It should be no surprise that many Americans have come to the defense of Kim Davis, believing that she is being denied her right to “live her religion.” A long-term strategy to restore what is perceived to be the rightful place of religion and/or Christianity in public life has been bearing fruit recently (most clearly in Hobby Lobby case). In doing so, they have inverted the relationship between the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) and the Free Exercise Clause (“or prohibiting the free exercise their of”).
By weakening the power of the Establishment Clause and denying its purpose of protecting individual rights, conservatives can then ignore its power to protect the rights of individuals from government laws and/or other individuals, groups, corporations, etc. The other prong in this strategy has been to expand the right to free exercise to include the right to impose their religion on others, all in the name of religious liberty (hence all the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, RFRA). This also allows them to present themselves as the defenders of “religious liberty,” when in fact they are undermining it.
George E. Panichas uses a story about “Old Jim,” who believes that his faith does not allow him to sell guns to women, to illustrate why Kim Davis and her supporters are wrong. Taking into account the protections of the Establishment Clause, he concludes, “The constitutional rights of Americans are protected against infringements emanating from even the most deeply held religious beliefs. Indeed, abandoning this commitment closes the door on a reasonable pluralistic democracy and opens it wide to an oppressive theocracy.”
Source: Beliefs cannot trump rights