Tag Archives: faith

George Michael dies at age 53

British singer George Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist, died at his home in England on Sunday. He was 53.

In the mid-1980s, Wham! was one of the most successful pop duos ever, with singles like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Careless Whisper”, “Last Christmas” and “The Edge of Heaven.”

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period,” his publicist said in a statement.

“The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage,” the statement said.

British police said Michael’s death was “unexplained but not suspicious.”

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou June 25, 1963 in London to Greek Cypriot immigrant parents in a flat above a north London laundrette, Michael once played music on the London underground train system before finding fame with Wham!.

With a school friend, Andrew Ridgeley, he formed Wham! in 1981, a partnership that would produce some of the most memorable pop songs and dance-floor favorites of the 1980s.

“I am in deep shock,” said Elton John. “I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans. @GeorgeMichael #RIP.”

‘I WANT YOUR SEX’

The duo had their first hit with their second release “147;Young Guns (Go For It)” (1982) before their debut release “Wham Rap” became a hit the following year. The 1984 album “Make It Big” was a huge success in the United States.

“No way could I have done it without Andrew,” Michael once said. “I can’t think of anybody who would have been so perfect in allowing something which started out as a very naive, joint ambition, to become what was still a huge double act but what was really … mine.”

But Michael was keen to reach beyond Wham!’s teenage audience and to experiment with other genres. Wham! announced their split in 1986.

A pilot solo single “I Want Your Sex” was banned by daytime radio stations but was one of his biggest hits.

“I want your sex, I want you, I want your sex,” he sang. “So why don’t you just let me go, I’d really like to try, Oh I’d really love to know, When you tell me you’re gonna regret it, Then I tell you that I love you but you still say no!”

In the space of the next five years, Michael had six U.S. No. One hit singles including “Faith”, “Father Figure,” “One More Try,” “Praying For Time” and a duet with Aretha Franklin “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.”

Questions about his sexuality were raised when he was arrested in 1998 for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California.

“I feel stupid and reckless and weak for letting my sexuality be exposed that way,” Michael told CNN at the time. “But I do not feel shame )about my sexual orientation”, neither do I think I should.”

“I can try to fathom why I did what I did,” he continued, “but at the end of the day, I have to admit that maybe part of the kick was that I might get found out,” he told CNN.

Though he had relationships with women and once told family members that he was bisexual, Michael, then 34, said he was gay.

“Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael,” said Star Trek actor and LGBT rights activist George Takei. “You’ve found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you.”

While Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power, Michael voted for Britain’s opposition Labour Party but criticized Tony Blair’s support for George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“Sad to hear that George Michael has died,” said current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. “He was an exceptional artist and a strong supporter of LGBT and workers’ rights.”

Michael’s death comes at the end of a year that has seen the passing of several music superstars, including David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Rick Parfitt, the guitarist of British rock group Status Quo, died on Saturday at 68.

Churches brew new recruitment strategy: Jesus over beer

Angela Caddell started struggling with her Christianity 14 years ago when she came out as gay. But a gathering at a bar to talk faith over a cold beer once a month is helping her feel more connected to her religion.

“If you’re an atheist you are welcome. …. I’m a lesbian, I’m totally welcome,” said the 32-year-old from nearby Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, at a recent gathering.

“Tonight we’re talking about scapegoating. There is no scapegoating that happens here.”

This event is called “Jesus & Beer” and it’s part of an effort by some Christian groups throughout the country to recruit parishioners, connect with people struggling with faith or provide a relaxed outlet to talk religion.

Call it pint-size salvation.

Caddell heard about the event through Brandon Brown, pastor at CollectiveMKE. He started the gatherings once a month at area bars about 11/2 years ago. He doesn’t have a stand-alone church and knew that his non-traditional gatherings wouldn’t attract social conservatives. About two dozen people attend.

“I think it also completely unsettles everyone’s expectations in that they know what it is to talk about their faith in a church but most people have never done it in a bar so it’s a totally new environment and maybe fresh,” Brown said. “In addition to that, I’ll be honest: a beer or two doesn’t hurt the conversation at all.”

After all, everything goes down better with beer.

While bringing people together to throw one back and talk religion isn’t a new idea, groups have been turning to the non-traditional pub setting to attract younger people such as millennials. According to a Pew Research Center study, the number of U.S. adults who are affiliated with an organized religion dropped from 83 percent in 2007 to 77 percent in 2014, a trend particularly striking in the millennial generation.

