At the time I am writing this, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court has been in contempt of a federal court for half an hour. As of 12:00am he carried his battle against the Establishment Clause to a new level, as he officially stood in defiance of a federal court order to remove his two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. In the process, he has created a national media circus; he has become yet another embarassment for Alabama in the Yankee press; and his actions may end up costing the State Treasury at the tune of some $5,000 / day if U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson makes good on the fine that he says he has been mulling over. But, as someone who’s spent the majority of my life in Alabama, right now I can feel nothing but excitement as Moore makes his lawless stand.
Why is that, you ask? Well, for those who have not followed Moore over the past decade or so of his career, he has made a long career of confrontational theocratic politics, from the original battle over his display of the Ten Commandments and other conduct in his Etowah County Circuit Court, to his ascent to the position of Chief Justice, to his use of the position to issue virulently homophobic tirades masquerading as case law. He is, at best, a dangerous zealot who is willing to use the State’s
power of the sword to further his own ends. At worst, he is a demagogue and a charlatan blasphemously using a confrontational form of fundamentalist Christianity to pull media stunts for his own political and financial advancement. My own suspicion is that he is both–that he honestly believes in a version of fundamentalist
Christianity that is actually much closer to a form of Gnosticism, a modern-day Right-wing revivalism that legitimates the use of such confrontational tactics and phony
Whatever his real motivations are, his presence on the Supreme Court bench in the state of Alabama has been a terrible liability for the state, and the more blatantly lawless he becomes, the worse it gets. The reason I am so excited is that Moore has gone too far out on thin ice. Tomorrow, the Southern Poverty Law Center will file a motion for him to be found in contempt of court, and if we are lucky, it will land his sorry ass in jail. More to the point, however, the SPLC is also initiating an ethics complaint against Moore, since his defiance of a federal court order is in obvious violation of several sections of the Canon of Judicial Ethics of the Code of Alabama. Moore’s latest exercise in demagoguery has given our state a wonderful opportunity–that is, it has made it quite likely that he will be thrown out of the Supreme Court within a matter of weeks.
Those of you who know me know that I don’t very much like petty vengeance in politics. I don’t usually delight in the misfortunes of people that I disagree with, even politicians that I loathe. It doesn’t fill me with glee to see Roy Moore act in defiance of the Constitution and the federal courts, or to know that it may well result in trouble for him. What makes me happy, and excited, is the prospect of a threat removed–I’m glad that very soon Moore may no longer pose a threat to the judicial system of Alabama.
(N.B.: Watch this space for more on the morrow. I have some more to say about Moore, as well as the local and national media coverage of the fracas. But it can wait; tonight I just want to celebrate the very real possibility of Moore’s impending fall.)