated my interest to a sufficient degree to choose to pursue the possibility of exploring our mutual eternal suitability have had reasons, reasons not a few and reasons good and sound, for not doing so. Perhaps (and again, it’s even likely) that the employers who haven’t seen fit to give me the opportunities I’ve hoped to get have had reasons, reasons not a few and reasons good and sound, for not doing so. And Christ died to give people the free will that those people used in making those decisions. Who am I to question that?

Regarding the issue of proper timing, Elder Oaks also said (and while he was speaking of spiritual or ecclesiastical matters rather than of mortal or temporal matters when he said it, I believe it applies equally to matters in both spheres):

We prepare in the way the Lord has directed. We hold ourselves in readiness to act on the Lord’s timing. He will tell us when the time is right to take the next step. For now, we simply concentrate on our own assignments and on what we have been asked to do today.

Oaks, “Timing,” Id.

Reinforcing the idea that the Lord often has his own timetable, both for events that occur on a larger, macro scale and for those that occur on a smaller, micro scale, later in that same address, Elder Oaks also said:

The Lord’s timing also applies to the important events of our personal lives. A great scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants declares that a particular spiritual experience will come to us “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). This principle applies to revelation 2 and to all of the most important events in our lives: birth, marriage, death, and even our moves from place to place.

Oaks, “Timing,” Id.

In a similar vein on another occasion, Elder Oaks also spoke of the elements of a priesthood blessing, including the will of the Lord, and, again, his counsel on that occasion is more broadly applicable that it is limited to that single subject. He said:

Will of the Lord

Young men and older men, please take special note of what I will say now. As we exercise the undoubted power of the priesthood of God and as we treasure His promise that He will hear and answer the prayer of faith, we must always remember that faith and the healing power of the priesthood cannot produce a result contrary to the will of Him whose priesthood it is. This principle is taught in the revelation directing that the elders of the Church shall lay their hands upon the sick. The Lord’s promise is that “he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed” (D&C 42:48; emphasis added). Similarly, in another modern revelation the Lord declares that when one “asketh according to the will of God … it is done even as he asketh” (D&C 46:30).

From all of this we learn that even the servants of the Lord, exercising His divine power in a circumstance where there is sufficient faith to be healed, cannot give a priesthood blessing that will cause a person to be healed if that healing is not the will of the Lord.

As children of God, knowing of His great love and His ultimate knowledge of what is best for our eternal welfare, we trust in Him. The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and faith means trust. I felt that trust in a talk my cousin gave at the funeral of a teenage girl who had died of a serious illness. He spoke these words, which first astonished me and then edified me: “I know it was the will of the Lord that she die. She had good medical care. She was given priesthood blessings. Her name was on the prayer roll in the temple. She was the subject of hundreds of prayers for her restoration to health. And I know that there is enough faith in this family that she would have been healed unless it was the will of the Lord to take her home at this time.” I felt that same trust in the words of the father of another choice girl whose life was taken by cancer in her teen years. He declared, “Our family’s faith is in Jesus Christ and is not dependent on outcomes.” Those teachings ring true to me. We do all that we can for the healing of a loved one, and then we trust in the Lord for the outcome.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (April 2010) “Healing the Sick,” Ensign, accessed on line at on July 18, 2015.

Do[ing] all that we can” and “then trust[ing] in the Lord for the outcome” is a principle that is more broadly applicable than simply to healing from sickness or to priesthood blessings. Such trust is indispensable because, often, we don’t understand the Lord’s timing, His purposes, or His way of doing things.

In a similar vein, C.S. Lewis once wrote:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

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Politics and Divided Support

On Politics: Is “Divided Support” Even Among Those Who Happen to Share a Particular Characteristic of a Certain Candidate Cause for Concern, or Simply Par for the Course?

By Ken K. Gourdin

This item, from Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly, about the Salt Lake City mayoral race, caught my eye. Seemingly, Rolly makes much ado about the fact that the so-called “gay vote” is divided even though one of the candidates, Jackie Biskupski, is gay. See here, last accessed September 28, 2015:

I don’t understand all of the handwringing about so-called “divided support.” That’s what happens in elections and political campaigns: one person supports one candidate, and another person supports another, even when those two people share a certain characteristic in common. Some people are of one mind on a particular question or issue, and some people are of another. Even people who happen to share one or more of that candidate’s characteristics won’t think exactly alike on every issue. And even those who agree on one issue are apt to disagree on another. Indeed, to think otherwise is, at best, narrow-minded, and is, at worst, bigoted.

