Roy Moore in Exile: Ousted Alabama 'Commandments Judge' Is Waging War on Church-State Separation-And You Won't Believe the Far-Out Folks Who Are Helping Him

By Leaming, Jeremy | Church & State, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Roy Moore in Exile: Ousted Alabama 'Commandments Judge' Is Waging War on Church-State Separation-And You Won't Believe the Far-Out Folks Who Are Helping Him


Leaming, Jeremy, Church & State


Most lawyers and other Americans, says Roy Moore, don't understand the First Amendment's church-state provisions because they've "been indoctrinated in something that is not true."

Speaking at a "God & Country Patriotic Celebration & Conference" in Maryland in July, Moore claimed law professors and judges are leading people astray.

"They say God must be separated from life," Moore insisted. "As a Christian, God can't be separate from life. God has everything to do with law."

If you thought that former Alabama Chief Justice Moore had slinked off into a dark corner after being ejected from his state's Supreme Court, you thought wrong. The man known to many Americans as the "Ten Commandments judge" may be bowed, but he's far from broken.

Moore has not retreated from his advocacy of a society ordered by his version of biblical law. Instead, he is using his forced retirement from public office--and his infamy--to fuel a crusade aimed at spreading misinformation about church-state separation.

Just before the Fourth of July, he wound up as the main attraction at a Religious Right gathering in Severn, Md., where he and a string of far-right activists peddled "Christian nation" rhetoric, bashed Islam, belittled American culture and the federal government and displayed an alarming affinity for the neo-Confederate states' rights cause.

On the conference's first day during a panel discussion dubbed "The Myth of Separation of Church and State," Moore said, "I didn't come to my understanding of separation of church and state out of study or my intellectual ability, which is limited. I came through it out of experience."

Moore then elaborated on the lengthy court battles over his efforts to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings. He is best known--and loved by the Religious Right--for his defense of a large granite Commandments monument he placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and its allies challenged the religious display in federal court. Moore lost at all levels of the federal judiciary, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case.

Moore defied court orders to remove the 2.5-ton monument, and in 2003 he was ejected from the state supreme court. (The monument finally wound up in the atrium of the CrossPoint Community Church, the Gadsden, Ala., congregation where Moore worships.)

The "God & Country" conferees in Severn celebrated Moore's actions as heroic. The other speakers, including a fiery Maryland state legislator, a disgraced former military chaplain and a law professor dressed as a Christian crusader knight, argued that the nation's founders were deeply religious men who did not intend for church and state to be separate. America, they said, is morally bankrupt thanks to a list of usual suspects, such as gays, secularists, Hollywood and liberal politicians.

One of the conference's primary sponsors was Michael Peroutka, a Pasadena, Md., attorney who ran for president on the U.S. Constitution Party ticket in 2004. The party advocates for an extremely weak central government and a society governed by biblical law. So, beyond celebrating Moore as a Christian martyr of sorts, an anti-government sentiment was also easily discernable among the speakers and audience. (On the conference's final day, one attendee approached this writer to complain that "we don't have a free country.")

Rally speakers stoked those sentiments by repeatedly painting the federal government and many politicians as hostile to Christianity.

On the event's opening day, Peroutka said it was his mission to introduce attendees "to the enormity of the problem before us. We love our country, but when my country is inebriated or acting so, it's my job, it's my duty, to set it right."

Setting the nation right, in Peroutka's view, apparently means a radical dismantling of secular democracy and the creation of a fundamentalist theocracy. …

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