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FIRST-PERSON: What would you risk?

MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–It is official. Judge Roy Moore — excuse me, FORMER Judge Roy Moore — has been dismissed from his position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

On Nov. 13, Alabama’s nine-member Court of the Judiciary concluded that Moore had violated judicial ethical standards when he refused to comply with a federal judge’s order to remove a memorial to the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the state’s Judicial Building. The monument had been purchased and placed by Moore two years earlier with private funds.

The judicial panel was unanimous in its decision to oust Moore from his position on Alabama’s highest court.

Debate continues to swirl as to whether Moore’s actions were proper. There are those who believe he was catatonically wrong to place the Ten Commandments on public property. Some support Moore unconditionally. They argue that a religious document displayed on public property and financed with private money does not constitute “an endorsement of religion” by the state.

There are others who are sympathetic to Moore’s position, but feel his civil disobedience was a bit premature. Those who support him in principle feel he should have exhausted all legal means possible before choosing to ignore a court order.

Whether or not you agree with Moore’s actions, his defiance of the court — and now dismissal from the court — beg some very sobering questions. Would you risk your job, even your career, over a deeply held principle? Just how far would you go in refusing to compromise a religious belief? Is disobedience to civil authority something you have ever considered?

If a court sought to regulate the religious instruction of your children, how would you respond? I can almost hear you say, “Don’t be ridiculous, that will never happen. We have a Bill of Rights to protect our religious freedom.” Well, guess again. A Colorado magistrate is doing just that.

A Denver County Circuit Judge has ordered a mother to “make sure that there is nothing in the religious upbringing or teaching that the minor child is exposed to that can be considered homophobic.” The order was issued in a child custody case.

Dr. Cheryl Clark, the mother in question, left a lesbian relationship after converting to Christianity about three years ago. She abandoned her so-called “alternate lifestyle” because she came to believe it was wrong.

While involved with her “partner,” Dr. Clark adopted a little girl, now 8 years old, from China. Even though Clark’s former “significant other,” Elsey McLeod, never sought to adopt the child, the court granted joint custody in April and recognized her (McLeod) as a “psychological parent.”

McLeod, who still maintains a homosexual lifestyle, objected to the teachings of Dr. Clark’s church. She maintained that some materials displayed by the church are “improper” because they are “homophobic.” The court agreed with McLeod and forbade Dr. Clark from any religious instruction that could be construed as negative toward homosexuality.

What would you do if you were Dr. Clark? Appeal the decision? She has done that. But what if the decision is upheld, what then?

There was a time in our country when the court’s decision concerning Dr. Cheryl Clark would have been unthinkable. It not only violates the First Amendment, but also invades the privacy of the home in a most despicable fashion. If a higher court does not reverse the current court order, Dr. Clark has a serious dilemma on her hands.

There was also a time in our nation when the court’s decision concerning Roy Moore’s memorial to the Ten Commandments would have been unthinkable. Indeed monuments with religious references pepper our country and are prominent in Washington, D.C.

Compromise has become an art form in our “don’t rock the boat” society. Many in America simply go along in order to get along. On peripheral issues, this might be palatable. However, for many, when it comes to matters of conscience and deeply held religious beliefs, compromise is not an option.

“If there is no place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous,” Francis Schaeffer once observed, “and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God.” Roy Moore has made his stand. Dr. Cheryl Clark has a fight on her hands. Are you prepared to stand up for what you believe, even if it means defying civil authority?
Kelly Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs