May 6, 2014

Religion and Government, Alabama Style

With much less fanfare than that generated by the Town of Greece v. Galloway case, Iowa and Alabama are having their own fun with religion and government. And by fun, I mean fun house crazy mirror fun.

First, Alabama.  Remember 'The Ten Commandments Judge', Roy Moore?  He was the judge who was ordered to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS refused to hear his case, and ultimately, he was fired.  The group that removed him from office, other judges, lawyers, and non-lawyers, decided unanimously that
Moore put himself above the law by 'willfully and publicly' flouting the order to remove the 2.6 ton monument from the state judicial building's rotunda... 
Moore, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006 and again in 2010, and is well-known on the religious circuit, won re-election to the Alabama court in November 2012, and at his swearing-in ceremony a couple of month later, noted that
We've got to remember that most of what we do in court comes from some Scripture or is backed by Scripture.
And he went on to note, according to the article, that the court system was created by God and that the basis for law is outlined in the Book of Deuteronomy. (Seems I have some reading to do.)

Even more interesting than Moore's own comments, though, were those of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who said this (referring to Moore and an associate justice also sworn in at that time)
We have common beliefs and we believe in the same God. And we worship that same God. And I am honored to serve with two men like this and men and women on this court. It is a true honor. And I truly believe that the people of Alabama are better off when we believe we have men and women who believe there is Someone else who controls their lives and controls this state. 
"Someone else who controls this state."  Uh-huh.

Fast forward a year, to January 2014. Justice Moore was speaking at a luncheon in Mississippi, where he reminded us that
Buddha didn't create us, Mohammed didn't create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures...They didn't bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship, the Mayflower..Let's get real, let's go back and learn our history. Let's stop playing games.... 
And that the 'pursuit of happiness' meant following God's law, because regardless of pop songs suggesting otherwise,
...you can't be happy unless you follow God's law, and if you follow God's law you can't be unhappy.... It's all about God...
Here's more Moore if you're interested in watching his speech.

It should be noted that Moore has clarified his position on the First Amendment and Christianity. Speaking earlier this week, after his January lunch and learn comments came to light, he stated that
It applies to the rights God gave us to be free in our modes of thinking, and as far as religious liberty to all people regardless of what they believe.
To recap:  the once fired  but now resurrected judge believes (but only when questioned about it) that the First Amendment does in fact apply to folks other than Christians, all his other statements to the contrary, and the governor believes Someone Else controls the state of Alabama, that Someone Else being the same God worshiped by Judge Moore who was fired for parking the Ten Commandments in the middle of a government building, only to be re-elected and set free to tell us about God and God's law.  

To answer the age-old question, I guess that means that yes, the circle will be unbroken.   But does this feel like the right relationship between religion and government?