That younger group is the focus of a monthly bar event organized by the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, said Emily Burds, the Catholic church’s director of evangelization. Besides a free beer, there’s usually a meet and greet, a speaker and discussion.

About 60 to 70 people come each month to the “Brewing the Faith” gatherings, which Burds sees as a “means to an end.”

“Obviously the end is like greater faith and a relationship with God but also to be connected to a parish community somewhere where they are living,” Burds said.

During the summer they also organize “Theology on Tap,” a lecture series that has spread worldwide after starting with the Archdioceses of Chicago in 1981. It involves bars or restaurants and targets younger people.

Burds said they trained some young adults in mingling skills to make sure everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging — “what every millennial really is searching for,” Burds said.

It worked for James Wronski, 22, a new Milwaukee resident who attended a beer garden event.

“I think this kind of relaxed social atmosphere where you come, you meet people, you drink, you relax and you kind of learn and educate yourself, that’s a big draw to millennials.”

But alcohol certainly isn’t new to Catholicism, with wine being an integral part of the sacrament of Holy Communion, said Rev. John Laurance, associate professor of theology at Marquette University.

“You know one of the Psalms says, ‘God gave wine to cheer up people’s hearts,’ so even the prayer book of the Old Testament sees that this is a gift from God,” Laurance said.

 

 

Conduct code may have silenced rape victims at Baptist school

The sexual assault scandal that took down Baylor University’s president and football coach also found a problem with a bedrock of the school’s faith-based education: a student conduct code banning alcohol, drugs and premarital sex that may have driven some victims into silence.

Investigators with the Pepper Hamilton law firm who dug into Baylor’s response to sexual assault claims determined the school’s rigid approach to drugs, alcohol and sex and “perceived judgmental responses” to victims who reported being raped “created barriers” to reporting assaults.

Some women faced the prospect of their family being notified.

“A number of victims were told that if they made a report of rape, their parents would be informed of the details of where they were and what they were doing,” said Chad Dunn, a Houston attorney who represents six women who have sued Baylor under the anonymous identification of Jane Doe.

The nation’s largest Baptist university is a notably conservative place in one of the most conservative states in the country. Dancing on campus was banned until 1996. Fornication, adultery and homosexual acts were included in an official list of misconduct until May 2015, and the current policy stresses that “physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”

Students can still be expelled for using drugs or alcohol, though late last year it included amnesty for minor offenses.

Pepper Hamilton investigators urged the school to expand amnesty to sexual conduct code violations; the federal government told all U.S. universities in 2011 that conduct policies may have a chilling effect on reporting sexual assault.

“Amnesty is a no-brainer,” said Shan Wu, a former federal sex crimes prosecutor who is now a criminal defense attorney specializing in student legal issues. “Unfortunately, these codes force students to engage in life-or-death calculations,” added Wu, who isn’t involved in the Baylor case.

Baylor officials say they are already making changes. Interim President David Garland, who took over in late May for ousted president and chancellor Ken Starr, said the university considered all of the firm’s recommendations as “mandates.”

“Expectations for our students are outlined in university conduct policies and are a reflection of our faith-based mission,” school spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said, noting that the amnesty provisions for drug and alcohol use should assure sexual assault victims that Baylor will focus on their allegations. Baylor has repeatedly declined to comment specific cases.

“Student safety and support for survivors of all types of interpersonal violence are paramount to the mission of Baylor University,” Lewis said.

But such offers of amnesty are too late for women who previously reported assaults and told Pepper Hamilton investigators about hurdles they faced in dealing with Baylor officials. Eight former Baylor students have brought three federal lawsuits against the school, outlining rape allegations as far back as 2005 that they say were either ignored or discouraged from reporting.

Dunn would not allow his clients to be interviewed by the AP to protect their identity, but relayed questions to them.

Two women said they were pushed to accept alcohol conduct violations when they reported their assaults, or feared sexual conduct violations if they did.

One woman said her case began when she called police to report a physical assault on another woman at an off-campus party. Police demanded to know if she was underage and had been drinking, then arrested and reported her to the school office that investigates conduct code violations, she said. She told Baylor officials her drinking was a result of being raped a month earlier and detailed what happened in person and in a letter.

