The Liberty Council, legally representing Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, has released a statement about her meeting with Pope Francis last week:
Despite a statement this morning by a Vatican official, the Pope’s own words about conscientious objection being a human right and his private meeting with Kim Davis indicate support for the universal right of conscientious objection, even for government officials. The meeting with Kim Davis was initiated by the Vatican, and the private meeting occurred at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, September 24. This meeting was a private meeting without any other members of the public present.
Today a Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis was not a form of support for her position. “Neither Kim Davis nor Liberty Counsel ever said the meeting was an endorsement of her legal case. Rather, the meeting was a pastoral meeting to encourage Kim Davis in which Pope Francis thanked her for her courage and told her to ‘Stay Strong. His words and action support the universal human right to conscientious objection,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.
While Kim Davis was in jail, Inside the Vatican published an article saying that “a church source advises that [Pope] Francis may soon decide to delegate a personal representative to visit Kim on his behalf.…” On September 14, the day she returned to work, the invitation to meet Pope Francis on September 24 was first conveyed to Kim Davis and her lawyers.
On September 23, the meeting for the next day was confirmed by the Vatican official. On the morning of September 24, the meeting was again confirmed with Kim Davis, with instructions that security would arrive for a pickup at 1:15 p.m. Kim and Joe Davis were picked up by security at the hotel in which she and her husband were staying and driven to the Vatican Embassy. Kim and Joe Davis waited for the private meeting with the Pope. There were no other people in the room. This was a private meeting between Pope Francis and Kim and Joe Davis. This was not a meeting with other people in which Kim and Joe Davis were a part, but rather a private meeting with no other people in the room except Vatican security and personnel.
Today Reuters wrongly reported that “Davis had been in a line of people the Pope had met at the Vatican embassy.…” “That statement by Reueters citing a ‘senior Vatican official, who delined to be named,’ is false. There was no line of people before, near, or around Kim Davis. Had Kim Davis been in a line of people or been seen by anyone outside of Vatican personnel, we would not have been able to keep her visit secret. Kim’s face is easily recognizable. When we walk through airports as large as LaGuardia, Philadelpia, and Reagan, people recognize her and give her encouragement. This was a private meeting with no other people except for the Pope and select Vatican personnel,” said Staver.
During the private meeting, Pope Francis said, “Thank you for your courage.” Pope Francis also told Kim Davis, “Stay strong.” He held out his hands and asked Kim to pray for him. Kim held his hands and said, “I will. Please pray for me,” and the Pope said he would. The two embraced. The Papal photography staff took pictures of the meeting. The Pontiff presented Kim and Joe Davis each with a Rosary. One was black in a red jewelry box bearing the Vatican seal, and the other was white in a white jewelry box bearing the Vatican seal.
Kim Davis said, “I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Davis continued, “I never thought I would meet the Pope. Who am I to have this rare opportunity? I am just a County Clerk who loves Jesus and desires with all my heart to serve him.” Kim said, “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong.’”
Some have speculated whether the meeting was about Kim Davis’s legal case, but the subject of her case never arose. Kim Davis once said she felt “validated,” but what she was referring to are the Pope’s direct words to her when he thanked her for “her courage” and said, “Stay strong.”
Staver said: “During his visit to the United States, Pope Francis spoke several times about religious freedom. On the Papal plane, the reporters who traveled with him collectively prepared a series of questions they asked the Pontiff. One such question was about issuing marriage licenses and the right of conscientious objection for government officials. Without addressing specifics of any case, Pope Francis said that conscientious objection is a human right of everyone, including government officials. By the time he made that statement, he had already met with Kim Davis and told her to ‘stay strong.’”
“Pope Francis was not weighing in on particular facts of a legal case, but his statements about religious freedom and his encouragement to Kim Davis to ‘stray strong’ during a private meeting reaffirm the human right to conscientious objection. This is a right for everyone,” concluded Staver.
Speaking with reporters on board the Papal plane to Rome, Pope Francis told Terry Moran of ABC News that conscientious objection is a human right, even for government officials: “Conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the “Chanson de Roland” when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.”
The ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent asked if that includes government officials as well, and the Pope reiterated that conscientious objection is a human right: “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right,” Pope Francis affirmed.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.