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February 20, 2002
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Alabama Chief Justice on homosexuality: "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature". The Christian Coalition applauded. This is the same judge who tacked up the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. I'm just happy we learned some lessons from the Taliban.
posted by owillis (80 comments total)

 
On the one hand, you have a rabid nutcase foaming at the mouth who may be forcing children to stay in an abusive situation based on the millenial-old scrawlings of a tribe of nomadic Hebrews.

On the other hand, it's just Alabama.
posted by solistrato at 5:58 PM on February 20, 2002


beat me to it, sjc. allerbammer, sweet allerbammer....
posted by quonsar at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2002


sjc, Got anything to support that "abusive situation" allegation? Or, are you making the argument that heterosexual parenting by definition constitutes "abuse"?
posted by Real9 at 6:27 PM on February 20, 2002


Moore is known for his decision to place washing machine-sized monuments of the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building after he became chief justice last year.
Washing machine-sized?

Real9: The abused was alleged by the mother and mentioned in the first link.
posted by thirteen at 6:29 PM on February 20, 2002


Oh my bad. I missed the part where the lesbian accused her ex-husband of abuse of her children 4 years late from the remote confines of sunny California.

The father had held custody since 1996, but the mother petitioned for custody in June 2000, contending the father had been abusive.
posted by Real9 at 6:38 PM on February 20, 2002


It's not just Alabama. The California Republican Assembly passed a resolution not long ago in which Moore was praised for being a quote-unquote champion of liberty and individual rights. Michigan Gov. John Engler gave some similarly asinine award and/or tribute. It is Alabama, but Moore's crap's been encouraged by people elsewhere, who don't mind potentially explosive religious demagoguery if it means their party benefits in national elections. It's also been encouraged by good people who think, well, people like Moore just represent another, not necessarily invalid point of view and should be tolerated, etc. Wrong. They're dangerous already.

Thankfully, a state legislator has already brought a complaint against him to the state judicial oversight board. It'll take a while, but Moore will be stripped of power and disbarred. (Oh, also: If anything, this case shows, as a few others have in recent years, that higher court judges should not be elected.)
posted by raysmj at 6:44 PM on February 20, 2002


Real9 said:
Oh my bad. I missed the part where the lesbian accused her ex-husband of abuse of her children 4 years late from the remote confines of sunny California.


What's with the hostility, Real9? Do you happen to know that this contention of abuse was an empty one? Do you have something against California?

Of course, we know from the article nothing about the veracity of the contention of abuse or the nature of the evidence supporting it. Assuming that supporting evidence did exist however, this decision would appear to be absolutely abhorrent, immoral, and detestible.


For what it's worth, I think it's this kind of shit that keeps much of America thinking of the South as a third world country. And if I remember correctly, this asshole is an elected judge who won by a landslide just last year.


posted by mr_roboto at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2002


Real9: Its fair to assume that the mother remained in contact with her kids; its possible that one of them reported the abuse to her recently (at least, after she left); and that may have been in 2000. You seem to assume that she knew all along, or made it up 4 years later. Do you have evidence for either?
I am a gay father of a 14 year old girl: she's what you wd call 'a straight-A' student, happily co-parented by two loving adults in two homes where she has freedom and responsibility to become the best she can of herself. Got any problems with that?
As it happens, my mother also deserted my family when i was 17, and i still suffer for that now. Better that she's in their life, than gone forever.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:48 PM on February 20, 2002


I think stories like this point to a decline for this decade concerning family values. I'm talking compared to the 80's and 90's moral movement.
posted by Mach3avelli at 6:49 PM on February 20, 2002


Let's get this straight:

Attack on Atheism or secularism on Metafilter = BAAAAAD

Attack on Christianity or religious foundation on Metafilter = GOOOOD
posted by aaronshaf at 6:52 PM on February 20, 2002


From earlier today. It's also America too.
posted by raysmj at 6:52 PM on February 20, 2002


Or, it's also. Or too. Sorry.
posted by raysmj at 6:54 PM on February 20, 2002


Couldn't you make that simpler for me, aaron? ;)
posted by dash_slot- at 6:55 PM on February 20, 2002


aaronshaf: for the record I think both are bad
posted by owillis at 7:05 PM on February 20, 2002


Got any problems with that?

