A truly scary column by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in the Opinion Journal (registration required) this morning. I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t caught fire in the blogoverse today.
It’s a defiant screed on the issue of separating God and state, and his position can be well summed up by this:
For half a century the fanciful tailors of revisionist jurisprudence have been working to strip the public sector naked of every vestige of God and morality. They have done so based on fake readings and inconsistent applications of the First Amendment. They have said it is all right for the U.S. Supreme Court to publicly place the Ten Commandments on its walls, for Congress to open in prayer and for state capitols to have chaplains–as long as the words and ideas communicated by such do not really mean what they purport to communicate. They have trotted out before the public using words never mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, like “separation of church and state,” to advocate, not the legitimate jurisdictional separation between the church and state, but the illegitimate separation of God and state.
For Chief Justice Moore, God … not in the abstract sense of an all-encompassing Creator, but in the very literal sense of the God of the New Testament … is at the root of our laws, and more, at the root of the legitimacy of our government which is, after all, founded on and defended by laws.
Now many of the founders were religious Christians, but many were also Deists:
…those thinkers in the 17th and 18th cent. who held that the course of nature sufficiently demonstrates the existence of God. For them formal religion was superfluous, and they scorned as spurious claims of supernatural revelation. Their tenets stemmed from the rationalism of the period, and though the term is not now generally used, the tenor of their belief persists. The term freethinkers is almost synonymous. Voltaire and J. J. Rousseau were deists, as were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
And while it makes clear historic sense to tie the roots of the American foundation to the Christian gentlemen who led the Revolution, the role of explicit Christianity in American politics has a complex history, and a deeply complex present.
The English immigrants came to the Americas, like the modern immigrants I’ve lunched with, to gain their fortune and to escape from religious and political oppression. Of that, we can be clear.
I’m not sure how Chief Justice Moore feels that displaying the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court building – not in his home, not in a private business, but in the hall where the highest decisions of law and power are made in Alabama – ties his actions to that history and that desire for freedom to worship in our own ways.