WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The recent finding by a federal judge that a monument displaying the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of Alabama’s judicial building violates the Constitution has Christians scrambling to react. District Judge Myron Thompson gave Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who had the 5,300-pound monument installed in the state building, 30 days to remove it.
Moore testified during the trial that the Commandments are nothing more than the moral foundation of American law. “The basic issue is whether we will still be able to acknowledge God under the First Amendment, or whether we will not be able to acknowledge God,” Moore said.
Judge Thompson’s legal opinion demonstrates how confused our federal court system has become with regard not only to constitutional interpretation but also to American history. Thompson probably also underestimates the staying power of Roy Moore.
Moore is not your typical judge. After graduating from West Point he served for five years in Vietnam before entering law school at the University of Alabama. Prior to his first judicial appointment in 1992, he studied full-contact karate, won his first kickboxing match, and completed a five-month trek across the Australian outback.
Though he has traveled widely, Moore has never strayed from his roots in Etowah County, Ala. Growing up in what he called a “poor Christian home” and admiring a father who “lived what he believed,” Moore learned to honor God, cherish family, and love his country. Following law school, he served as deputy district attorney in Etowah County and later established his own private practice. In 1992, he was appointed Circuit Judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, where he gained notoriety for displaying a plaque of the Ten Commandments. Then in 2000, Moore was elected to serve as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. A devout Christian and father of four children, Moore is not surprised by the controversy that has surrounded his public service. “When you do what you believe, you are going to run into problems,” he says.
Recently, PBS commentator Bill Moyers commented on Christian conservatives like Moore. “For the first time in the memory of anyone alive,” he writes in a commentary posted on PBS’ website, “the entire federal government — the Congress, the Executive, the Judiciary — is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate.” The root cause of Moyers’ concern appears to be Christians who take their role in politics seriously: “And if you like God in government,” he added, “get ready for the Rapture. These folks don’t even mind you referring to the GOP as the party of God. Why else would the new House Majority Leader [Tom DeLay] say that the Almighty is using him to promote ‘a Biblical worldview’ in American politics?”
What Moyers and other liberals are so bothered about is not Christianity, but true Christianity, biblical Christianity, activist Christianity. Moore’s opponents — three Alabama attorneys represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State — see references to God on a monument as a threat to the establishment of the official state religion, atheism.
Morris Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, even went so far as to call Moore “a religious nut.” After all, Moore is a man who, wearing his judge’s robes, can often be found citing one of his trademark poems: “Choosing godless judges, we’ve thrown reason out the door/Too soft to put a killer in a well-deserved tomb, but brave enough to kill that child before it leaves the womb/ . . . you think that God’s not angry that this land is a moral slum?”
One of Moore’s attorneys, Herbert Titus, the former dean of the law school at Regent University, said Moore’s judicial philosophy is really quite simple. Moore believes that there is a “moral foundation of law with the acknowledgment that God is the source of that foundation.”
Moore could not be more right. The sad truth is that most Americans, brainwashed by the government school system, don’t even know that the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution had no concept of the so-called “separation of church and state” that is so prevalent in today’s court system. As William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, has stated, “The separation of church and state is a metaphor based on bad history and worse law. It has made a positive chaos out of judgments, and it should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.”
“The First Amendment restricts only Congress,” says D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries and founder of the Center for Reclaiming America. “It was created to restrain the federal government.” Many Founding Fathers, including Patrick Henry and George Washington, refused to sign the Constitution unless it had a set of protections for the people against a potentially all-powerful federal government.
“Once we let the government believe it is the source of our liberties, we are never safe,” Kennedy said. The Declaration of Independence states the purpose of government very clearly — to secure God-given “unalienable rights.” That is the primary justification Thomas Jefferson gave for having government. Thus, apart from a recognition of God-given rights, there is no legitimate foundation for government. Indeed, government cannot be secular, because government’s purpose is to secure rights — and blessings — that come from God. And if government cannot be secular, why should we expect our elected officials to be secular?
Kennedy’s description of the true Christian statesman bears repeating here.
— First and foremost, a Christian statesman is one who repents of his sins, believes the gospel, trusts in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and invites God by his Spirit to dwell in his heart.
— Secondly, a true Christian statesman seeks to live a life guided by God’s Word and desires to make his days count for the kingdom of God.
— Finally, a true Christian statesman is one whose public and private conduct is guided by a bedrock set of principles that will not be compromised for personal or political gain. Such a person rises above partisan politics and makes the overall welfare of a nation his first priority.
In short, says Kennedy, a Christian statesman is someone whose commitment to Christ and love of country compel him to stand for truth and righteousness in government. Such a person recognizes that individuals [as well as nations] will ultimately give an account to God and are dependent on Him for prosperity and success.
Need a good picture of a Christian statesman? Then take a look at Roy Moore.
And to Justice Moore I say, “Keep on fighting the good fight.” You are not alone. As Robert E. Lee, another fearless defender of the Constitution once said: “In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.”
David Alan Black is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and the author of 20 books, including The Myth of Adolescence. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://ww.bpnews.net. Photo title: CONTROVERSIAL MONUMENT.