Um, I'm not your therapist.
posted by Real9 at 7:15 PM on February 20, 2002


Well, thank God others stepped in to nip that it's just Alabama shit in the bud.

Just remember, with "stupid hicks" style comments like that, you are part of the problem, not the solution. (IE Close-minded and stupid.)
posted by jca at 7:15 PM on February 20, 2002


aaronshaf -

I agree that attacks on people because of their beliefs are wrong, whether the target is athiest or Christian or any other faith.

However, while there are still scattered instances of religious intolerance in this country, few Christians are having the government take their children away from them because they are Christian. When a person in a position of power tells me I am "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature," I'm not going to shrug and say "oh, that's just their point of view and we should tolerate it."

No, I'm going to stand up and say it's wrong. What would you do if someone used a position of power to tear apart your family? I'm perfectly happy to attack the belief that says I'm a second-class citizen in this country. I'm not attacking the person, but attacking the belief and the actions which flow from that belief.

It's not an attack on the judge. It's not an attack on Christianity. But you're damn right it's an attack on that belief.

The judge's actions are a gross abuse of power. For all I know, the abuse allegations are invalid and the correct legal decision should have been for the kids to stay with the father. But regardless of the correctness of the decision, the way in which the decision was rendered was unethical in the extreme.
posted by Chanther at 7:20 PM on February 20, 2002


Close-minded and stupid.
but never slack-jawed and inbred.
posted by quonsar at 7:24 PM on February 20, 2002


John Giles, state president of the Christian Coalition, said Moore's decision protected the institution of marriage and strengthened the traditional family.

who says a family has to be traditional to be a good place to raise children? the children belong with whoever will be the better parent and that parent's sexual orientation should have nothing to do with the decision.
posted by hazelmeg at 7:32 PM on February 20, 2002


Real9: that's simply provocative. I could ask "what does your therapist do to help you with your 'hostility ssues'"(see above). But that would be condescending, too, eh?
Why not just be direct, and say what you mean? My tinfoil hat is filtering out your telepathic probes.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2002


aaronshaf: where in this thread do you see an attack on Christianity?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:48 PM on February 20, 2002


Although the views seem to be rather politically incorrect, so long as they do not impinge upon his ability to correctly apply the law, he can think and say what he likes.
posted by Neale at 7:57 PM on February 20, 2002


Attack on Christianity or religious foundation on Metafilter = GOOOOD

Well, you said it first.

How about being pissed off because some asshole judge made a custody ruling based not on the rule of law, but because of his own paranoid, fundamentalist, sexually-repressed psychosis? But I guess, you know, that's just my judgmental trip, and really, I should be tolerant of this maniac who may have kept children in an abusive situation because he couldn't tolerate the fact that the mother kisses women. Because, y'know, he's "Christian."

You'll excuse me, but I'm sick of tolerating other peoples' intolerance.
posted by solistrato at 7:59 PM on February 20, 2002


Although the views seem to be rather politically incorrect, so long as they do not impinge upon his ability to correctly apply the law, he can think and say what he likes.

Well, if he's quoting scripture in his decision, it seems to me as if he's letting religion intrude.
posted by oaf at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2002


And some judges - even in the deep south - can tell the difference between their opinion/prejudice, and the law:-
Monday, November 23, 1998

ATLANTA -- By a vote of 6-1, the Georgia Supreme Court today struck down the state's 182-year old sodomy law. The court ruled that the law violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the state's constitution.

