Judging the Judge

The Christian Century, September 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Judging the Judge


THE CASE OF Judge Roy S. Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has become the cause celebre of the Christian right. He has refused to obey an order from a U.S. district judge to remove a display of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the state judicial building. Two years ago Moore took it upon himself to install the 5,300-pound granite monument. After losing his case in a federal appeals court, Moore, a Southern Baptist, announced: "I have no intention of removing the monument."

A "Restore the Commandments" rally was staged on the steps of the Alabama State Supreme Court at which Jerry Falwell invoked the example of Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil disobedience: "We may have to visit [Moore] in jail someday," said Falwell. "Like Martin Luther King and his army of a generation ago, we shall overcome." The use of King's example is curious, since many conservative Christians didn't support King or his cause when he was alive. Moore's defiance of the federal court order is much more reminiscent of Alabama Governor George Wallace's defiance of federal orders on desegregating schools in the 1960s.

Moore's activity could conceivably generate a genuine conversation about the moral code that orders public life. Certainly the nation needs a common moral code with regard for life, truth-telling, promise-keeping, respecting property, and caring for the young, the aged, the poor and other vulnerable people. If not the Ten Commandments, then what? It is also important to consider whether morality ultimately needs a divine sanction. …

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