Moore Extremism: Alabama's Notorious Ten Commandments Judge' Is Back-And He's as Big a Zealot as Ever

By Jones, Sarah E. | Church & State, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Moore Extremism: Alabama's Notorious Ten Commandments Judge' Is Back-And He's as Big a Zealot as Ever


Jones, Sarah E., Church & State


Controversial Alabama jurist Roy Moore is back in the news, thanks to a fresh attack on church-state separation.

Moore came to national attention in the 1990s when he installed a two-ton granite monument at the judicial building in Montgomery. He was sued by a band of state residents represented by Americans United, the Alabama branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Moore lost that case--and his position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He spent several years working the Religious Right speaking circuit and writing poetry while his monument--dubbed "Roy's Rock" by critics--was loaded on a flatbed truck and taken on a nation wide tour for fundamentalist adulation.

Although Moore was kicked off Alabama's Supreme Court in 2003 after he defied a federal court order to remove the Ten Commandments display, that action, remarkably, didn't bar him from running for office again. He ran for governor twice and lost. In 2012 Moore's luck changed when he sought--and won--election to the state high court as chief justice.

Moore's dismissive attitude toward the First Amendment is visible most recently in his concurring opinion in Hicks v. Alabama, which upheld the conviction of a woman charged with child endangerment for using chemical substances during her pregnancy.

Because of its implications for abortion access, the case has been controversial. Moore's opinion did little to quell the controversy.

"I write separately to emphasize that the inalienable right to life is a gift of God that civil government must secure for all persons--born and unborn," he wrote. Moore went on to claim that Thomas Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence with a sectarian purpose in mind, and cited Jefferson's interest in the work of William Blackstone, an English jurist, as evidence.

According to Moore, Blackstone "recognized that God's law was superior to all other laws."

Although the Declaration isn't a legal document, Moore references it in his opinion, seemingly to argue that American law has divine roots. He also managed to drag in a reference to the Nuremburg Trials, where Nazi officials were convicted of war crimes.

According to Moore's creative analysis, the fact that these officials were convicted even though they'd been following German law indicates that, "The law of nature and of nature's God therefore binds all nations, states, and all government officials from Great Britain to Germany to Alabama--regardless of positive laws or orders to the contrary."

The conclusion, Moore wrote in Hicks v. Alabama, is that the state of Alabama has a divine obligation to protect the rights of unborn children.

Advocates of reproductive rights were alarmed by the ruling. Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said Moore's ruling "clearly express the view that women who have abortions should be subject to prosecution and incarceration. "

It's not the first time Moore has issued sectarian statements from the bench. In an infamous 2002 opinion, he denied a lesbian mother custody of her child, calling homosexuality an "inherent evil" and writing idly about the days when the government used "the power of the sword" against gays. During his time on the court, he's also expressed support for a constitutional convention, which he sees as a way to pass an amendment banning same-sex marriage nationwide.

Moore also has a habit of making extreme comments in speeches. He recently addressed an anti-abortion group in Mississippi, where he opined that the First Amendment protects only Christians.

"Buddha didn't create us, Mohammed didn't create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures on which this nation was founded," Moore told the crowd.

"They didn't bring a Quran over on the pilgrim ship Mayflower," he went on. "Let's get real, let's go back and learn our history, let's stop playing games. …

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