"We cannot think of any other activity that reasonable persons would rank as more private and more deserving of protection from governmental interference than consensual, private, adult sexual activity," said Chief Justice Robert Benham in his majority opinion.

The court also said that while many people may disapprove of sodomy, mere disapproval, even if based on morality, is not enough to overcome the right to privacy.

posted by dash_slot- at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2002


a crime against nature

Um, maybe not. There have been hundreds of species (not including h. sapiens) that have been observed engaging in homosexual activity, from bonobo monkeys (like 95% engage in some sort of homosexual behavior) to ostriches (not quite 95%, but still the occasional love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name).
posted by UncleFes at 8:20 PM on February 20, 2002


You hit on the head UncleFes. It is actually a move by the religious wing of the conservative right to extend judicial power and enfore christian morals on animals. By having a ruling which spells out one of the laws of nature there can now be enforcement of those laws. Lock those damn bonobos up.

Plus they can now cut science funding too. Why try to 'discover' the laws of nature. Just legislate them!
posted by srboisvert at 8:32 PM on February 20, 2002


BTW, there's a very interesting discussion of this over at Internet Infidels, with chunks of the text as issued by Judge Moore, where he clearly conflates state law, the 'law of nature' and canonical law.
"Natural law forms the basis of the common law. (7) Natural law is the law of nature and of nature's God as understood by men through reason, but aided by direct revelation found in the Holy Scriptures:
"The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they tend in all their consequences to man's felicity."

This guy got elected - but ( so far ) only in Alabama...
posted by dash_slot- at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2002


dash_slot: Thanks for that tidbit. The very same sodomy law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986.
posted by raysmj at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2002


For what it's worth, I think it's this kind of shit that keeps much of America thinking of the South as a third world country. And if I remember correctly, this asshole is an elected judge who won by a landslide just last year.

I definitely agree with that. I grew up in Montgomery and there are generally four flavors of Alabama voters: Moderates (rare), Conservatives, Ultra-Conservatives, and Psychotic Nutjobs. Those designations tend to be party-agnostic. Even so, generally speaking, the Psychotic Nutjobs don't *generally* win landslide elections. The religious element played a role, but another major factor was Alabama's long-standing reputation as "tort hell," and voter dissatisfaction with it. Until fairly recently, Alabama was the only state in the country with no caps on punitive damages. This terrified business owners. They watched Montgomery trial lawyer Jere Beasley successfully sue BMW for $120 million because a Birmingham doctor got a refurbished car with a scratched paint job, and ran like hell. The Alabama Judicial system was notoriously corrupt and it was considered a Democratic vice because the largest and most influential PAC in the state - the Alabama Trial Lawyer's Association - almost exclusively backed Democratic candidates. When Moore entered the race as a Republican claiming that he was going to "clean up" the judicial system, a lot of people voted solely on the basis of that. For some, the Bible-thumping was further evidence that he was a 'good upstanding guy.' For the Republican party elites he was the only viable candidate. Conventional wisdom in Montgomery among my friends was that Moore was a wacko, but good for the economy.

Interestingly, if you look the front page of today's Montgomery Advertiser the top three stories are: 1) Moore Spuns Legislature's Plea; 2) Vigil Honors All Victims of Hate Crimes, and 3) Alabama Woman Wins Olympic Gold. Funny how none of those stories make national news. I'm not the biggest fan of my home state (or I'd presumably chose to live there instead of Manhattan), but there's a definite prediliction on the part of national media outlets to pick the most unflattering portrayals possible of states in the deep South. One of my closest friends from home is a prosecutor in the Attorney General's Office and former head of the state's Young Republican Party, although a moderate, even by NYC standards. Every time something like this happens, I get an email or a phone call from him lamenting the fact that with all of the reasonable and intelligent people in the South, the national press finds the Alabamians "most likely to end up in a Jerry Springer episode" to cover.

