Posts tagged Roy Moore

International Ignore the Constitution Day

So, it turns out that today is the 218th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. In honor of this formal declaration of intent to impose a centralized government over the people of the Americas, some gang of jerks in Washington have decided to declare today Constitution Day, and to celebrate the occasion with the following charming Spontaneous Demonstration:

Americans around the world will unite on Friday, September 16, 2005, in the simultaneous recitation of the Preamble to the United States Constitution. General Tommy Franks will lead the Preamble which has previously been led by President George Bush Sr., U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice of Alabama Roy Moore, and Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell. The celebration will begin at 11 AM Pacific/12 PM Mountain/1 PM Central/2 PM Eastern time.

Hawaii television and radio stations are urged to do a simultaneous broadcast and to reflect and discuss the significance of the Preamble. Newspapers are also urged to promote Constitution Day and to print the Preamble on September 16, 2005, and on September 17, 2005.

President George W. Bush signed a bill on December 8th, 2004 (public law 108-447) which designated every September 17th as Constitution Day.

— Hawaii Reporter 2005-09-15: Celebrating Constitution Day — September 17, 2005

Incidentally, thanks to Senator Robert Byrd, students and teachers in government-run schools will be forced to participate in this joyous nation-wide celebration of the federal government.

Therefore, the Ministry of Culture of this secessionist republic of one calls upon all sovereign individuals to celebrate International Ignore the Constitution Day on September 17th.

The Constitution, in its origins, was an act of naked usurpation: the imposition of a government on millions of sovereign individuals and all of their descendents. Many of those who were asked did not consent to it, and the vast majority of the population of the Americas at the time (who were by turns unpropertied, Black, Indian, and/or female) never were asked whether they wanted it or not. Certainly you have not, 218 years on, and neither do I. If I got together with a group of my buddies at the coffee-shop, wrote We are your Grand High Poo-bahs, and you must do as we say on a napkin, signed it at the bottom, and then (just to be sure you understood) scrawled This is a Constitution for the United States across the top, you would consider me a lunatic if I went around insisting that the napkin I was holding obligated you to do as I say. Yet in what relevant respect are the obligations imposed on us by the U. S. Constitution any different? Did a self-selected gang of ambitious delegates somehow gain the prerogative to impose a novel, centralized, invasive government on other people against their will—the same prerogative you would think I was crazy for asserting? If so, how did they get it? If they had some kind of right, under natural law, to impose a new order of government when they saw fit, then why don’t I have the authority to do the same, for myself, whenever I decide I don’t like what they set up? (Is it because they wore powdered wigs?) If neither they nor I have the right, under natural law, to impose a new order of government, then why do their written commands have any authority than the orders of a mafioso (which may be quite consistently enforced, but which few would consider themselves morally bound to obey)? If they did have the right to do so but only with the consent of the governed, then what obligation has the Constitution ever had over those who voted against ratification, or those who never were asked for their consent? (Which, today, means everybody.)

You might say that, however dubious the notion of the consent of the governed may be, in connection with the authority of the Constitution, still, the Constitution was a wise act of statecraft and it would be wise for us to go along with it no matter how much the moralists might scowl. But is it? Hardly. The Constitution today is read, by the powers that be, to authorize the monster State that today senselessly lies and murders tens or hundreds of thousands of people around the world, pushes starvation Drug War policies and murderous patent monopolies (the latter under the mantle of Free Trade!) at home and throughout the Third World, that now continually threatens women’s basic human rights over their own bodies, and much more — and, by the way, steals trillions of your hard-earned dollars to do it all. The highest legal authorities have ruled (and thus, made it the effective policy of the State) that the Constitution authorizes federal policies such as military tribunals, the military draft, and Japanese internment. Either the Constitution does authorize these abominations and more (in which case it is the handbook for a monster State) or else it failed to prevent them (in which case it is utterly useless even for its stated purpose of securing the blessings of liberty). In either case, it ought morally to be treated like a dead letter.

