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Monday, August 25, 2003

Judge Roy Moore op-eds today in the Wall Street Journal regarding his position on displaying a monument to the Ten Commandments in his court room. The argument has been, up until now, that church and state matters should remain separate, and Moore seeks to obfuscate that boundary. However, in his defense, Moore makes two interesting points.

First, Moore cites the U.S. Constitution:

"The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed. "

Moore has a valid point that he is, indeed, not legislating anything from the bench that would constitute an infringement upon anyone's religious rights. Clearly, the establishment clause was included in the Constitution to hinder the state from elevating one religion above another in state matters, not to prevent any reference, no matter how ambiguous, to God at all. Further, it is the burden of the judiciary to interpret laws, not to enact them. Moore is clearly not acting on some sort of judicial fiat; merely, he is interpreting the law as he sees it.

Second, Moore defends his constitutional duty to uphold the law:

"We must acknowledge God in the public sector because the state constitution explicitly requires us to do so. The Alabama constitution specifically invokes "the favor and guidance of Almighty God" as the basis for our laws and justice system. As the chief justice of the state's supreme court I am entrusted with the sacred duty to uphold the state's constitution. I have taken an oath before God and man to do such, and I will not waver from that commitment. "

Notice the distinction between the U.S. constitution, and the Alabama constitution. Southern states and their judiciaries are traditionally states' rights advocates, and Moore does not diverge from that. To Moore, his oath was not to the federal government, but to the people and the laws of Alabama. Given that fact, Moore seems clearly within his bounds.

If so many are offended by Moore's stance, perhaps the best course of action would be to amend the wording of the Alabama constitution to remove any references to God at all. This would seem counter to the foundation of a Judeo-Christian society, but in light of the traditional interpretation of the establishment clause, it would be consistent. In any case, interpreting the laws from the bench in such a way as to subvert them altogether sets a dangerous precedent, no matter which side you take on this issue.


.: posted by Dave 8:29 AM

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