Regarding the case itself, Moore's ruling was despicable if for no other reason than the fact that he based it on an assumption that "homosexuality is inherently evil." Sorry, judge, but there's no case law to support that, and I'm afraid the Holy Bible and your mind-numbingly narrow interpretations of it cannot be substituted at will for the Constitution. I think the Founding Fathers (particularly the atheists) would have striken all references to "God" from "official documents," had they forseen things like this happening. Who knew, in the age of Enlightenment, that centuries later, there would still be factions of people that would support tyrannical interpretations of religion with all the zeal of the Spanish Inquisition. One would think that in the wake of 9/11 the importance of separating church and state would be more apparent, but sadly, it appears not to be.
posted by lizs at 8:41 PM on February 20, 2002


What the hell are homosexuals doing in Alabama anyway?? Weren't they told the Smokey and the Bandit auditions are over????

Get with the program people!! You're reaping what you sewed. Or sowed? Someone clever wanna help me out with this one????
posted by Settle at 8:53 PM on February 20, 2002


Lizs: so cool to have my Alabamy misconceptions blown away, that article proves there are lovely people everywhere. And some of them are elected!
Stand up for 'Justice for All'!

(no name calling)
posted by dash_slot- at 8:59 PM on February 20, 2002


I'm not the biggest fan of my home state (or I'd presumably chose to live there instead of Manhattan).

The choice is between Alabama and Manhattan? What if it were between the Gulf Coast, Huntsville or a loft apt. in Birmingham and, say, Elko, Nev.?
posted by raysmj at 9:09 PM on February 20, 2002


Lizs: so cool to have my Alabamy misconceptions blown away, that article proves there are lovely people everywhere. And some of them are elected!
Stand up for 'Justice for All'!


Uh, you missed my point. By a freakin' mile.

Let me summarize in simple terms:
1) Moore is a Psychotic Nutjob
2) His election was a little more complex than "other psychotic nutjobs voted for him"
3) Moore is not representative of the entire fucking state.
4) separation of church and state is good.
posted by lizs at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2002


lizs: Uh, this article. Sorry its very late here, i shoulda been more explicit :)
Settle: Someone clever wanna help me out with this one???? - Doubt it.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:16 PM on February 20, 2002


Ah. Thought you were being smug. Genuinely sorry about that. My apologies.

I don't have a southern accent and when people find out I'm from Alabama, I have to brace myself for the barrage of insults that inevitably follows. Guess I let that chip on my shoulder come crashing down on you. Again, very sorry :)
posted by lizs at 9:34 PM on February 20, 2002


S'okay. Like the blog ... :)
posted by dash_slot- at 9:41 PM on February 20, 2002


Whatever happens in the South is funny because I don't live there.

Sincerely, I wish that all progressives, leftists and targets of the Christian Right would just up and leave the South so that we can watch it drown in it's own ignorance. Of course, ideally we should stop funneling an inordinate amount of federal assistance down there in order to hasten the process.

The only thing that would be cooler is the ghost of General Sherman popping up and repeating the greatest act in American History.
posted by Harry Hopkins' Hat at 10:07 PM on February 20, 2002


" ... How about being pissed off because some asshole judge made a custody ruling based not on the rule of law, but because of his own paranoid, fundamentalist, sexually-repressed psychosis? ..."

This whole thread may have focussed on the judge that expressed the ruling in open court, but I might point out:

"The nine-judge panel ruled unanimously in favor of a Birmingham man and against his ex-wife, who now lives with her gay partner in southern California."

When 9 judges rule unanimously, it is a bit more than one idiot's biases. He certainly can state his opinion on the matter - but he couldn't make the 8 other justices believe the same way. The conclusion seems to have been reached by a couple folks here that the abuse happened, and one judge with biases against lesbians ignored it because he mistook Christian law for US law. But nothing in the article points to that. If these 9 judges rule unanimously, it seems far more likely that the abuse claims were not found to have merit (and this sure as hell wouldn't be the first time someone charged "abuse" in a custody battle ...).