You might say, O.K., fine. I realize that the current federal government isn’t much to cheer for. But isn’t Constitution Day all about celebrating how it was in its origins? But that move will certainly not get you any further. In its origins the Constitution was a pro-slavery document, which authorized (indeed, demanded) federal laws for the capture and re-enslavement of fugitive slaves; it protected Southern slavery also by authorizing the the use of the federal military against slave uprisings — supporting Southern slavery with Northern bayonets. The Northern whites compromised with the Southern slave power: support for an invasive central State in return for the protection that such a central State could offer for slavery. It was, as William Lloyd Garrison declared it, a covenant with Death and an agreement with Hell, and he knew how to celebrate its achievements:

The [4th of July 1851] rally began with a prayer and a hymn. Then Garrison launched into one of the most controversial performances of his career. To-day, we are called to celebrate the seventy-eighth anniversary of American Independence. In what spirit? he asked, with what purpose? to what end? The Declaration of Independence had declared that all men are created equal … It is not a declaration of equality of property, bodily strength or beauty, intellectually or moral development, industrial or inventive powers, but equality of RIGHTS—not of one race, but of all races.

Massachussets Historical Society, July 2005

We have proved recreant to our own faith, false to our own standard, treacherous to the trust committed to our hands; so that, instead of helping to extend the blessings of freedom, we have mightily served the cause of tyranny throughout the world. Garrison then spoke about the prospects for the success of the revolutionary spirit within the nation, prospects he regarded as dismal because of the insatiable greed, boundless rapacity, and profligate disregard of justice prevalent at the time. He concluded his speech by asserting, Such is our condition, such are our prospects, as a people, on the 4th of July, 1854! Setting aside his manuscript, he told the assembly that he should now proceed to perform an action which would be the testimony of his own soul to all present, of the estimation in which he held the pro-slavery laws and deeds of the nation

— from Thoreau: Lecture 43, 4 July, 1854

Producing a copy of the Fugitive Slave Law, he set fire to it, and it burst to ashes. Using an old and well-known phrase, he said, And let all the people say, Amen; and a unanimous cheer and shout of Amen burst from the vast audience. In like manner, Mr. Garrison burned the decision of Edward G. Loring in the case of Anthony Burns, and the late charge of Judge Benjamin R. Curtis to the United States Grand Jury in reference to the treasonable assault upon the Court House for the rescue of the fugitive—the multitude ratifying the fiery immolation with shouts of applause. Then holding up the U.S. Constitution, he branded it as the source and parent of all the other atrocities,—“a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell,”—and consumed it to ashes on the spot, exclaiming, So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen! A tremendous shout of Amen! went up to heaven in ratification of the deed, mingled with a few hisses and wrathful exclamations from some who were evidently in a rowdyish state of mind, but who were at once cowed by the popular feeling.

— from The Liberator, 7 July 1854 (boldface added)

You, too, can celebrate Ignore the Constitution Day! Today, completely ignore all claims to authority granted in the Constitution. Live your life as if the Constitution had no more claim on you than the decrees of Emperor Norton. Enjoy your rights under natural law; you have them whether or not the Constitution says one mumbling word for them. While you’re at it, treat the Constitution as completely irrelevant in political arguments too; instead of complaining that unbridled war powers for the President are unconstitutional, for example, complain that they are evil; instead of reciting that damn Davy Crocket bed-time story again and complaining that government-controlled disaster relief is unconstitutional, complain that government-controlled disaster relief is foolish and deadly. (If the Constitution clearly authorized unilateral war powers for the President, or abusive and incompetant government-controlled disaster relief, would that make it okay?) And, hell, while you’re at it, quit complaining that forced Constitution Day celebrations may be unconstitutional; complain instead that they force children to participate in cultish praise for the written record of a naked usurpation.

Just go ahead. Ignore the Constitution for a day. See what happens. Who’s it gonna hurt? And if your political reasoning becomes sharper, your discourse no longer bogs down in a bunch of pseudo-legal mummeries, and you have a pleasant day without having to ask anybody’s permission for it, then I suggest you continue the celebration, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

Further reading

Other national holidays:

The Founders really did intend for there to be a wall of separation between Church and State