She received an alcohol code violation and told to do 25 hours community service, and when she tried to appeal, the woman said Baylor officials urged her to drop it. The school never pursued her rape claim.

“I was told by many Baylor staff that they couldn’t do anything for me because my assault was off campus, yet they had no problem punishing me for my off-campus drinking,” the woman said. Schools are bound by federal law to investigate on- and off-campus sex assault allegations.

The threat of a sexual conduct violation was a “common issue” that Baylor did nothing to dispel, another woman said.

Even when the code of conduct wasn’t an overt issue, some women who reported sexual assault said they were grilled about their behavior.

Stefanie Mundhenk, a former Baylor student who The Associated Press is identifying because she has publicly blogged about Baylor’s investigation into her 2015 rape allegations, told the AP that she was never threatened by conduct code violations but was repeatedly questioned about her sexual history.

“I was alarmed,” said Mundhenk, who is not among those suing Baylor. “It was biased and it was unfair. They were trying to gauge if I was a loose woman. They were looking to attack my reputation.”

On the web

For information about reporting sexual assaults and addressing the crisis on college campuses:

SurvJustice

It’s On Us

Religious leaders advocate for transgender rights

They stood for tolerance and kindness.

They stood for inclusion and protection.

They stood for right and against harm.

More than 400 clergy rallied in late May outside St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, calling for the repeal of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 and praying for freedom from prejudice.

Clergy members from across the state but also far beyond assembled for the event, protesting the Republican legislation that rolls back LGBT civil rights and prevents transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

“We stand for love in the way that Jesus expressed it, which means inclusion, which means acceptance, and which means seeing every person as a fearfully and wonderfully made child of God,” said the Rev. Martha Kearse of St. John’s Baptist Church in Charlotte.

Organized under the banner of “Faith in Public Life,” the clergy represented Metropolitan Community, Lutheran, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Presbyterian, United Methodist, First Congregation, Unitarian Universalist, and Catholic churches, as well as Buddhist temples, Quaker groups and Jewish synagogues — both reform and conservative.

The faith-based leaders called on North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to seek the counsel of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who earlier this year vetoed an anti-LGBT bill, citing his Christian faith.

“We affirm that all people are beloved by God and that discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is wrong,” the clergy members wrote in a letter to McCrory.

Witnesses to the rally said they were inspired, and reminded of the role clergy played in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“This event might have been lost in all the news over HB 2 and the boycotts, but we’ll remember it when we look back on this time,” said LGBT civil rights activist Kate Eckerd of Asheville, North Carolina. “This was a moment, a real moment, when you look at who was there and where they came from and what they demanded because of their faith, not in spite of their faith.”

The display of faith-based unity against HB 2 and for LGBT equality surprised Eckerd, who said she gets mixed signals at the Catholic church she attends.

“The people are good,” she said. “The message from the priest, not so good.”

The range of religious trans inclusion

An analysis by the Pew Research Center finds that some religious institutions are starting to formally address the participation of transgender people in their congregations and in clergy positions, while others remain steadfastly against inclusion.

The review by Pew found:

• On the negative end of the inclusion spectrum, the Assemblies of God, Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and Southern Baptist Convention have stated barriers to inclusion. The synod instructs ministers on how to counsel transgender people and encourage them to seek mental health treatment while Southern Baptist Convention in 2014 adopted a resolution stating that transgender people can only be members if they repent. The Mormon church, meanwhile, says people considering “elective transsexual operations” cannot be baptized or confirmed.

• In the middle, the Church of God, Presbyterian Church in American, Roman Catholic Church, and African American Episcopal Church have no official position on inclusion and send mixed messages on the issue. The Catholic church says gender is permanently fixed at birth and Pope Francis has said gender theory is a danger to humanity, but the pope has also met with a transgender man.

• The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Methodist Church have a reputation as inclusive but lack an official statement.

• More definitively, the Episcopal Church, Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, and United Church of Christ have official statements regarding the inclusion of transgender people. The Union for Reform Judaism adopted a resolution in 2015 that “encourages Reform congregations, congregants, clergy, camps, institutions and affiliates … to continue to advocate for the rights of people of all gender identities and gender expressions” and “urges the adoption and implementation of legislation and policies that prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression and that require individuals to be treated equally under the law as the gender by which they identify.”

