The clerk who stopped issuing marriage licenses to protest gay marriage is out of jail, but the episode has sparked a broader discussion about religious freedom in America.
Former "Star Trek" actor George Takei, now appearing on Broadway, bluntly shared his views in a Facebook post. Above a video showing Kim Davis walking out of jail with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger," Mr. Takei wrote,"Well this is a bit of a circus. So let us be clear: This woman is no hero to be celebrated."
The critique that followed cited the Constitution, an analogy to interracial marriage, and the reminder that no American is free to impose her beliefs on others, saying such appeals to belief over civil laws are "entirely un-American."
The post developed into a discussion more elevated in its content level than the average Facebook status. It also engaged readers, with almost 350,000 likes and over 900 shares.
To someone who told Takei to study the First Amendment, the actor and activist responded, "Permitting a state employee to foist her religion upon others, denying them a fundamental right as articulated by the US Supreme Court in Obergefell, would be to give government, through this agent, the power to impose religious doctrine and viewpoint. That it cannot do."
Takei stated that while supporters of Kim Davis believe the First Amendment's prohibition clause would be violated if she was forced to attach her name to a gay marriage license, the same amendment's establishment clause is threatened if she abstains. The Facebook comments continued in a mostly civil fashion with everything from a Barry Goldwater quote to a pigeon meme.
The discussion has caught the attention of other online news sites, many of which complimented Takei on his political reasoning. Raw Story called Takei's comments "an amazing civics lesson to pro-Davis trolls."
One internet commenter addressed the issue another way: "I find it surprising that Takei would take that point of view given that he and his family were interned during WWII, an entirely legal act. He's made it clear that he thought this was very Wrong, a proposition with which most of us would agree in hindsight. Doesn't that suggest that laws are not always moral?"
Takei employs a team to help maintain his famously active social media presence, and he has become a prominent advocate for gay rights and other civil rights. He created and will soon star in a Broadway musical, "Allegiance," which tells the story of his childhood internment.
In a recent interview with WNYC, Takei described how that has shaped his adult life – and his activism:
Overnight we were seen as the enemy, simply because we happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor.... [W]ith no charges, with no trial, we were rounded up and incarcerated in US internment camps.... My father lost his business, we lost our home, we lost our freedom.... And yet, [my father] was able to define democracy for us as a people's democracy, and [he said] it can be as great as the people can be, but also as fallible as people are, and that our democracy is vitally dependent on people who cherish the ideals and actively engage in the process of a democratic government. [My father] shaped me, and I've been involved in many political campaigns ever since then.