In a satirical essay appearing Tuesday in The Week, Michael Dougherty suggested that the only appropriate punishment for Kim Davis given her contumacy before the law is to “actually martyr her” by burning her alive.
“Any normal punishment rewards her with the comfort of solidarity from right-wing Christians or her own sense of moral self-approval,” Dougherty notes. “Therefore the only way to avoid granting her such ‘martyrdom’ is to actually martyr her.”
Comparing the current stand-off between religious liberty and state authority to the Protestant Reformation, Dougherty said that Christians who make a spectacle like this are “perverse” and declared that the “only way the state can really punish them is to inform them that their suffering is meaningless and proving that God doesn’t exist by sending them to the darkness of oblivion in torment.”
Let Kentucky officials in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling “be put on a pyre,” Dougherty wrote. “When the smoke settles there will be no GoFundMe campaign, save perhaps for a small carbon offset.”
GIven everyone’s premises, there is only one proper way to punish Kim Davis: Burn her to death. http://t.co/TAdwlDyzsh
— Micháel B Dougherty (@michaelbd) September 8, 2015
The dark piece hits very close to home, following on threats from gay activists who told Davis’ husband they would rape her in front of him, burn their house down, and murder them.
“They told my husband they were going to burn us down while we slept in our home,” Davis told Fox News’ Todd Starnes. “He’s been told that he would be beaten up and tied up and made to watch them rape me. I have been told that gays should kill me.”
Burning seems to be the punishment du jour to exact on people who oppose gay marriage. William Smith, Jr., and James Yates, a gay couple who were denied a marriage license in Rowan County, said of Kim Davis that they would “rather burn the earth and not let straight people in Rowan country get married either.”
Such punishments are not unheard of, though we tend to associate them with countries supposedly less civilized than our own. Last November, for instance, a Christian married couple was burned alive by a Muslim mob in the south of Lahore (Punjab province), after being accused of committing blasphemy for allegedly burning pages of the Qur’an.
Some have compared Dougherty’s parody to Jonathan Swift’s famous essay suggesting that the children of poor people in Ireland could be flayed and their soft skin used to make gloves and their flesh consumed to help defray expenses.
The rhetoric of burning alive those who oppose same-sex marriage because they deem it an aberration that offends both human dignity and the laws of God underscores the anti-religious sentiment that threatens to undermine the foundations upon which America was built.
Justice Anthony Kennedy and the other four justices who sided in favor of imposing same-sex marriage on the country could not have failed to foresee the effects of their decision on religious freedom.
It remains to be seen whether a country founded on religious liberty will be able to withstand the waves of the new orthodoxy that crash daily upon its shores.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.