Political Hay

Make Way for Moore

Here comes the Ten Commandments judge -- and his enemies think they have a cheap way to stop him.

By 11.20.03

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Roy Moore, the now former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is a terrible poet. I had the chance to hear some of his sappy stanzas at a recent pro-life conference in Virginia. Throughout his hour long speech, I had been able to mostly go along with his explanation of why he felt he was bound by a higher calling to defy an order to remove a 5,000 pound granite carving of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. But then he read his poem, "America the Beautiful":

We've voted in a government that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges who throw reason out the door,
Too soft to place a killer in a well deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby before he leaves the womb.
You think that God's not angry, that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait before His judgment comes?

I sat there blushing with embarrassment for him and lowered my eyes to avoid the snickering smiles I was sure would come. When I finally worked up the nerve to look up, though, tears were streaming down several faces. The Judge got a standing O.

There are two lessons here: First, there's no accounting for taste. Second, there are worse things than losing your job. It's a safe bet Moore's speaking fees will more than make up for the $170,000 salary of his old job, and he's treated as a hero everywhere he goes. Not to mention the political capital the case has created.

Moore's story has all the markings of a modern-day martyrdom. "Three times I was asked by the prosecutor of this state, the Attorney General, if I would deny God," Moore said. "Three times I said I would not." The cock crowed thrice, but Moore, unlike his predecessor, would not deny his God.

Democrats worry that he'll run for the Senate in 2004 or governor in 2006. Republicans worry he'll make a third party run for the presidency, especially in light of his promise to make an announcement next week that will "change the course of this country." Judge Moore might even seek another six-year term as Chief Justice, a seat he won in 2000 with more than 55 percent of the vote, openly campaigning as the Ten Commandments Judge.

Historically, Alabamians aren't shy about bucking the judiciary. A probate judge found guilty of financial fraud in 1999 won back his seat barely a year later. But some of the most prestigious civil rights organizations in the country are determined to keep the people from voting for Moore again. Not five minutes after the decision to remove Moore from the court was announced, Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Richard Cohen was on television announcing he would push for Moore's disbarment -- effectively the only way to stop Moore from re-winning his seat if he chooses to run. The ACLU will join the SPLC and file a friend of the court brief. In other words, they plan to franchise people through disenfranchisement; to ensure fair treatment by denying a free and fair vote.

At first blush, this tactic would seem at odds with the self-professed lofty aims of these august organizations. The SPLC "concentrates resources on protecting and enforcing the rights of the poor and disenfranchised" while fighting to "make a difference in the struggle for justice and tolerance." The ACLU declares itself "our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

To maintain its crusading image, the SPLC has repeatedly compared Judge Moore's defiance to the attempt by George Wallace to stand in the school room door. Worse, an editorial posted on the SPLC website likens Judge Moore's actions to those of the Taliban. Talk about weapons of mass distortion.

Moore is certainly not blameless in the whole affair. If, as he says, he really didn't believe there was anything wrong with his 5,000 pound monument, why did he bring it in in the middle of the night without so much as a heads-up to his fellow judges? Both times I've observed Moore speak he was so obviously caught up in his own celebrity that it's unlikely he would want to take his old job back. It would be like Pedro Martinez getting busted back down to the minors.

But if he did have the itch to run again, it seems strange that groups that make such a fuss about "intimidation" at the voting booth (e.g., "May I see a driver's license, please?") would now deprive voters of any meaningful choice. It's also comforting to know that even in this age of PATRIOT Act oppression, and in the midst of the epic battle over gay marriage, the ACLU still has the time to attack Southern Christians, rich and poor, black, and white alike. "All God's children," as Martin Luther King would say.

The upshot? In the end, the ACLU and SPLC lawyers will walk proudly away from this with a very symbolic, high profile victory under their belts. Judge Moore will ride his new celebrity to greater fame and higher office. And the other justices of the Supreme Court of the great state of Alabama, who voted to expel the Ten Commandments and their champion? "Say goodbye to your jobs," one woman told the Hunstville Times.

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