Yet that’s exactly what some people think will (or worse, what they think should) happen when people run for office: if a candidate is African-American, African-Americans automatically will support him regardless of his positions. If a candidate is a woman, women automatically will support her regardless of her positions. If a candidate is gay or lesbian, gays and lesbians automatically will support him or her regardless of the positions the candidate holds.

Or is it really OK to mindlessly cast a straight-party vote—as long as the vote is for the “right” party? (Before you start wondering where my own loyalties lie, while I do lean conservative, I’ve never cast a straight-party vote in my entire voting life, and I don’t intend to start. As for my positions on issues, many of those, too, might surprise you. For example, while I don’t support gay marriage, I voted against Utah’s Proposition 3, which would have amended the state’s constitution to recognize only marriage between a man and a woman, because I felt it would simply encourage litigation. (It took a few years, but I was right.)

I have a disability: if I, in running for office, were simply to take for granted the support of all disabled voters simply because we have that one characteristic in common, I would expect them to wonder why I don’t believe they can think for themselves, especially since autonomy is such a big issue for many (if not most) of the disabled. True, my analogy isn’t perfect, because no two disabilities (even those that are similar) are exactly alike, and disability cuts across gender, race, socioeconomic, and other lines. However, that diversity simply strengthens my argument rather than weakening it.

There isn’t a political candidate alive for whom I’ve voted because I agree with him or her on absolutely everything, or simply because we happen to share a common characteristic. I’ve always tried to bear in mind the old axiom that if two people are of exactly the same opinion on absolutely everything, one of them is unnecessary. And however we might disagree, I certainly don’t think you’re unnecessary.

If I ever run for office and you have an opportunity to cast a vote for that office, I hope you’ll vote for me because we agree on a preponderance of the issues and because you think I’m the best candidate running for that office. Don’t vote for me (or not) because of how I look (or not) or because we both happen to be disabled (or not). I hope you respect me for the courage of my principled convictions even where we disagree, and I will accord you the same courtesy.

Whether you’re African-American, Asian American, Native American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Latino, or the one-eyed, one-horned, pigeon-toed, undergrowed, Flyin’ Purple People Eater; whether you’re a man, a woman, or somewhere in between; whether you’re gay, straight, or bisexual; whether you have a disability or not; vote for (or against) me if I ever run for office, or for (or against) anyone else, for reasons having nothing to do with whatever characteristics you might share (or not).

I’m Ken Gourdin, and I approved this message.

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Kim Davis is Wrong

I Don’t Support Gay Marriage, But Kim Davis is Wrong

By Ken K. Gourdin

Unless you’ve emerged from under a rock very recently or don’t follow current events beyond what happens on the latest episode of Survivor, you know that Rowan County, Ky. Clerk Kim Davis recently was held in contempt of court and jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Ms. Davis is entitled to her fervently-held religious convictions as to what God thinks of gay marriage. She also is entitled to allow those convictions to guide her actions and expressions about gay marriage—and other issues that are likely to be informed by one’s religious convictions—in many arenas of her life. My religious tradition holds: (1) that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God; and (2) that sex outside of marriage is wrong. I suspect that Ms. Davis’s views are similar, and that her views on those issues are informed by her religious convictions, just as her views on gay marriage are.

Just as Ms. Davis does, I, too, disagree with the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges holding that gay marriage is now the law of the land in all 50 states. Just as I suspect Ms. Davis does, I agree with the justices in the minority, who saw no reason to depart from long-established Tenth Amendment precedent leaving marriage as a matter to be decided by the citizens of each of the respective states. All of that having been said, here’s the thing: Ms. Davis is a public official. As a public official, she is bound to follow the law as it is proclaimed by the United States Supreme Court, even if she disagrees with it.

