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Stand firm: How a faith community rallied in the name of Kim Davis and religious freedom - The Trail Blazer: Life & Arts

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Stand firm: How a faith community rallied in the name of Kim Davis and religious freedom

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Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2015 1:00 am

In Christ and Solid Rock, Kim Davis stands.

The polarizing clerk of Rowan County worships with a lively congregation at Solid Rock Apostolic Church on Sundays and Wednesdays. Davis missed Wednesday night service on Sept. 23, the night she appeared live in primetime on FOX News.

But service was still held in the little church along U.S. Route 60 that evening. The church family filed into the dimly lit, cinderblock house of worship around 7 p.m. Cheerful people shook hands and greeted one another before finding their seats. Most of the men — both old and young — wore suits, while the women donned long dresses. Some people worshipped in T-shirts and jeans.

When the lights went up, worshippers leapt from pews and migrated toward the stage. A young man crashed his drumstick into a cymbal as Christian rock music burst through the speakers and service commenced. The people danced, sang and jumped in praise. Pastor Daniel Carter delivered the message as the drumbeats continued.

Carter led the church in prayer for ill family members and for Davis. The name “Kim Davis” was scarcely mentioned thereafter. At no point were the words “homosexual,” “gay,” and “hate,” uttered by anyone during the service. Carter’s spirited message was about love and maintaining a belief in God.

Kim Davis supporters pray on the lawn of the Rowan County Courthouse Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 2015, in Morehead, Ky. Photo by Samantha Fangman/For The Independent Samantha Fangman

Since late June, Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has captured the nation's attention. When rights advocates first began swarming the Rowan County Courthouse, Davis supporters soon followed suit. A small number of people combated the protestors with words of condemnation and signs with odious messages of hate.

But most Christians who have rallied for Davis have only one agenda — to preserve religious liberty in the United States.

“I don’t really hate the people,” Marie Reynolds of Morehead told The Trail Blazer on Aug. 29. “I hate that they’re pushing for her to be removed because she’s standing on her beliefs. That’s hard for us as Christians.”

Reynolds and her husband Mike were among a handful of Davis supporters at the clerk’s office that day, when equal rights activists marched down Main Street in Morehead. One week prior, 5,000 people gathered at a religious freedom rally in Frankfort as Davis delivered an emotional speech.

Clerk Rally
Several thousand supporters rallied in Frankfort Saturday August 22, 2015, for county clerks who have refused to issue marriage licenses. Photo by John Flavell/For The Independent John Flavell

Davis told the crowd to “stand firm in what we believe” as a “stand fast Kim” banner trailing a plane ripped across the sky.

“In our Kentucky Constitution … the Kentucky Marriage Amendment says that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Family Foundation lobbyist Ron Howard, 24, told The Trail Blazer at the Capitol.

Kentucky politicians invigorated supporters at the Frankfort rally, as did some Kentucky clergy members. Morehead evangelist Randy Smith empowered the crowd of Christians as he clutched a petition letter addressed to Gov. Steve Beshear.

Smith is the leader of the “Support Kim Davis” movement, a group with 25,000 members on Facebook. He said the rally at the Capitol was “just a small glimpse of what could happen” if Christians remained united in support of Davis.

Kim Davis Supporters
Kim Davis supporters rally on the Rowan County Courthouse lawn Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 2015, in Morehead, Ky. Photo by John Tanner Blevins/For The Independent John Tanner Blevins

As the legal battles intensified, religious freedom activists continued to fight at the courthouse.

On Aug. 31, Davis’ emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied. Rebecka Christy of Rowan County sat under a shade tree on the courthouse lawn while Davis kept to herself in her office.

“We (Christians) don’t want to be destroyed. We want to stand for God and godly values,” said Christy. “We want to see Miss Kim be very safe and well and not harmed out of laws that were made by rogue judges who have no right, no business messing with marriage laws that have been formed since before the foundation of time.”

The following morning, protestors from both sides arrived at the clerk’s office. Smith led the group in hymns and a prayer circle as the sun peaked above the mountains, illuminating the courthouse as the clerk’s office opened.

Kim Davis supportes pray on the Rowan County Courthouse lawn Tuesday, September 1, 2015, in Morehead, Ky. Photo by John Tanner Blevins/For The Independent John Tanner Blevins

David Moore and David Ermold pounded their fists on the counter after Davis denied their marriage license request for the third time. Supporters chimed in, shouting “stand firm Kim.” After Davis asked the couple to leave, she waved to the people and returned to her office to a mixture of jeers and applause.

Two days later, Davis was found in contempt of court in Ashland and escorted to jail. Hundreds of Davis supporters and opponents reacted to the verdict outside the federal building.

“I’m ready to bond her out,” said Smith’s wife, Serena. "Throw me in, I'll sit with her. I don't mind."

On Sept. 4, the first same-sex couple in Rowan County history received a marriage license. "“We don’t hate these people,” Michelle Kinder told The Trail Blazer as she protested Davis’ incarceration. “It's a sad day in America when you can be arrested for your Christian beliefs."

Kim Davis Released
Kim Davis wept as she expressed her gratitude to the thousands of supporters on Tuesday. Tanner Blevins

On Sept. 8, a sea of white crosses waved in the sky as Davis was released from jail and escorted to the stage in front of the Carter County Detention Center.

“His people have rallied, and you are a strong people,” Davis told the crowd. “Just keep on pressing. Don't let down, because he is here.”

Davis returned to work on Sept. 14. She told the world she would not authorize the issuance of marriage licenses in Rowan County. The forms no longer include the name “Kim Davis.”

After two months of battle against the Supreme Court and five days in jail, Davis kept her job as county clerk and received the accommodation she desired.

Her journey thrust her into the public spotlight. Her name has echoed through broadcasts and has been the top trend on social media, transforming her into an international symbol. The embattled clerk has even drawn the admiration of presidential candidates and met the Pope.

She’s also used nearly every opportunity to thank her supporters publicly along the way.

“She thanks me every time she sees me,” said Randy Smith, who said he quit his job to lead the charge for Davis. “I still go in once a week to talk to her, encourage her, to show her that people support her.”

Davis Rally
Matthew Adams kneels to pray Saturday, September 5, 2015 during a vigil for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in Grayson, Ky. Photo by Elizabeth Hernandez Elizabeth Hernandez

Smith, an ordained freewill Baptist minister, said the fight for Davis went “across denomination lines.” He said he’s working to create a “Kentucky Pastors Network” to help unite community-conscious Christians now that Davis is back to work and tensions have calmed.

“It’s quiet here in Morehead. It’s like there’s something brewing in the air. It’s an eerie feeling,” said Smith. “We’ve got to be careful. We can’t go back to saying, ‘I’ll stay in my church, you stay in yours.’ Christians have been silent for far too long.”

Another religious freedom rally at the Rowan County Courthouse is planned for late October, Smith said. He’s inviting “a presidential candidate or two,” candidates for Kentucky governor and of course — Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis.

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