 

 

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Kennedy: Religious exemptions can’t trump civil rights

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy is pushing legislation that would ban religious exemptions from laws that guarantee fundamental civil and legal rights.

The Massachusetts Democrat says the bill is a response to what he calls ongoing attempts to cite religious beliefs as grounds to undermine civil rights protections, limit access to health care and refuse service to minority groups.

The bill would limit the use of such exemptions in cases involving discrimination, child labor and abuse, wages and collective bargaining, public accommodations and social services provided through government contracts.

Kennedy says religious freedom is sacred, but shouldn’t harm others.

Kennedy’s bill would amend the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he says is used by those seeking to impose their beliefs on others or claim that their faith justifies discrimination.

To All Candidates Running for President: Reject Bigotry

Since the tragic attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the world has watched some American politicians react with hatred, bigotry and vile untruths. They have exploited the politics of nativism and fear, using the atrocities committed by a few individuals to cast blanket suspicion on whole nations and all Muslims.

America must be better than this.

We are a nation of immigrants founded on the principles of justice, equality, and democracy. Our commitment to these ideals has not always been perfect, and it is horrifying to hear politicians use past examples of national shame, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, to justify discrimination today.  Our nation and political leaders should instead set an example for people around the world with resilience and hope. Equality and religious freedom are principles enshrined in our founding documents and reflected in our laws. They are not mere concepts to be discarded in difficult times.

Calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States and prohibit the resettlement of refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Syria undermine core American principles by fomenting hate, division, and discrimination. Such hateful rhetoric has given rise to a tide of racism, hatred, and violence against law-abiding American Muslims. It is deeply distressing that hate crimes against American Muslims — and those who appear to be Muslim — are up when all kinds of hate crimes are down. This terrible fact cannot be divorced from the dangerous rhetoric that has seeped into the mainstream in recent weeks.

American Muslims are our neighbors, friends, and colleagues. They are us.

Our political leaders not only set the tone for our nation. They also are the primary messengers to the rest of the world.  When they call for compassion, dignity, and equality, the world listens. When they call for exclusion and defend bigotry, the world also listens. In a time of global uncertainty, American leaders must do the right thing by projecting the America we have always aspired to be.

We challenge every candidate for the presidency of the United States to stand up against bigotry and division, to oppose the exclusion of individuals from the United States on the basis of religion or nationality, and to affirm a commitment to equality for Americans of all races and of all faiths.

The future of America — and the world — is in your hands. Do the right thing. The whole world is watching.

Mormon Church leader criticizes Kentucky clerk Kim Davis for denying marriage licenses

The Mormon Church staked a deeper claim to middle ground in American society, advocating for compromises between protecting religious liberties and prohibiting discrimination and criticizing Kentucky clerk Kim Davis for refusing to license gay marriages.

“We may have cultural differences, but we should not have ‘culture wars,'” Mormon leader Dallin H. Oaks declared.

“On the big issues … both sides should seek a balance, not a total victory,” he said. “For example, religionists should not seek a veto over all non-discrimination laws that offend their religion, and the proponents of non-discrimination should not seek a veto over all assertions of religious freedom.”

Oaks’ speech marked another landmark moment in the conservative religion’s transformation from a faith that frowned on gays and lesbians to one becoming more welcoming and compassionate, albeit in small steps that may seem nominal to outsiders.

As with the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Francis, the conservative Mormons are trying to assert a softer position in society, while holding firm inside the church to its own doctrines against gay marriage and homosexual activity.

The Mormons chose Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that guides The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to give the speech, the most detailed yet reflecting the new approach to what Mormons call “same-gendered attraction.” He brings credibility as a former Utah Supreme Court judge who also once served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren on the U.S. Supreme Court, church officials said.

The discourse was delivered to a closed gathering of judges and clergy in Sacramento, California. A copy of the prepared remarks was provided to The Associated Press.

Oaks declared himself devoted to both church doctrine and the laws of a democratic society. But when conflicts between them arise and are decided, citizens of a democracy must follow court rulings, he said.

“Government officials must not apply these duties selectively according to their personal preferences – whatever their source,” Oaks said. “A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle.”

Oaks didn’t call out Davis by name, but his reference was clear, and confirmed by church officials.