He is a slug brained dolt - but the decision could well have been quite a correct one - and he, as chief justice annoucing the decision, was simply opportunistic.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:32 PM on February 20, 2002


dash_slot: I am a gay father of a 14 year old girl: she's what you wd call 'a straight-A' student, happily co-parented by two loving adults in two homes where she has freedom and responsibility to become the best she can of herself. Got any problems with that?

I have no moral problem with homosexuality, but I find the way you put this across very irritating. When your daughter is grown, you will perhaps be able to make this argument ex post facto, but even then you won't have proved anything universal about the virtues of gay parenting. Clearly, anyone who gives you the "problem" you're looking for is going to butt up against your overflowing goblet of hope and the all the potential you see in your daughter. The whole thing about straight As, two homes, "freedom and responsibility," "the best she can of herself," quite frankly gives me the creeps. You didn't have to share it with us, and when you did, you didn't have to issue a challenge to find fault with you. I'm not sure what sort of overwhelming approval you were thinking you deserved.
posted by bingo at 12:43 AM on February 21, 2002


dash_slot: I am a gay father of a 14 year old girl: she's what you wd call 'a straight-A' student, happily co-parented by two loving adults in two homes where she has freedom and responsibility to become the best she can of herself. Got any problems with that?

I have no moral problem with homosexuality, but I find the way you put this across very irritating. When your daughter is grown, you will perhaps be able to make this argument ex post facto, but even then you won't have proved anything universal about the virtues of gay parenting. Clearly, anyone who gives you the "problem" you're looking for is going to butt up against your overflowing goblet of hope and the all the potential you see in your daughter. The whole thing about straight As, two homes, "freedom and responsibility," "the best she can of herself," quite frankly gives me the creeps. You didn't have to share it with us, and when you did, you didn't have to issue a challenge to find fault with you. I'm not sure what sort of overwhelming approval you were thinking you deserved.
posted by bingo at 12:43 AM on February 21, 2002


and he, as chief justice annoucing the decision, was simply opportunistic. - MidasMulligan

You've brought up a very good point in that we all immediately jumped to the conclusion that one man did the judging. Nor were we in the courtroom to get all the juicy details. It is entirely possible that this ruling is fair and legit.

But, as a Chief Judge, Moore is honour-bound to present both himself and his position in the clearest manner as regards to the law. His personal views, ...and that homosexuality is "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature." has no place in the courtroom.

Chief Judges should not be opportunistic. Not in this manner, at least.
posted by ashbury at 12:59 AM on February 21, 2002


Here we go!

owillis - I'm troubled by persons such as you because you so flippantly associate Christian fundamentalism with the Taliban. I will assume that you correlate all committed Christians to those who kill for the sake of glorifying God. And don't pull up some historical fact showing my Christians kill innocent people. Sinful people kill people. That is why we need Christ.

Referring to attacking Christianity or religious foundation and Atheism or secularism...

aaronshaf: for the record I think both are bad
posted by owillis at 7:05 PM PST on February 20


Well, seeing as how you correllate Christ with Bin Laden, I will have to say that you really don't feel that way. Equivocation? I'd be glad to read a further explaination if you can offer one.

Chanther - Regarding the judge's decision you said, "No, I'm going to stand up and say it's wrong." First of all I think the situation has been possibly exagerated. To quote "Mr. Roboto", "we know from the article nothing about the veracity of the contention of abuse or the nature of the evidence supporting it." And, given that this judge is elected, the community's moral interests are ideally being expressed. Isn't that the function here? If you want to make an outcry and appeal to your own personal code of ethics, then let your sentiment be known, and do so freely. But let me remind you, it's only a sentiment. If you think that the community's code of ethics that isn't be properly represented, then get some statistics, polls, or statutory reference, and express yourself accordingly. Hey it's democracy. But if you want to boldy assume that there is an cosmopolitan ethic that is being violated, I assume you are attacking this presumably Christian act because it violates the "real" code of human ethics. And that my friend is a reference to some sort of religious belief.

hazelmeg - You asked, "who says a family has to be traditional to be a good place to raise children? the children belong with whoever will be the better parent and that parent's sexual orientation should have nothing to do with the decision." Welcome to the place where separation of church and state fail. I invite you to read my previous post about the impossibility of "separation of ethics and state".