Few groups of people in America today produce as much mythistorical bunk as the Religious Right, and few people are victimized by their distortions than the so-called Founding Fathers. In order to manufacture the unitary conservative Christian heritage for America that they pin their nationalist mythistory on, Christian fundamentalists routinely repeat cherry-picked quotes or outright fabrications in order to distort the religious views of the Founders. Another favorite target is the notion of separation between Church and State: the Religious Right has spent the past few decades trying to manufacture a historical-legal account on which (1) when the Founders wrote the First Amendment, they did not intend for it to enact anything like what we now call separation between Church and State, and (2) that this notion, completely alien to the Constitution, was invented by activist judges. Here, for example, is a typical presentation of the doctrine, by Stephen Erwin in The Rule of Law (2004-01-12):

Judge Moore held in his Eleventh Circuit Court appeal that the First Amendment bans any law respecting (regarding) an establishment of religion. The judge correctly points out that because of its no law language, the First Amendment proscribes only laws and his monument was not a law. The Eleventh Circuit totally failed to provide a reasonable explanation of how or why his position was wrong. Their only answer was to say that precedent (state decisis) requires separation of church and state and to express horror that if we adopted his position, the Chief Justice would be free to adorn the walls of the Alabama Supreme Court’s courtroom with sectarian religious murals and have decidedly religious quotations painted above the bench. Every government building could be topped with a cross, or a menorah, or a statue of Buddha, depending upon the views of the officials with authority over the premises. A crèche could occupy the place of honor in the lobby or rotunda of every municipal, county, state, and federal building.

These judges have completely forgotten that an independent and impartial judge is bound to interpret the law and let the legislature correct any problems that may result from a fair interpretation of that law. Political correctness is simply not within the official purview of our courts.

The separation of church and state is a concept that is not found anywhere in the Constitution. It is just one of many red t-shirts invented by our courts. And as long as we allow our imperial judiciary to ban red t-shirts there will be no legitimate rule of law.

Now, let’s set aside for a moment the non sequitur involved in the argument that the actions of a government employee funded by legislatively-appropriated tax dollars somehow sidestep the First Amendment’s concern with the laws passed by the legislature. There’s an argument to be had about the specifics of Roy Moore’s case, but that’s an argument I’ve already had elsewhere. What I want to focus on here is the historical-legal story underlying its application to the specific case; and for a Religious Rightist wanting to push some theocratic public display or another, it is a handy little historical-legal story indeed. For one, it allows the Rightist to construct a poignant tale of historical decline from our lofty origins. For two, it lets the myth-makers get into their favorite pose as myth-busters; many people do seem to be under the mistaken impression that the phrase separation between Church and State appears in the First Amendment, and the Religious Rightist can point out that it doesn’t. Finally, it their Constitutional prooftexting allows them to ascribe the last few decades of First Amendment case law entirely to the malign influence of Activist Judges, the most devious fiends in the Religious Right demonology. The problem is that the story is false on several points and deceptively selective on others.

Now, Erwin and other conservative Christians are right to point out that separation between Church and State is a phrase that does not appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, and never has. This is what the First Amendment actually says:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

What exactly mak[ing] no law respecting an establishment of religion means might not be entirely clear at first glance. One way to cash it out would be separation between Church and State. But that’s not necessarily the only possible interpretation of the text, and the Religious Rightist is right to want to know where this principle was introduced from, if judges are going to go around using it in their legal reasoning. But the problem is that, contrary to the claims of Erwin and other conservative Christians, the principle does not originate from some activist judge toiling to undo our national piety in the middle of the 20th century. The phrase comes from no less an authority on the founding documents than Thomas Jefferson, who explicitly offered it as his understanding of the First Amendment’s provisions in a letter to Danbury Baptist Church in 1802:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

—Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Danbury Baptists, 1 January 1802

(As a historical side-note, Jefferson’s letter was meant to reassure the Danbury Baptists that the Federal government had no power to regulate religious expression; the Baptists in America during the Founding generation were among the leading crusaders for complete separation of Church and State. Oh how things change in this fallen world!)

Of course, it’s true that Jefferson was not the author of the First Amendment. That’s true; but he did coin the phrase specifically to explain what he understood the First Amendment to mean. And it would be hard to say that Jefferson was not in at least as good, or better, of a position to know what the people who did write the First Amendment (including friends and colleagues such as James Madison) meant by it than Stephen Erwin, ex-Chief Justice Roy Moore, and others who decry the separation doctrine are. Furthermore, Jefferson was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which the establishment clause and the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment were derived from. Whatever the merits or demerits of judicial activism may be, the wall of separation is not an example of it; it is a gloss of the First Amendment first introduced by one of the most prominent of the Founders, who was in a very good position to claim some authority on what the proper meaning of the First Amendment was.

