Alabama Chief Justice Excommunicated
some will doubtless ask. Another article on the Alabama Ten
Commandments judge? Isn’t enough enough already?
no, even though I’ll admit I’ve been watching this case like a hawk
to the exclusion of other matters, and haven’t been able to leave
it alone. (Read the earlier articles here
it isn’t enough, because on November 13, Justice Roy S. Moore was
ousted from his position as Chief Justice of the State of Alabama
for having defied federal judge Myron S. Thompson’s order last summer
to remove his monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda
of the state courthouse. The vote by the nine-member Court of Judiciary
was unanimous in pronouncing Justice Moore guilty of having violated
ethical standards. They removed him halfway through his elected
term, which would have expired in 2006.
consider it an excommunication. A person is excommunicated if he
is kicked out of a church, and our federal courts are behaving more
and more like a national church a national church of state-sponsored
secular materialism. The new national church has had a lot of help
from the postmodernist mindset. This mindset holds that language
is always fluid, never means what it seems to mean, and so denies
that words ever have definite referents in reality. This is a recipe
for legal chaos and judicial tyranny.
of my email on the previous articles was favorable. Some of it was
not. For example, one reader snarled, "What rock did you crawl
out from under???" What followed was a discourse on the supposed
"influence" of "far right Christians in this country."
I always enjoy a laugh at the bizarre notion some secularists have
that guys like me who are living from hand to mouth as we support
our writing habits have "influence." Another reader objected
to my describing the (immensely wealthy) Southern Poverty Law Center
(SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United
for Separation of Church and State, all of whom helped mount the
fight against Justice Moore, as left-leaning. "The term
you have used in a most pejorative way to describe three organizations
that have fought to preserve RIGHTS and battled incessantly against
perversion of the U.S. Constitution and the inciting and promoting
of racial and religious bigotry renders the rest of your screed
not even worthy of scant perusal. The purpose of your screed would
be better served by printing and then copying on the cheapest paper
avoidable [sic] (possibly recycled) and convenient [sic]
made available for use as toilet paper in Mississippi and South
Carolina." This is the same sort of thing I frequently encountered
when presenting criticisms of academic leftism in the universities:
people who despite their endorsement of "diversity" really
believe theirs should be the only voices on campus. Secularists
apparently believe their voices should be the only ones allowed
inside the gates of America’s postmodern legal system. The latter
writer added the standard bigotry of leftist pseudo-intellectuals
toward people in the South. So what else is new?
more civil of my critics took issue with my interpretation of the
theology of the Framers. Of course, I did not say that their theologies
were identical, or even that theology was their central focus. It
wasn’t. Their central focus was how to create a free and stable
republic, given man’s imperfections. (Madison: "If men were
angels…" etc.) Although this last notion seems to make little
sense in the absence of some form of Christianity, it isn’t specific
enough to suggest any particular church or denomination. And it
is clear a few readers provided evidence that some of the Framers
(Jefferson is an example) fell under the influence of French Enlightenment
thought. This might explain why it has been difficult even for professional
scholars to come to full agreement on what the majority of the Framers
believed. It certainly helps explain why they did not want the central
government to establish a national church or endorse a particular
denomination the point of the so-called establishment clause in
the First Amendment.
we can be sure that none of the Framers defended what is today called
secular humanism, and for a reason so simple even leftists should
be able to understand it: it didn’t as yet exist in this country.
As late as the War of Yankee Aggression, secular humanism was limited
to circles of arcane oddball-intellectuals whose influence on affairs
of state was still relatively minimal. It only came into prominence
as a tool the globalist elites the Rhodes-Milner Round Table
Groups, the Carnegie and Rockefeller crowd, etc. realized
they could use to advance their interests, which was taking Western
civilization toward world government. For very detailed evidence
of this movement’s existence, read Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy
and Hope or G.
Edward Griffin’s latest work with Freedom Force International.
One of the subsidiary goals of this movement was breaking the hold
the Judeo-Christian tradition had on the American body politic,
because they knew that Christians would constitute the major source
of opposition to their efforts. Thus it bankrolled the John Deweys
of the intellectual-educational world, making them the new establishment
in government schools, and later bankrolled such efforts as the
Kinsey Reports in order to destroy the control of Judeo-Christian
morality over human sexuality (see Judith Reisman’s Kinsey:
The Red Queen and The Grand Scheme: Crimes and Consequences).
Once these movements were underway, we saw the attacks on prayer
in government schools (for example) begin in the elite-controlled
Warren Court and continue apace under the guise of a "separation
between church and state" that is nowhere to be found in the
Constitution, much less in the First Amendment. When postmodernism
became the dominant philosophy of the academic world, interpreters
of the Constitution simply lost touch with the meanings of words
in the document. Result: a stone monument in a courthouse amounts
to state-sponsored religion, violates the separation of church and
state, and hence is unconstitutional.
this attempt to build a latter-day Tower of Babel is a longer story
than can be told here. What, precisely, does the First Amendment
say? Word for word: "Congress shall make no law respecting
the establishment of a 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 petition the government
for a redress of grievances."
pick it apart. Consider the first phrase: "Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion …"
Roy Moore is not Congress. He is not even in the Executive Branch
of the federal government. He is a state justice in a state court.
Had he attempted to make a law establishing a religion, then he
would have been in violation of the U.S. Constitution only if one
also argues that Congress can be expanded to include state
courts. (This is assuming that one takes seriously the actual wording
of the First Amendment.)
a monument bearing the Ten Commandments on the rotunda of a state
courthouse does not amount to passing a law, much less a law establishing
a religion. There is or should be a clear and unambiguous difference
between one action (the placing of the monument) and another (an
act of Congress establishing a national Church). The latter is clearly
forbidden by the Constitution. The former is not. It is utterly
unclear, in this case, what can be meant by the allegation that
Justice Moore’s monument endorses religion in any legally precise
sense. Perhaps it expresses his personal conviction, along with
his contention the state both can and must acknowledge God as the
ultimate source of our body of law, and of the rule of law. Unless
one conflates God with religion, a notion I criticized
in my previous article, this is not an "establishment of religion."