DevilsAdvocate - Where in this thread do I see an attack on Christianity? Initially with the Bin Laden association. Also with ANY evaluative terms deriding Christian ethics, as Metafites have the tendency to go beyond objectively analyzing the value of Christian ethics, and deriding them with snide remarks, and posing caricatures of Christian figures, or making the interesting tendency to choose uncommon... "fanatic" (I really don't like that word) representatives of the Christian religion.

sjc - If the father really IS abusive, I don't think the Christian ethic agrees with the ruling. Mmmm... Solomon would have nipped this in the butt. Welp, looks like MidasMulligan has your answer!

oaf - I agree, that is totally unnecessary.

dash_slot- - Natural Law is an essential Christian belief. All Christians believe in Natural Law. The very reason we have for submitting to human law is to carry out Natural Law. It's impossible for statutory law to completely control court rulings. Judges use abstract concepts... ethics to facilitate. And for Christians this will naturally be Natural Law. For you, I assume it will be ethics based on humanism? Hence, the inevitable conflation.
posted by aaronshaf at 1:03 AM on February 21, 2002


bingo, I think that dash_slot was reacting to real9's contentious manner. He may have over-done it (I don't think so, in this case), but he was only speaking from what he knew, which is that, from what he can tell, he has a normal, healthy daughter.

BTW - double post! Neener. :)
posted by ashbury at 1:07 AM on February 21, 2002


aaronshaf - I have never heard of Natural Law as regards to Christianity. I have googled it and came up with this page. Would this be the correct definition(s)? Just a question, but if Natural Law is an essential Christian belief, how come I've never heard of it? For the record, I'm no theologist, but I'm no slouch when it comes to religion.

Ya, okay, that may be debatable.
posted by ashbury at 1:17 AM on February 21, 2002


Here you go.
posted by aaronshaf at 1:22 AM on February 21, 2002


Ooohhh. I have a few Lewis essays online that speak of Natural Law I'd MUCH rather link to... I recommend "On Ethics"
posted by aaronshaf at 1:25 AM on February 21, 2002


I realize that C S Lewis was a very Christian man, an authority. However, I would prefer it if you could direct me somewhere that has more oomph, for lack of a better word. Something in Scripture, perhaps, that can relate to your assertion that Natural Law is an essential Christian belief. Maybe I'm getting snagged on the term "Natural Law". Does it go by a different name?

I realize that religion has a very strong basis in justice and ethics, but such established theological and societal norms not only change, but can do complete 180's, depending on what year you are looking at. Perhaps our Judge needs to ask Solomon if his stance on this matter is the correct one.
posted by ashbury at 1:36 AM on February 21, 2002


Aaronshaf, I don't understand .

aaronshaf: for the record I think both are bad
posted by owillis at 7:05 PM PST on February 20

Well, seeing as how you correllate Christ with Bin Laden, I will have to say that you really don't feel that way. Equivocation? I'd be glad to read a further explaination if you can offer one.


I took owillis' statement as a reply to your earlier comment:

Attack on Atheism or secularism on Metafilter = BAAAAAD

Attack on Christianity or religious foundation on Metafilter = GOOOOD


In other words, it looked to me like owillis was saying that he didn't like attacks on atheism, secularism, christianity, or religious foundation (?) on MeFi. Would you please explain how this equates Christ and Bin Laden or Christian fundamentalists and the Taliban?

It's impossible for statutory law to completely control court rulings.

