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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Moore Theocracy in Alabama?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Moore Theocracy in Alabama?

Judge Roy Moore announced last weekend his intention to run in the Alabama governor’s race in the Republican primary. Moore was the judge who refused to remove a display of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Courthouse in defiance of a federal court order. Moore’s refusal to obey the law ultimately cost him his job as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Astonishingly, the fact that Moore has been removed from a position which required him to respect the rule of law apparently does not disqualify him from running for elective office in Alabama.

As dangerous as Moore was as a judge, his campaign is an all-out assault against the establishment clause (separation of church and state) of the First Amendment and against personal liberty. On his website, judgeroymoore.net Moore outlines the five planks of his campaign tiled: Return Alabama To The People. The first four planks of his platform are what most Conservatives and Libertarians would want; the last plank however, is a complete deal breaker: “Preserve our moral heritage.” Whose ‘moral heritage’ is he referring to?

Here is plank five in all its ugliness:


Morality - Preserve our moral heritage.

  • Defend the right of every person to include teachers, judges, and state, county and municipal offices to publicly acknowledge God as the moral foundation of law, liberty, and government.
  • Oppose gambling, pornography, and same-sex marriage.
  • Secure God-given inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property.
On the first bullet point, what does Judge Moore mean by “defending the right…to publicly acknowledge God as the moral foundation of law, liberty, and government”? What if government officials choose not to make such an ‘acknowledgement,’ or decide they would prefer to keep their government statements neutral to religion and/or God? What if teachers want to teach students that the moral foundation of law, liberty, and government is based on the philosophy of John Locke, Thomas Paine (Deist who first named our country “The United States of America”), Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and countless others who understood the tyrannical dangers of combining the state with the church? European Monarchies were based on the belief that Kings and Queens were given ‘divine right’ by God to rule over the masses. The founders believed that the people should rule – not some God appointed figure head. The Constitution of the United States is a secular document by design. There was a time when religion determined the moral foundation of law, liberty, and government; a period of time we now refer to as ‘the Dark Ages.’

As important as the debate is regarding the ‘moral foundation of law’ is, rather than reargue my position on the importance of church/state separation or whether or not the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian values, the remaining two bullet points of Moore’s fifth plank are of profound importance. If Moore is opposed to gambling, pornography, and same-sex marriage how can he possibly say that he is in favor of securing the rights of Liberty, and Property (at least ‘Life’ would likely be safe under a Moore administration)? Let’s look at each of these individually.

Gambling
If Moore is opposed to gambling, then he does not believe in the right of the individual to do what he or she pleases with his or her own property (money is property). The only legitimate opposition he could have would be against a state lottery. Otherwise, if adults choose to gamble their own money, then the government has no say (by the same token, if an individual gambles his or her money and loses, the government should not bail this person out).

Pornography
Moore cannot be serious about securing the individual’s right to Liberty if he chooses to ban pornography (provided all parties involved with the pornography are consenting adults). Regardless of what he wants to do in Alabama, with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, pornography is a form of speech and therefore is constitutionally protected. Pornography may be offensive to most Alabamians, but freedom of speech can never be voted away regardless of how a majority of people feel about it. This is why the First Amendment was written to begin with; to protect unpopular speech and to protect those who speak out against the government. If there is no market for pornography in Alabama (or anywhere else), then no pornography will be bought or sold in Alabama.

Gay Marriage
Gay marriage falls under Liberty. Personally, I believe the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. Be that as it may, married couples have certain benefits unmarried couples do not (wrongly). Going back to the Fourteenth Amendment, all laws are supposed to be applied equally (equal protection). The Fourteenth Amendment, being part of the U.S. Constitution, trumps anything any state wants to do restricting personal liberty. If a hetero sexual couple can legally be married, so can a gay couple - complete with all the legal benefits of marriage.

Perhaps another benefit Moore and his supporters overlook when it comes to church/state separation is that the state cannot force a church to marry anyone. Alabama is heavily populated with Christian conservatives; gay couples would likely have a difficult time finding a church to marry them regardless of the legalities involved. But if a gay couple does find a church that would marry them who is the government to tell them no? The bottom line is marriage is nobody’s business other than the individuals involved.

Return Alabama Back to the People?
Like so many Americans, Judge Moore is under the false impression that the United States is a democracy rather than a representative constitutional republic. What’s the difference? The difference is that individuals have the rights of Life, Liberty, and Property (and all rights which fall under these rights) regardless of the majority’s wishes in a representative republic. In a democracy, there are no such assurances. In a free society, there will always be certain individuals, views, and behavior that is unpopular; we all must recognize this. My opposition to Roy Moore is not because he is an evangelical Christian, I am opposed to Moore because he wants to make his personal beliefs law while he ignores laws he does not agree with. Moore only wants to return Alabama to certain people of his faith. Bans on such things as gambling, pornography (any literature which the theocrats find objectionable), and gay marriage does not sound like the sort of laws which are characteristic of a free country. Our American heritage is one of personal liberty, not one reminiscent of a theocracy. Hopefully Alabama voters will recognize this.