Now there’s a second line of attack that some Religious Rightists have pushed (Alan Keyes, in particular), with a bit more justice: some have pointed out that the First Amendment explicitly restricts only Congress (meaning the Congress of the United States); and that even if the First Amendment did impose a wall of separation between Church and State in the federal government, it was not understood, by Jefferson or anyone else at the time, to have anything to say about how state governments could conduct their affairs. Yet most of the modern applications of the separation doctrine are rulings on state governments—e.g. on state laws requiring prayer in government schools or on the actions of state judges such as ex-Chief Justice Roy Moore. So how does the modern legal doctrine of separation relate at all to what Jefferson meant by the phrase?

Now let’s be straight: the fundamentalists are right that when the First Amendment was written, it was understood to constrain only the federal government. State governments were widely understood to have the right to establish churches and pass laws restricting the free exercise of religion. (Congregationalist Massachussetts, for example, had an established church from the adoption of the Constitution up to 1833.) But so what? For one, the much-lamented activist judges do not, and very obviously do not, enforce the separation doctrine on the states on the basis of the First Amendment alone. The legal reasoning behind decisions such as Engel v. Vitale was based on the First Amendment together with the Fourteenth Amendment, which says (among other things):

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

One plausible reading of the emphasized portion is that the Fourteenth Amendment extends the protections granted to citizens of the United States in the Bill of Rights to include protection from violations by state as well as the federal government. Maybe that reading of the Fourteenth Amendment is inaccurate; but if the Religious Right wants to make that claim they are going to have to give some substantive argument against it, rather than deceptively pointing to the text of the First Amendment, as if that were the only part of the Constitution in question.

In any case, whether the incorporation doctrine is a good reading of the Fourteenth Amendment or not, there is another point on which the Religious Rightists’ arguments here are deceptive. It’s true that Jefferson and his compatriots only understood the First Amendment to constrain the federal government. But the package-dealed suggestion that they didn’t have any problem with state-level breaches of the wall of separation is plainly false. Jefferson may have believed that the First Amendment only imposed a wall of separation between the church and the federal government, but that does not mean that he didn’t think that the same separation shouldn’t be effected elsewhere. Jefferson, for example, drafted the state law that disestablished the Anglican Church in Virginia and James Madison ensured that it would be passed by the state legislature. Several other states also disestablished their churches around the time of the Revolution; even the late hold-outs such as Massachussetts eventually concluded that separation was a doctrine whose time had come, and had eliminated the last vestiges of established churches in America by the early 19th century. Jefferson did not think that the wall of separation between Church and State was a merely legal principle; he and many of his fellow Founders thought it was a moral principle that ought to apply to every level of government whatever, and they actively campaigned to get it so applied. As he eloquently put it in the Virginia Statute:

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry;

And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right.

Amen, brother.

The separation between Church and State was not a bit of judicial hokum cooked up in the head of some activist judge somewhere around 1962. The Founders really did intend for there to be a wall of separation between Church and State, and they did what they could to put the masonry up. Jefferson was wrong about many things in his life, but he was right about this.

Roy Moore Found With Strange Bedfellows

photo: Bill Pryor

Bill Pryor (this is one of his more flattering portraits)

I’ve never liked Bill Pryor.

Why not? Well, there is, for example, his amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas, in which he opines that gay sex between consenting adults is fundamentally akin to necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia and that a right of privacy protecting the former would logically have to extend to the latter. Or there is his on-going one-man war to waste as much of Alabama tax-payers’ money as possible (in a time of fiscal crisis) by defending the state’s idiotic sex toy ban from the neferious machinations of the federal court system.

One might also mention his winning record on women’s rights—not only as a militant opponent of Roe v. Wade, but also as the only state Attorney General in the nation to file an amicus brief opposing key sections of the Violence Against Women Act in Brzonkala v. Virginia Polytechnic Institute. (The court agreed and struck down the provisions, which empowered rape survivors to seek recompensation through a civil suit in federal court. Thanks, Bill.)