The “fairness for all” approach now advocated by the Mormons is essential to protecting religious liberties in an open society where different religions co-exist, Oaks asserted. This question isn’t academic, but personal, he added: His great-grandfather served time in a territorial prison for breaking a federal law intended to punish him for his religious beliefs, and his wife’s great-great-grandfather was murdered by an anti-Mormon mob.

“It is better to try to live with an unjust law than to contribute to the anarchy that a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln anticipated when he declared, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law,'” Oaks said.

After the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether in Rowan County, Kentucky rather than comply with rulings she said violate her personal religious beliefs. She was released from jail after members of her staff agreed to comply with a federal judge’s order to issue licenses to all legally eligible couples in her stead. The deputy clerks removed her name from the forms.

Once she was released, she further altered the forms to declare they were being issued under a federal court order.

The American Civil Liberties Union now wants U.S. District Judge David Bunning to order Davis and her employees to reissue the licenses without alterations, and to fine her or appoint someone to replace her for this purpose if she continues to refuse. The judge has yet to rule.

In another balancing act, the Mormon Church decided to maintain its longtime affiliation with the Boy Scouts this summer, despite the Scouts’ decision to end its ban on gay troop leaders.

Spencer Clark, the executive director of Mormons for Equality, was complimentary of most of Oaks’ speech but took exception to the point that everybody should get something when laws are made. His group advocates for full equality for LGBT people.

“Making sure that segregationists ‘got something’ was rightfully not the goal of the civil rights movement,” Clark said. “Neither should the LGBT rights movement settle for less than full equal protection under the law.”

Supreme Court could review nonprofits’ contraceptives objection

Religion, birth control and President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul are about to collide at the U.S. Supreme Court yet again.

Faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals that oppose some or all contraception as immoral are battling the administration over rules that allow them to opt out of covering the contraceptives for women that are among a range of preventive services required to be in health plans at no extra cost.

The religious-oriented nonprofit groups say the accommodation provided by the administration does not go far enough because they remain complicit in providing government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans, though the groups are not on the hook financially.

A new federal appeals court ruling is the first to agree with the nonprofits, after seven other appellate panels sided with the administration. Such disagreements among lower courts often are a trigger for consideration by the Supreme Court.

If the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the matter in its term that begins in October, it would be the fourth high court case stemming from the health care overhaul that Obama signed into law in 2010.

The high court has twice preserved the law, but has allowed some for-profit employers with religious objections to refuse to pay for contraceptives for women.

Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the requirement to offer birth control.

For other religious-affiliated nonprofit groups such as hospitals and schools, the administration argues that the accommodation creates a generous moral and financial buffer between religious objectors and funding birth control. The nonprofit groups just have to raise their hands and say that paying for any or all of the 20 devices and methods approved by government regulators would violate their religious beliefs.

To do so, they must fill out a government document or otherwise notify the government so that their insurers or third-party administrators can take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it. Insurers get reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other parts of the health law.

But dozens of colleges, hospitals, charities and other organizations have said in lawsuits they still are being forced to participate in an effort to provide coverage for contraceptives, including some which they claim amount to abortion. The government may impose fines on groups that do not comply.

Mark Rienzi, who has represented some of the nonprofits, said the government is asking the groups to do more than just raise their hands.

“Everyone’s claim is, ‘I can’t do it on the form and in the way that lets you use my plan to give out the stuff. I can’t be involved,”” Rienzi said. The government has other ways of providing the contraceptives, he said.

Appeals courts in Chicago, Cincinnati, Ohio, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have dismissed those claims. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis decided otherwise in a case involving several nonprofit groups in Missouri, including CNS International Ministries of Bethel and Heartland Christian College of Newark.

“In light of CNS and HCC’s sincerely held religious beliefs, we conclude that compelling their participation in the accommodation process by threat of severe monetary penalty is a substantial burden on their exercise of religion,” Judge Roger Wollman wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel in its decision Sept. 17. Wollman said the groups probably have a right under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to refuse to comply with the regulations.

Seven appeals already are pending at the Supreme Court; the justices could decide by the end of October whether to hear one or more of those.

The earlier appellate rulings found that the administration’s rules removed the organizations from providing contraceptives and turned the process over to third parties. Far from burdening their religious exercise, the rules allowed the groups to wash their hands of any involvement, wrote Judge Richard Posner of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The administration has strenuously opposed the appeals, arguing in part that there is no reason to take up the issue because no appeals court had disagreed. That changed with the 8th Circuit ruling. But the administration also has contended that the accommodation does not violate the nonprofits’ religious rights.