While I would be sympathetic to Ms. Davis if she were to invoke a civil disobedience argument, I suspect that, like many people who proclaim their right to civil disobedience, Ms. Davis wants to have her cake and eat it, too: civil disobedience entails acting upon one’s conscience in contravention of, e.g., a court opinion proclaiming gay marriage as the law of the land in all fifty states—and accepting the consequences of that choice, including such legal consequences as being held in contempt and being subject to whatever penalty a court, in its sound discretion, sees fit to impose for one’s civil disobedience. That is so even if that penalty entails being held in contempt and jailed, or losing one’s job because she can no longer, in good conscience, perform all of the duties associated with the position to which the people of her jurisdiction elected her.

Ms. Davis’s position is no different than that of, say, a police officer who believes, for example, that marijuana is comparatively harmless (and may even be beneficial in many circumstances) and that it, therefore, should be legalized. If marijuana is illegal in his jurisdiction, and if he were to refuse to arrest someone for a marijuana-related offense, I would expect his superiors to impose appropriate disciplinary action. If he were to say, “I’m simply exercising my right to civil disobedience,” I would say, “Fine. Then you will acquiesce without complaint to whatever adverse consequences may ensue as a result.”

I’m reminded of the Scripture in the Holy Bible in which his detractors, in an attempt to entrap Jesus, asked him if it was lawful to render tribute to Caesar. I won’t claim to know the mind of the Lord of the Universe, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, on a personal level, he felt the same way about taxes imposed by the Romans as many of his countrymen did. He probably didn’t like them very much, and he probably questioned many of the uses to which the government revenue they generated were put. On a personal level, he probably had more than a few reasons to disclaim the necessity of paying taxes to the Romans, but he didn’t do that. What did he say, instead, in response to their disingenuous query? He said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s” (see Luke 20:25 in The Holy Bible).

And I would tell Ms. Davis the same thing. As a public official, she doesn’t get to pick and choose the laws with which she will comply and those with which she will not—what she will “render unto Caesar”; she will “render unto Caesar” what the law says she must—or she will face the consequences. Yes, marriage was a religious institution long before the government ever got involved. Yes, there are, in my view (and in the view of many others, both religiously devout and not) important distinctions that make opposite-sex marriage profoundly different qualitatively than its same-sex counterpart. No, I don’t believe that religious “freedom” as those who crafted the First Amendment intended it should be circumscribed to mean (as courts have done so commonly in recent years) the “freedom” to do and to say what one wishes—within the walls of one’s holy place on one’s holy day.

All of that having been said, the fact still remains that Ms. Davis is wrong: She may not agree with the consequences of Obergefell v. Hodges as they relate to how she does her job, and, on a personal level, she’s entitled to feel however she wishes about those consequences. But that doesn’t excuse her from doing her job as the Supreme Court now construes it. She’s entitled to invoke her right to civil disobedience—as long as she is prepared to deal, without protest or complaint (though that does not, in my mind, include foregoing public statements about why she’s doing what she’s doing, lest her act of civil disobedience lose its impact), with whatever consequences happen to ensue as a result, even if those consequences include getting thrown in jail or losing her job.

Update, September 26, 2015: Judge Andrew Napolitano Agrees With Me – One who disagrees with me might dismiss the foregoing as the mere ramblings of a minimally-credentialed, minimally-academically-capable dimwit. Fine. But Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is far better credentialed and far more academically capable, agrees with me. In a recent column that I found at Jewish World Review (see here, last accessed September 25, 2015: Napolitano writes:

The Free Exercise Clause guarantees individuals the lawful ability to practice their religion free from government interference. It does not permit those in government to use their offices to deny the rights of those who reject their beliefs. That is the lesson for Kim Davis.

Napolitano also has an interesting solution to Davis’s dilemma which would safeguard her right to remain true to the conscience of her religious convictions. He writes:

I would have removed her authority to issue marriage license applications and assigned it to others in the Kentucky state government, and directed them to issue the applications in accordance with the law. That would have kept Davis free and her conscience clear, and permitted those in Rowan County to get married to whom they choose.

Napolitano’s proposed solution is a good one for the Davis case, but, as an ad hoc measure, it does not address the wider potential problem of public officials in general being compelled to act against their religious conscience. One potential solution to the wider problem is to include qualifying language in statutes that outline the duties of public officials. For example, a statute directing county clerks to issue marriage licenses could state that such duties must be performed by the clerk—or by her designee.

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