John Piper says Kim Davis likely morally & legally right

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |
Kim Davis with David and Jason Benham in Grayson, Kentucky September 8, 2015, after U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her release after six days in jail, saying she "shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples." The Benham brothers are authors of "Whatever the Cost: Facing Your Fears, Dying to Your Dreams, and Living Powerfully." | Twitter/Benham Brothers

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (Christian Examiner) – John Piper, found of Desiring God Ministries, in a Friday podcast, "Is Kim Davis Right to Refuse Marriage Licenses?" said clearly he believes Kim Davis is "morally right and probably legally right" in refusing to put her name on same sex marriage licenses.

Piper, who weighed in, he said, after receiving more than 50 e-mails from his listeners about the county clerk in Kentucky who was jailed over Labor Day weekend after a judge found her in contempt of court for taking a principled stand – noted there were "wider implications" to her actions perhaps than simply her convictions.

"First, I think she is right in rejecting so-called same sex marriage as contrary to God's design for what marriage is. And she is right in assessing this departure from God's will as massive, not marginal, and as personally and culturally deadly, not trivial," Piper said. "And therefore it's not something that you can just go along with as if that were a loving thing to do."

Piper outlines a scriptural premise for the condemnation of same-sex marriage, comparing it to "idolatry, greed, theft, drunkeness" – those "impenitently practice"(s) he says that the Bible speaks to in 1 cor. 6:9-10 as preventing one from inheriting "the Kingdom of God."

"Calling such behaviors 'legal' in no way removes the capital punishment that will follow in eternity. Therefore this judgment of the Supreme Court is massively evil and deadly for persons. Kim Davis is right if she believes that," Piper said. "It seems she does."

When authorities "promote evil and punish good," Piper said they "may rightly be disobeyed for the sake of obeying God." He outlined what he said were key texts in 1 Peter 2 and Romans 13.

Governments, he said, "exist to support the good and resist the bad."

Justification for Davis to defy authority is found in the premise that she is correct in not treating "evil as marriage," Piper said. "It is not marriage! If she blesses with her authority and her signature a union which leads to destruction, she endorses and participates in that destruction."

Although Piper said Davis could also be legally correct, but not morally correct, he added: "Encouraging homosexual behavior is the participation in someone's destruction. I think she is right not to do that."


This language is an interesting departure from some evangelicals like that of Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in a piece he co-authored with the ERLC's director of policy studies Andrew T. Walker.

"Need We Jail Each Other Over Marriage Licenses?" asserts four issues are involved in the complex Davis situation, including an overreach of the Supreme Court; inaction on the part of the Kentucky legislature and executive branch; escalation by the federal judge, Judge Benning in arresting Davis; and what ERLC calls "differences concerning religious liberty when it involves government employees and private citizens."

This fourth issue dominates the ERLC's article and initially states: "Government employees are entitled to religious liberty, but religious liberty is never an absolute claim, especially when it comes to discharging duties that the office in question requires."

The article references a "balancing test" for government officials who operate in their capacity as an agent of the state.

"Government officials have a responsibility to carry out the law," Moore and Walker wrote. "When an official can no longer execute the laws in question due to an assault on conscience, and after all accommodating measures have been exhausted, he or she could work for change as a private citizen, engaging the democratic process in hopes of changing the questionable law."

The ERLC said Kentucky's situation should serve as a reminder America is divided and Christians should think through "religious liberty with the Romans 13 obligation to see law and order followed—even laws we consider contrary to the common good and human flourishing.

"If Mrs. Davis' plight reminds us of anything, it is that Christians—like all Americans—must utilize every measure available to them in the democratic process to enact laws that are just, moral, and peaceable," Moore and Walker said.

Piper said there were two angles in which to look at the issue. One presupposes that instead of Davis breaking the law, "Supreme Court broke the law by their ludicrous claim that they found in the Constitution a right to the non-existent illusion called 'same sex marriage,'" Piper said.

Where Davis drew the line – her "hill to die on," Piper said, was whether gay marriage could be authorized by anybody in Kentucky – specifically her.

Citing the federal Civil Rights Act and Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Piper said there are legal provisions that the court seek to apply to her case to assist her to complete her job requirements but to avoid a conflict with conscience.

Piper said litigations that arise based on the same premises are:

  • Can nurses, who have religious objections to participating in abortions, keep their jobs and not participate in abortions, even though the hospital says they must?
  • Can Muslim truck drivers not transport alcohol?
  • Can a pacifist postal worker not process draft registration forms?
  • Can a Jehovah's Witness employee not be required to raise the flag at the school?
  • Can a vegetarian bus driver not be required to hand out hamburger coupons?

Admitting he does not know what will happen, Piper says nonetheless Davis is "morally" in the right and there is much to learn from her example.

"And the upshot for us, all of us, is that we should all be pondering now what that line is in our vocation, in our schooling, in our civil life, in our finances, and in our friendships," Piper said. "Because if we are not fixed and strong in our resolve and we are taken off guard with the threat of loss, we will cave in. Now is the time to be clear and resolved — before they knock on your door."