Bill Pryor has, in short, made some enemies. Not surprisingly, as a dangerous theocratic Rightist, he’s a prime candidate for a Bush Administration judicial appointment to the federal bench. As much as I like to see a hometown boy making good, I can’t say that I disagree with the on-going effort by women’s rights, civil rights, and religious liberties groups to stop his nomination. And I have to say that I’m rather glad that Senate Democrats are filibustering his nomination.

But liberals and Internet anarcha-feminist weblogs are no longer the only people calling for Pryor’s nomination to be scotched.

Pryor has made some new enemies lately, and—in what may be a paradigm case for the Strange Bedfellows principle—supporters of ex-Chief Justice Roy Moore have joined the fray and called on Bush to drop the Pryor nomination.

A group of supporters of ousted Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore asked Friday that President Bush withdraw the nomination of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to be a federal judge.

The Rev. Frank Raddish, founder and director of the Washington-based Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries, said Pryor abandoned his previous position supporting public Ten Commandments displays when he prosecuted Moore before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

The court removed Moore from office for refusing to obey U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s order to move a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.

Given my frequent fulminations of Roy Moore’s anathemas, you may find it a bit surprising that I actually welcome Roy Moore’s supporters to the fold. And not just as a matter of political expedience—they are actually right that Bill Pryor’s stance on the prosecution of Roy Moore make him completely unfit for a federal judgeship. This may strike you as odd, since I vociferously lauded Moore’s prosecution and removal from the bench, and I think that Bill Pryor’s prosecution of Moore was entirely the right thing to do. So what gives?

The short answer is that Bill Pryor chose the right action, but he chose it for entirely the wrong reason. Pryor has urged in repeated public statements that he agrees with Moore about State-sponsored display of the Ten Commandments, but that he is prosecuting Moore because Moore defied a federal court order that both he and Moore consider to be fundamentally mistaken. Pryor’s mouthpiece put it this way: It’s one thing to support the idea of having a monument in a court building. It’s an entire [sic] different issue to support defiance of federal court orders. So Pryor’s position is this: the federal court order is a mistake; it has no foundation in Constitutional law, and is in fact an illegal violation of the prerogatives of the several states; and yet Roy Moore has no business disobeying it.

It’s bad enough to be, like Moore, a dangerous theocrat with complete contempt for the law. But how much worse is it to combine, like Pryor, theocratic Right-wing politics with blind obsequiousness to federal power? If the federal court order were in fact illegal what possible argument could there be that Roy Moore should be forced to comply with it? Roy Moore’s position in this fracas is pernicious; but Pryor’s is beneath contempt.

So welcome to the fold, Mooreans! Écrasez l’infâme.

Theocracy No Moore

photo: Roy Moore preaches photo: the verdict against Roy Moore is read

  1. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
  2. For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
  3. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
  4. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Isaiah ch. 14, King James Version

It’s official: on Thursday, November 13th, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary delivered Alabama from the lawless, theocratic rule of Chief Justice Roy Moore. The nine-judge panel threw Moore off his position on the state Supreme Court after he defied a federal court order to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building.

As it stands, Moore has been thrown off the bench, but is free to run for an office on the Supreme Court again in the next election. Fortunately enough, the Southern Poverty Law Center is working to remedy that situation by filing a complaint with the State Bar Association. If they are successful (and the Court of the Judiciary’s ruling makes it much more likely that they will be), Moore will be disbarred and therefore prevented from ever darkening the judicial bench again.

All of this is great. Roy Moore is a dangerous demagogue without any respect for either justice or the positive law; he has used his bench not only for banging the Bible, but also to issue homophobic tirades posing as legal opinions, and to make the chilling pronouncement that:

The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle. (p. 36 of decision, emphasis added)

(As a side note, it’s also worth celebrating the fact that Moore’s screed has lost whatever legal grounding it ever had; insofar as he engaged in legal reasoning at all in the course of the opinion, it was based on the criminality of sodomy in Alabama and elsewhere. But sodomy can no longer be recognized as a crime under Alabama’s positive law, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling for personal liberty in Lawrence v. Texas.)