If you're saying that judges invariably interject their private ethics into judicial decisions, then I would generally agree. However, if that's true it doesn't mean that we should abandon the ideal of judges deciding legal and factual issues impartially, based only on the prior case law, statutes, and regulations. If we ditch that ideal then we might as well give engraved invitations to every nutjob demagogue who wants to wield a gavel and, in the process, totally eviscerate what's left of the Constitution.

Ideals are important, even if people often fall short. It's like Machavelli wrote, when you're shooting a bow you have to aim really high just to hit the target.
posted by estopped at 1:41 AM on February 21, 2002


Ashbury, here you go:

Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Romans has a lot about it.

estopped and owillis - I was referring to the original post: I'm just happy we learned some lessons from the Taliban. Sorry for causing the misunderstanding. And I entirely agree with your comments.
posted by aaronshaf at 1:48 AM on February 21, 2002


Ashbury, sorry, that probably needs context:

Romans 1
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

and chapter 2
14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
posted by aaronshaf at 1:53 AM on February 21, 2002


Ai, what a can of worms. We don't have all the facts in this case, do we? However, going with what the Chief Judge has written, we can infer that he had a problem with the homosexuality of the mother. Fine. Now, going with Romans, Chapter 2, verses 14 and 15, couldn't the mother be gay and still be a good parent? Is it more important to the ethics of the situation that she is gay or that she may be a good parent. To me, this is the crux of the matter: was she judged for being gay? Was she given the chance to prove that her sexuality wasn't interfering with her ability to follow the "Natural Law" concerning the upbringing of her daughter?

Ah, whatever. This is a no-win discussion. I'm goin' to bed.
posted by ashbury at 2:14 AM on February 21, 2002


aaronshaf: I think the relation between public officials who choose to be guided by the Bible (or any other religious text) and the Taliban is quite clear. This is America, you have the freedom to believe whatever the hell you want - but you do not have the freedom to impose these beliefs on me.

Numbnuts like this judge are the western equivalents of Mullah Omar, running around trying to legislate behavior that fits their religious dogma. It is wrong, no bones about it.

Christian Fundamentalism is fine. Just keep it in your home and in your church and away from our legislative houses and courtrooms.
posted by owillis at 3:01 AM on February 21, 2002


Athiesm is fine. Just keep it in your home and away from our legislative houses and courtrooms.

Would you rather judges made decisions on, "Hm, what benefit can I best reap from this situation.." Which he might well do if he needed to christian morals to keep him on the straight and narrow. Ethics and Morality are the guideposts in all our decisions. You can't ask someone to leave their religion at home because that violates the very principal of having a religion. It's meant as a guide to how to live life, not live life at home where your beliefs can't run up against anybody else's that don't agree with you.

Tolerance is the key. You don't have to agree with someone to respect their right to choose what they want to believe.
posted by Apoch at 3:20 AM on February 21, 2002


I would really, really like it if judges based their decisions on this wacky piece of paper. Somehow it seems to make sense.
posted by owillis at 3:42 AM on February 21, 2002


owillis: Actually, Apoch has a point here. Unless you want to be very strict about interpreting the constitution in an originalist, Scalia-like manner, you need to allow ethics some role in judicial decision-making (though perhaps only at the highest levels). And since lots of people get their ethics from religion, that's a reason why they can't altogether separate their religious beliefs from their role as judges.

That said, it is a strict principle that the law is not to be confused with religious commandment. And although many people have religion lying behind their ethics, if you want to use an ethical judgement in a decision it has to be backed up by more than "God says so". Ethics is something that people can and do argue about and think critically about, so you need to apply the same standards of argument to ethical reasoning as to legal reasoning.