Related Links:
Stop Roy Moore (New blog permanently linked under "Resouces")
More to come...

5 Comments:

Blogger Everyman said...

Wow, I totally disagree with you on this one on every point Stephen. I think that the so called "establishment clause" is firmly planted in misinterpretation of the Constitution. Separation of church and state appears nowhere in the Constitution. Rather it was taken in a quote from Thomas Jefferson written in a letter. Jefferson didn't attend the Constitutional Convention. If the framers had've intended there to be a separation between church and state they would have included those words in the Constitution. The First Amendment is very clear that Congress will not establish a state religion nor will they hinder the free exercise. We're not talking about a "theocracy" here, we're talking about the common laws of decency and humanity which organizations like the ACLU have fought to destroy. The government should not be able to interfere with anyone's right to pray in public places or read their Bible. That is a direct violation of the free exercise clause. Roy Moore will be running for governor in my state, Alabama, and I will be voting for him. The founding fathers recognized the importance of morality and religion to the progress of government and the nation:

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
-George Washington


The founding fathers believed in God and the importance of religion to a free society. They knew of the dangers of a government supported church as well. What we have experienced over the last 50 years is not the quelling of an attempt to establish a state religion but the destruction of the ability of a nation's citizens to exercise their freedom of religion and that is the true danger in our society.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...

Everyman:

Before I get into my response; welcome to the LLP group. I think your blog is a fine addition. Also, you made some great points on the ‘Choices’ post that I would like to respond to at a later time.

Rather than repeat myself on my views on the establishment clause, please refer to my post “The First Amendment Explained: Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses” (part 1 of a 2 part series, found under “The Very Best of…” on the top right hand side of this page). In this post I address many of the points you made. The truth of the matter is that the founders were as divided then as we are today about the role of religion and government.

Like I wrote in the post, I am more concerned about how Moore is trying to infringe on the rights of Liberty and Property. You cannot have it both ways: either you respect these rights or you do not. I am a big fan of the ‘where my fist ends and your nose begins’ approach to explain liberty. Such things as gambling, pornography, and gay marriage may have negative consequences to the individual but it is still the individual’s choice. If you are opposed to gambling, don’t gamble. If you are offended by pornography don’t buy it. If you do not approve of gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex. I think it is really as simple as that.

Once we start basing our laws on morals without respect to the individual’s rights of Life, Liberty, and Property, we find ourselves inching closer and closer to tyranny. If you really think about it, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is an example of what happens when church and state are one and the same.

12:56 PM  
Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Stephen,

As you may have guessed by now, I will have to go along with this fellow, Everyman, on this one.

I think you are way off base when you declare the so called "separation" slant to church and state.

Rather than preach to the empty seats, let's just say I think you are sitting on the wrong side and have denied the necessity, that single most important aspect of the original America, the fact that God ordained this country and will bless it only as long as we hold to His Commandments and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Bob W. said...

Per usual, I find myself a little in the middle of all this. Like everyman I belive that faith, religon or for that matter non-faith, should be free choice. "The founding fathers believed in God and the importance of religion to a free society."

That aside Steve, your staements on Gambling, Por and Gay Marrige are right on.
"Such things as gambling, pornography, and gay marriage may have negative consequences to the individual but it is still the individual’s choice. If you are opposed to gambling, don’t gamble. If you are offended by pornography don’t buy it. If you do not approve of gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex. I think it is really as simple as that."

And it should be just that, Simple.

Issues like this should not be Goverment controled. Odd I guess coming from me but we have to much "Goverment" and not enough "Freedom".

As far as Roy Moore's "Morality - Preserve our moral heritage". His plank five is trully as you state "in all its ugliness".

In our society Freedom should Freedom from people just like Moore. Again I belive in a total seperation of Goverment, from all personal freedoms sans protective laws of our society. Most everything else is personal rights and choices.

9:28 AM  
Blogger KJ said...

I'm probably in the middle. I think Everyman is right about the history and meaning of the Establishment clause, which assumed that states could and would have their own state religions. It was never intended (as indicated by the fact that we have always had) to prevent prayer in public places for example. I don't think that is necessarily good public policy, but that wouldn't make it "establishment" of religion.

I would never vote for Roy Moore though. He is an idiot who couldn't doesn't understand that his platform is self contradictory.

As for the porn and gambling, that is "freedom." Gay marriage is not. Marriage requires state action (as does divorce) and there is no reason to redefine a system that has existed just fine for, well, forever.

5:26 PM  

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