Of course, all this good news hardly means that either Roy Moore or his peculiar brand of politics are going to go away. What everyone’s noticed, and talked about, is not so much the facts of the case but the underlying politics: Roy Moore’s confrontational brand of Christian fundamentalism and the rallies, vigils, sit-ins, and other efforts of fundamentalist flaks to back up Moore and his monument. Unfortunately, the national newsmedia had no particular clue about what was going on (or if they had one, they certainly didn’t print it). But I’ve already talked at length about those misunderstandings in this space. There are plenty of misunderstandings to go around on Moore’s side of the fence too, which I’d like to mention here.

Most of the arguments that get thrown out to back up Moore are barely worth considering at all. The Mooreans (as seen, for example, in numerous off-topic responses to my letter to the editor concerning one of Moore’s decisions) claim that Moore’s freedom of religion is being infringed. Of course, it’s not: Moore has every right to worship however he sees fit. The only way that Roy Moore’s rights would be trodden upon here would be if he had a right to force religious displays on people in a government venue. But there is no such right. (Christians, of all people, ought to recognize this; it’s a sad commentary on modern fundamentalism that certain Christians can no longer distinguish between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s.)

Others have deflected the issue from Roy Moore’s individual rights to questions of state’s rights against centralized federal power. Now, as I said before, these aren’t really Roy Moore’s reasons for fighting the federal judiciary. The Yankee press got it more or less entirely wrong when they read Roy Moore as an updated George Wallace; the reasons that Roy Moore gives for his defiance are religious reasons: it’s not about state’s rights for him; it’s about Jesus. Nevertheless, while these are not really Roy Moore’s reasons, some of Roy Moore’s supporters have put this forward as an argument. In particular, Alan Keyes, who openly embraces the idea of theocratic states, and spends a great deal of time and linguistic mincing trying to show that the sum of the First and Fourteenth amendements really doesn’t amount to a ban on State religion—just a ban on federal religion. Here’s how he put his conclusion at the rally in Montgomery back in August:

We have the right to live in communities—and that means the people in Alabama can live in this state. And you know how come I know that this is so, that the First Amendment didn’t intend to destroy this right, that in fact such communities could exist, such states could exist? Because at the time the First Amendment was passed, at the time they put it on the books in the first place, there were a majority of states in the United States (at the time, the former colonies) where there were religious tests and oaths of office—where there were, in fact, established churches.

The thing about Keyes’ argument here is that it is not only dead wrong—but it is also completely irrelevant whether it is wrong or right. Let’s say that Keyes is right about the meaning of the federal constitution. So what? His remarks mighth ave been apropos if delivered in another state, but the Constitution of the State of Alabama has this to say on the topic:

Section 3. Religious freedom.

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

(emphasis added)

So even if Keyes were right about the feds, he’d still be wrong about Moore. Roy Moore didn’t just defy the federal government; he acted in complete contempt of the state constitution that he swore to uphold. (It would have behooved Moore’s apologists to read more than the Preamble of the state constitution. It really isn’t a document that they can rely on for support.)

Of course, whatever the proper mincing of the positive law is, all of this leaves to one side the question of the natural law. Even if there were no protections from State-established religions in the positive law, I would still have every right to be free of Roy Moore’s theocratic displays. He has no right to use the sword of the State to compel religious beliefs or force others to pay for religious monuments. (Indeed, he has no right to use the sword of the State to do anything at all. But let’s set that aside for now.)

Roy Moore’s rights are not being squelched; he is being justly punished for violating the rights of others—by forcing them to endure, and pay for, his public comingling of God and Caesar.

It’s a happy day for Alabama; kudos to the Court of the Judiciary. Écrasez l’infâme.

Newsflash

Hallelujah! The state of Alabama has been delivered from Roy Moore’s rule; the Alabama Court of the Judiciary has ruled to remove Roy Moore from his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The Southern Poverty Law Center is preparing to file a complaint with the Alabama State Bar Association, asking for Moore to be disbarred—which would prevent him from ever returning to the bench.

I have work that I need to get to this morning, but more commentary will be forthcoming. For now, I just wanted to share the happy news.

No more Moore on the bench!

Watch this space.