Liberty Counsel said Wednesday in a statement that Davis secretly met with Pope Francis for 15 minutes on Sept. 24. The statement noted that the pontiff referred to conscientious objection as a human right in an interview a few days after the meeting took place. The Vatican confirmed the meeting, but spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi on Friday distanced Pope Francis from Davis.
"The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects," Lombardi told The Associated Press.
Undeterred, Liberty Counsel issued a fresh statement Friday morning claiming the pope's support for their client.
"Neither Kim Davis nor Liberty Counsel ever said the meeting was an endorsement of her legal case," the law firm's founder, Mat Staver, said in a press release. "Rather, the meeting was a pastoral meeting to encourage Kim Davis in which Pope Francis thanked her for her courage and told her to 'Stay strong.' His words and actions support the universal human right to conscientious objection."
Lombardi also told the AP that Davis was one of "several dozens" of people Pope Francis greeted Sept. 24 at the Vatican's embassy in Washington, D.C. But Liberty Counsel said the meeting was initiated by the Vatican and denied that any other members of the public were present, including a selfie of Davis and her husband, Joe, in the statement by way of proof.
"There was no line of people before, near, or around Kim Davis," Staver said in the press release. "Had Kim Davis been in a line of people or been seen by anyone outside of Vatican personnel, we would not have been able to keep her visit secret. Kim's face is easily recognizable. When we walk through airports as large as LaGuardia, Philadelpia (sic), and Reagan, people recognize her and give her encouragement. This was a private meeting with no other people except for the Pope and select Vatican personnel."
This post has been updated.