Politics & Government

Analysis: Politics marries religion at rally after Kim Davis released from jail

From left, Joe Davis, Mat Staver, Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee appeared a rally outside the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., on Sept. 8, 2015. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
From left, Joe Davis, Mat Staver, Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee appeared a rally outside the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky., on Sept. 8, 2015. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

GRAYSON — At times it felt like a revival. Other times it felt like a campaign rally. For most of the day, it was hard to tell the difference.

There was no separation of church and state as hundreds stood in the sweltering heat outside the Carter County jail, praying and then waiting for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to be freed.

And that suited the crowd just fine.

Politicians and religious leaders joined forces here Tuesday to proclaim that the United States of America is a Christian nation, and nobody — not U.S. District Judge David Bunning and not "five unelected lawyers" on the U.S. Supreme Court — could tell them differently.

While Davis is a registered Democrat (U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, said he expects that to change), the long line of politicians coming to stand beside Davis were decidedly Republican.

Matt Bevin, who is running for governor, and presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz all turned up to show their support — and work the rope lines along the way.

The plan called for a rally, where politicians would call for Davis to be released. But those plans were thrown into chaos as word made its way through the crowd that Bunning had ordered Davis released.

Hymns and Christian rock boomed out of speakers as spectators debated whether Davis would emerge from the jail, noting that Bunning's order not to "interfere" as her deputies issue marriage licenses was not much different from what Davis refused to do Thursday, when Bunning jailed her for contempt.

Huckabee was standing next to Davis when she came out of the detention center, joining her attorney, Mat Staver, in speaking to the press on her behalf.

The area around the jail was packed with those who say their religious liberties are under attack and those who think the problem goes beyond that, to a "homosexual agenda" that is destroying the country.

"I know there are some people who will say that this is a rally of hate. They would be wrong," Huckabee told the crowd. "I know this, and I think I speak for you, we don't gather here today because we hate anybody. We gather here today because we love God and this great country."


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Among the signs waving throughout the day was one calling the Supreme Court "the new ISIS" and one asking: "AIDS: Judgment or Cure?"

The crowd was exuberant as the rally began, with Huckabee and Staver taking the lead in telling them that Davis had been freed. Cruz worked the rope line and left.

Bevin addressed the crowd after being introduced as someone who "has stood staunch from Day One for Kim, and he happens to be running as the Republican nominee for governor for this great state."

"I will say this: You are here with conviction, you are here with passion, but it is not enough. If you want a better Kentucky, if you want a better America, my question to you is how badly do you want it?" Bevin said, offering remarks similar to those he makes at county Republican dinners.

Bevin challenged the crowd to reach out to others and "bring them to the polls with you," decrying a "majority that sits on its hands and doesn't go to the ballot box."

Huckabee quoted Forrest Gump, who said that "God showed up," thanking the crowd for praying for Davis' release and declaring that their prayers had been answered.

He followed that up by volunteering to take Davis' place in jail.

"If you have to put someone in jail, I volunteer to go," he said. "Let me go."

Huckabee added: "I am willing to spend the next eight years in the White House leading this country. But I want you to know I'm willing to spend the next eight years in jail."

The former Baptist minister, Arkansas governor, Fox News Channel host and presidential candidate began to introduce Davis, as Eye of the Tiger started to play.

Davis, overcome by emotion, made her way onto the stage, joining hands with Huckabee and raising them in the air.

They looked like a preacher and a congregant. Or a presidential candidate and his running mate.

"I just want to give God the glory," Davis said after taking the microphone, urging the crowd to " keep on pressing; don't let down, because he is here."

With that, Huckabee took the microphone back. "Ladies and gentlemen, your prayers have been answered," Huckabee said. "Kim will tonight go home. She will be with her family. She will sleep in her own bed. But all of us need to ask: Who's next?"

Someone in the crowd shouted: "Obama."

While the majority of the signs on display and T-shirt slogans focused on biblical phrases, the role of the Supreme Court and the "sin" of being gay, others seemed keenly aware of the election season.

There were calls to impeach Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and at least one sign supporting "Kim Davis for president."

The crowd was decidedly one-sided, but there were a handful of people who showed up to support equal rights.

Shandon Brater of Grayson acknowledged he was "way outnumbered" Tuesday, but said he thought it was important to stand for "equality for everyone."

Brater said he thought Davis was "just trying to get famous."

He called the event "just a breeding ground for hate. And people shouldn't hate like that. They're supposed to be Christians."

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