Even if the Supreme Court rejects that argument, the administration has said in court papers, the justices should determine that the system for getting contraceptives to women covered by the groups’ insurance plans is the most effective and efficient way to do so.

Pope to deliver 4 of 18 U.S. speeches in English, rest in Spanish

The Vatican says Pope Francis will deliver four out of his 18 speeches in the U.S. in English, using his native Spanish for the vast majority of his homilies, greetings and other speaking engagements in his three-city U.S. tour.

Francis has polished his English during recent trips to Asia, but the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that the Argentine pope simply finds it easier to express himself in Spanish. 

Francis will deliver an English speech at the White House and Congress and two greetings to U.N. staff and benefactors in Philadelphia.

Francis leaves Saturday for Cuba and arrives in the United States on Sept. 22 for a five-day visit.

Lombardi said a meeting with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana was “likely” but not scheduled yet.

Kentucky clerk returns to work, will not block licenses to gay couples

Clerk Kim Davis returned to work on Sept. 14 for the first time since being jailed for disobeying a federal judge and said she was faced with a “seemingly impossible choice” between following her conscience and losing her freedom over denying marriage licenses to gay couples.

She said she decided not to interfere with deputy clerks who will continue to hand out the marriage licenses in Rowan County.

In her first day back after a five-day stint in jail, Davis said she was torn between obeying God and a directive from the judge that “forces me to disobey God.” Davis, an Apostolic Christian, believes gay marriage is a sin.

Davis refused to issue licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage. Her profile reached a fever pitch when she was jailed, as protesters, presidential candidates and news crews from across the county descended on the small town of Morehead, Kentucky.

Early on Sept. 14, the plaza outside the courthouse took on a carnival air: loud speakers blasted Christian music, television cameras and lights were set up in white-topped tents and Davis’ supporters waved signs and prayed.

The issue has drawn some of the most fervent Christian activists from across the country. Their trucks are parked up and down the street, bearing signs that read “sodomy ruins nations” and “repent.”

One truck, with a North Carolina license plate, has a poster-sized photo of an aborted fetus on the side. Others, from Iowa and Colorado, feature photos of two men kissing with doomsday warnings about the sin of homosexuality.

Police had a heavy presence outside the courthouse as about 100 reporters formed a tight semi-circle around the courthouse door and waited for Davis. She emerged just minutes before her office officially opened and gave her statement, saying the licenses would now say they were issued “pursuant to federal court order.”

“I don’t want to have this conflict. I don’t want to be in the spotlight. And I certainly don’t want to be a whipping post,” Davis said. “I am no hero. I’m just a person that’s been transformed by the grace of God, who wants to work, be with my family. I just want to serve my neighbors quietly without violating my conscience.”

U.S. District Judge David Bunning held her in contempt and ordered her to jail Sept. 3 when she continued to refuse to issue the licenses. In her absence, her deputies issued at least seven licenses to gay couples and altered the forms to exclude Davis’ name.

The governor, the attorney general and the county attorney have said the licenses are valid. Davis and her attorneys claim otherwise.

The deputy clerk who handed them out, Brian Mason, said he will continue to hand out the licenses.

Mason now sits behind a sign that reads “marriage license deputy.” He remained calm, scrolling on his computer and chewing gum, despite the surreal scene unfolding before him. Dozens of television cameras crowded around his counter, with some reporters climbing step ladders to get a better shot of him sitting at his desk, waiting for a couple to arrive to get a marriage license.

“I love my deputy clerks and I hate that they have been caught in the middle of any of this,” Davis said. “If any of them feel that they must issue an authorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice and I will take no action against them.”

Mason, 38, has worked for Davis for a year and a half.

Davis went into her office after making her statement and remained there with the door closed and the blinds draw, despite the crush of media waiting at the counter.

Matt Sparks, sheriff of this rural county, is in the unexpected position of coordinating reporters from around the globe as they wait for a couple to arrive and try to get a license.

He asked the reporters to step back from the counter so a few customers could do business, like a man looking bewildered as he arrived to renew his car tag.

“I know what shot you’re looking for,” the sheriff told the crowd of media. “If a couple comes in you can step back up.”