An unexpected post with which to enter Shabbat, but the past 18 hours have involved online harassment, the U.S. District Court, and the U.S. Marshals. Well, and me.
Judge David Bunning needs no legal defense from the Bible Bigots who disagree with his decision to jail scofflaw Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Although the Supreme Court had to reiterate it, we actually decided on the separation of church and state in America 224 years ago. Kim Davis is in jail for breaking her oath as a public official to uphold the law, and as a public official that’s obstruction of the law. She can practice religion as she sees fit. But she can’t use her office to make you abide by her personal religious conscience.
I don’t know what evangelical Christians do during civics class, but this is the fourth century in which this has been old news in America. Since before electricity, the law has decidedly not been an a la carte menu on the topic. You can’t just choose to replace the separation of church and state with a nice baked potato on the side, instead. No matter how much some Christians attempt to abide by what they think Jesus said two thousand years ago, much like dinosaurs the Constitution is not mythical.
And no matter what Reddit says, doxing is illegal. When you post online the personal information of a public official and invite people to use that information to harass, you’ve crossed a line of illegality both federally and in all 50 states. Last night, one of Ryan’s Facebook acquaintances did just that by posting Judge David Bunning’s home address and phone number to Facebook and inviting his Facebook friends to use the information to harass Judge Bunning at home. By this morning, a dozen people had liked the post, several people had shared it, and one person had bragged in the comment thread about having called the judge at 6:45 a.m. and gotten through to his home voicemail.
Before he ever took me down to Southern Illinois to explore his native region and meet his family, Ryan warned me about the nakedly racist, homophobic, religiously bigoted way some people there can be. Not all. Never all, or even most. We’re better as human beings than that no matter where we’re from or how we worship (or don’t worship.) I truly believe that. But some people down there. Ryan rarely speaks up to them on Facebook because, let’s face it, it’s not really worth it. Most of the time you consider the source, shake your head, and move on.
Last night, however, this one man focused all the stereotypical hate of some people into once sick online call to action. Judge Bunning has a family and a right to safety and privacy. We all do. That’s why no matter how public anyone’s personal contact information is, posting it with the intent to harass someone is illegal. (Although I had to wonder if this guy ever reads a newspaper. Silk Road, anyone?)
Oddly enough, when you witness someone try and dox a federal judge, it’s really, really hard to figure out how and where to report it. It took me an hour to decide to contact the FBI district office with jurisdiction over this particular Bible Bigot’s county via email late last night.
By this morning, though, the awful thread in question had really blown up. When I saw the bragging comment from someone who had actually done as requested and gone through with calling the judge at home, I decided enough was enough. I called the U.S. District Court Kentucky Eastern District in Covington and reported the doxing. They took the details and said they would forward them to the proper authorities.
Just after lunch, the post disappeared. In its place, the Bible Bigot groused, at length, that U.S. Marshals had called him at home and made it clear that what he was doing was illegal. So he posted Judge Bunning’s office number, instead. Which is legal, and should have been what he posted in the first place if he felt so strongly about what what Judge Bunning did in his official capacity.
The funny thing about Bible Bigots since marriage equality became the law of the land is that their actions show clearly, over and over again, that they not only think theirs are the only valid religious doctrines, but also that somehow magically those religious doctrines give them the right to break the law. Like refusing to grant marriage licenses or follow court orders.
Or intentionally putting other human beings at risk.
I feel a lot of compassion for my Christian friends and family, because I know people like that are a minority among Christians, and seek to invalidate everyone–including their co-religionists–who don’t share their religious views. But there are many other ways to be Christian, and there are many other religious pathways in this country besides Christianity. That’s exactly why 224 years ago we decided that people like Kim Davis–and last night’s Facebook Bible Bigot–don’t have a right to force their religious conscience on others.
I said it before and I’ll say it again. There is no more legal or socially appropriate room in America to hate people while hiding behind the Bible. Thank you, Mr. Obergefell. Thank you, SCOTUS. Thank you, Judge Bunning. Does that mean we’ve made being Christian illegal? Hardly. Does that mean we’ve made it a lot harder to practice religious bigotry? Damn right.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.