Allow me a brief digression. In response to my first article on
Justice Moore’s plight last summer, three different readers drew
my attention to a monument of a different sort in Alabama. Earlier
in the year, prior to last summer’s fracas over the Ten Commandments
in Justice Moore’s courthouse, Congress the Federal Congress, that
is allocated $1.5 million in federal funds to refurbish a statue
of the Roman god Vulcan. Now of course it would be silly to imagine
anyone today worshipping Vulcan, but the irony was not lost on these
readers. Suppose a chief justice wanted to put up a statue of Mohammed,
the founder of Islam. Would this be an "establishment of religion"?
Actually, I think not but I very much fear that the organizations
that called Justice Moore onto the carpet would be less willing
to criticize it. (The SPLC’s initial claim on behalf of a plaintiff
was pure politically-correctese: the monument was "offensive.")
to continue with the First Amendment: " … or prohibit the free
exercise thereof." This is the component of the First Amendment
that the courts mostly ignore. Given what has been said so far,
what was Justice Moore doing beyond "freely exercising"
his beliefs? Indeed, prayer in government schools, nativity scenes
on town squares, etc., all represent "free exercise" by
believers. I suppose atheists and agnostics have the same right
under the law, and could exercise it by putting up a statue of Darwin
or Freud. I don’t know. The point is, however, Justice Moore was
exercising a right the First Amendment plainly acknowledges.
of the contention, however, that he "violated judicial ethical
standards" or engaged in misconduct by refusing to obey a federal
court order? Justice Moore has contended that his oath of office
requires acknowledgement of God and this is all the monument does.
Although accused of flouting the rule of law, he maintained and
still maintains that he was upholding the rule of law, and that
his opponents were the ones flouting it. This issue turns on such
matters as which is supreme, state law or federal law, and how we
understand this phrase rule of law. Now the authors of the
Bill of Rights clearly considered the federal government to be a
creature of the states (more precisely, the original 13 states).
The Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United
States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states,
are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
It was only during the Lincoln era that federal power began to trump
the authority of the states, via the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Power, including the power to set down the meaning of such phrases
as rule of law, became more and more centralized within the
federal judiciary. But rule of law must be more than arbitrary
edicts by federal judges. Otherwise we do not have rule of law
but judicial tyranny. When federal judges are unable to read
and understand the Constitution, the situation is worse. Whenever
government or some branch of government such as the judiciary is
able to define its own powers, that spells trouble. That means unlimited,
as opposed to limited, government.
have argued that one of the consequences of secular materialism,
explicitly formulated or merely implicit, is that it unleashes the
love some have for wielding power. They adopt the "eleventh
commandment": thou shalt not get caught. Then they scheme to
increase their power without limits, believing themselves accountable
to no one Greater than themselves. This explains the above-discussed
latter day Tower of Babel undergoing construction all around us.
It might also explain the observation made by Rob Schenk, organizer
of a group of supporters for Justice Moore, regarding explicitly
secular, atheistic governments: "Secular nations have one thing
in common mass graves, and the reason is that they believe the government
is the final arbiter of right and wrong and good and evil."
there are a few secularists following Ayn Rand, for example who
would maintain a concept of natural rights that derive not from
any transcendent source but from conditions for our survival and
prosperity in a physical universe with specific properties. In this
view, reality, not God and not government, is the arbiter
of right and right. Their realism is commendable, but it is necessary
to observe that Randians are nowhere in power. They have, however,
an intellectual authoritarianism of their own, embodied in the personality
cult that surrounded Rand herself and an inability to handle disagreement
in a civil fashion that seems characteristic of most secularists.
They also have a history of excommunicating anyone who diverges
from an official line. This makes it very dubious that they should
be trusted. For my own part, based on my best understanding of the
history of what has happened to this country as it has become more
and more secular, I will have to stick with Christian theism, while
pointing out that Justice Moore’s excommunication is indicative
of the attacks on Christian theism that characterize this country
at the start of what could end up a very dangerous century to be
the meantime, I can only be amused at those secularists who have
written to me about "right wing conspiracies" and such as
if Christians wielded any real power in this society. (Lest anyone
raise the issue, George W. Bush may make occasional Christian-sounding
noises, but I would not describe his policies as exemplifying a
Christian theist worldview. He, like his powerful father and like
the neocons generally, is much closer in spirit to the new Tower
of Babel. I am doubtful that any genuine expositor of Christian
theism in my sense would be allowed within a thousand miles of the
White House these days.)
has promised an announcement next week, something that in his words,
could "alter the course of this country." He hasn’t elaborated.
We’ll have to wait and see. Given his excommunication, he is actually
in a better position to defend his cause than he was before. He
stands as an exemplar not just of what runaway secularism does to
believers, but of what runaway federal power does to dissidents
of whatever stripe. Our first president George Washington warned:
"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force.
And like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
Particularly when it recognizes no higher values than its own.
November 15, 2003
Yates [send him mail]
Ph.D. in philosophy and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action
(1994). He is currently at work on three books: In
Defense of Logic,
a philosophical treatise; Skywatcher’s
a science fiction novel, and This
Is Not the Country I Grew Up In,
a collection of past articles from LewRockwell.com and other
sources. He is an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute,
and next January will be joining the adjunct faculty of Limestone
College. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.
© 2003 LewRockwell.com