In the late Colonial era, it had been illegal in the State of Virginia to preach without the approval of the Church of England for more than a hundred years. So when Jeremiah Moore, a devoutly religious man and CofE official, became convinced that Baptist doctrine was the correct belief, he knew just what he was giving up - not only his sizable salary, but potentially his freedom.
It didn't take long: in 1773, he was arrested and imprisoned in Alexandria three times. The powers that be thought that was just where he belonged: Justice Charles Broadwater railed on Moore saying, "You shall lie in jail until you rot!"
Fortunately, Moore chose wisely in his selection of counsel: none other than Patrick Henry. Mr. Henry had already earned a national reputation as a fearsome defender of religious freedom, nearly inciting riots in courtrooms where independent preachers were being convicted.
Patrick Henry's powerful oratory and appeals to the generally Christian prevailing culture succeeded in having Pastor Moore acquitted; he lived to a ripe old age pastoring several churches across Virginia. From that day to this, nobody has been imprisoned in America for their religious beliefs.
Until today. The year 2015 marks the end of America's belief in First Amendment religious liberty, which is not only supposed to prohibit the government from establishing a state religion, but also anything to inhibit the free exercise thereof.
Kim Davis, a duly elected county clerk in the state of Kentucky, is in prison today specifically because she refuses to perform an act contrary to her conscience: she will not sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
She is not preventing same-sex couples from obtaining marriage from other county clerks more accommodating. She is not advocating any kind of violence against homosexuals, or preventing them from behaving however they prefer. She simply and exclusively does not wish to affix her own name to something she considers to be an abomination before God.
For that, she is rotting in jail in contempt of court - a jail sentence which has no fixed time and no set end, being purely at the pleasure of the judge.
If we still lived in the America of our founders, there would be rioting in protest like Henry instigated. Instead, many people are suggesting that if she can't "do her job," she should simply resign.
That isn't what America is all about, though. As Davis' lawyer explained:
The tragedy is that there are simple ways to accommodate her convictions. Just remove her name from the marriage licenses. That’s all she has asked from the beginning.
Again: Ms. Davis has no right to prevent homosexual unions, nor is she trying to claim such a right. There are 120 county clerks in the state of Kentucky, 117 of whom have no problem with issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Why must Ms. Davis be forced to violate her conscience?
It's not even a question of being fired: in Kentucky, county clerks are elected officials who cannot be fired until their term ends, only impeached. The voters of Rowan County placed their trust in her; no legal authority in the land gives judges the right to summarily remove elected officials from office. Yet Judge Bunning is trying to do just that, by locking her up until she knuckles under.
Nor is this tyranny restricted to government officials. We've seen bakers, photographers, and all manner of other vendors legally forced to express messages endorsing homosexual unions they consider to be anathema. Should Christians be unable to be bakers, photographers, or restaurateurs? How about doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, who might be called upon to assist in the Constitutional right and mortal sin of abortion?
From the point of view of pure logic, none of this makes any sense. Your humble correspondent cannot get married in a Catholic church since I'm not a Catholic; that's no skin off my back as there are plenty of other places to go. For well over a century, employers have been required to make "reasonable accommodation" to sincerely held religious beliefs; most famously, devout Jews routinely swap work hours with Gentiles so as to always be home on the Sabbath.
Where's the harm in that? What purpose does it serve to turn Ms. Davis into a martyr when ten minutes' drive down the road into the next county would get homosexual couples what they want?
There is only one possible explanation. As Mike Huckabee accurately noted:
This is the criminalization of Christianity.
It's actually far worse than that; it is the driving of Christian beliefs from the public square entirely. Our Supreme Court justices knew this full well when they magicked up a phony right to gay marriage out of the invisible penumbras of the Constitution, and the homosexual lobby has never been particularly shy about their end goal.
At least Ms. Davis is in no peril of her life - for now. History shows that religious oppression never ends with prison, though, because prisoners from John Bunyan to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have an irritating habit of using their imprisonment to create a far higher and louder platform for their views than they otherwise would have had.
Had anyone heard of Ms. Davis last month? Now we all have, and hundreds of times more people are listening to her views than her local church pastor could ever dream of. So long as she sticks firm to her beliefs, the militant opposition will have only three choices.
The first, currently in force, is to keep her locked up until she submits. If she won't submit, though, the longer she's behind bars, the more disturbed middle America will become. That's what brought the civil rights movement of the 1960s to success: most decent Americans became sickened at the thought of religious people imprisoned for nothing more than protesting for their natural rights as Americans. Of course, that's not at all what the homosexuals and liberals want.
The second is to let her out and allow her her exemption. That may take away her megaphone somewhat, but it will also establish a precedent which millions of other Christians, similarly devout but less bold than Ms. Davis, will immediately seize. There will be a sizable, visible body of refuseniks all across the fruited plain, directly and safely defying the dictates of political correctness. Can't have that!
Which brings us to the traditional solution of the tyrant: increasingly harsh penalties, working up through torture and ending in execution. We aren't there - yet, although respected religious leaders are predicting it.
Before we get there, though, one warning: when the Romans tried that tactic it backfired. Famously, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."
For many decades now, we've wondered just what it will take to restore American Christianity to health. It may seem counterintuitive, but for two thousand years Christianity has suffered when it's enjoyed comfort and thrived when oppressed the most harshly - with the notable exception of the Islamic world.
Assuming that Mr. Obama is not a closet Muslim, we probably aren't going to end up down that route. It's horrifying to contemplate that a round of oppression and martyrdom is what's needed to restore the historic strength of Christianity, but it looks like we're going to find out.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.