But the final point is that though ethics should be involved in making decisions, we have to live in societies where people have ethical disagreements, which will never be resolved. Thus a reasonable political compromise has to allow people to live their lives in the way they want to as far as possible, in so far as it does not affect others too much. That's why ethical views on homosexuality shouldn't enter into judicial decisions - because it's a private area. That's what liberalism (in its less contentious sense) is all about. But I guess you all knew that already...
posted by Gaz at 5:19 AM on February 21, 2002


And since lots of people get their ethics from religion, that's a reason why they can't altogether separate their religious beliefs from their role as judges.

there's a difference between ethics and morality, and i think a case could be made that the judge's decision to bring his own definitions of morality into a court decision was actually *unethical.*

I would really, really like it if judges based their decisions on this wacky piece of paper.

so would i...
posted by lizs at 5:34 AM on February 21, 2002


there's a difference between ethics and morality

I'm not so sure, but Peter Singer was right when he said, "the moral issues raised by driving a car . . . are much more serious than those raised by sex".
posted by Gaz at 6:04 AM on February 21, 2002


Ethics and morality can coexist in a religious-neutral context, no?
posted by adampsyche at 6:21 AM on February 21, 2002


"the moral issues raised by driving a car . . . are much more serious than those raised by sex"

With no context, sounds to me like two morally neutral situations.
posted by bingo at 7:51 AM on February 21, 2002


Bingo has "no moral problem with homosexuality, but (finds) the way you put this across very irritating. When your daughter is grown, you will perhaps be able to make this argument ex post facto, but even then you won't have proved anything universal about the virtues of gay parenting".
Every parent says with pride that their kids are - so far -doing well in life...is that accidental, or to do with qualities imparted by mums and dads? Either the parents are, at least partly, responsible in every case, or in none. If we dont stand up and say 'we gay parents can produce balanced kids', you won't, will you?
The quote - from me - still appears to be descriptive, but the addition of the americanisation 'Got any problems with that?' makes it defensive/aggressive. ( Sorry, should I have said: 'is that ok with you?)'. This obviously is reprehensible in a thread where the right of gay people to live in their home state is questioned by someone who can't think it out for himself - ( What the hell are homosexuals doing in Alabama anyway?? [Growing up..making a living..having kids, too!] Weren't they told the Smokey and the Bandit auditions are over???? Get with the program people!! You're reaping what you sewed. Or sowed? Someone clever wanna help me out with this one???? -Settle).
Of course, I didn't have to share it with you (every opposing comment could begin with this), but your 'creepy' reaction seems to indicate an underlying fear..what might that be? It seems to me that your lack of moral objection doesn't exclude the presence of an emotional disgust. I didnt seek anonymous and unknown approval from you, overwhelming or otherwise (which is just as well, eh?)
Aaronshaf: your whole 'christian /natural law' structure worries me: if I was an gay, atheist communist in a christian theocracy which ostensibly supported free speech, church/state seperation and equal rights, what would i appeal to if all the judges quoted scripture as their ultimate guide? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
BTW, which parts of the Bible do we ditch now ("Don't wear mixed fibres?/ Stone disobedient sons?/ Don't eat pork?") I am sincere, but sceptical, in this ramble:)
-john
posted by dash_slot- at 8:17 AM on February 21, 2002


aaronshaf -

And, given that this judge is elected, the community's moral interests are ideally being expressed. Isn't that the function here? ... Hey it's democracy.

Regardless of the legal correctness of the ruling, if the judge had issued a ruling saying the mother was unfit because she was black, it doesn't matter whether the judge was reflecting the "community's moral interests" or not. Part of democracy is the protection of the rights of those in the minority.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the ruling was legally correct - i.e., that the allegation of abuse had no legal foundation. Why couldn't the judge have issued a ruling which said, "The court finds the allegation of abuse to be meritless, and rules in favor of the father."? In fact, that is what the other eight judges did - go read the actual decision.

But Moore chose to go on and attack a private citizen with a set of religiously based arguments, in a concurring opinion tacked on to the main opinion. Moore's central legal argument is that to be consistent with Alabama law and precedent the court must find that homosexuality by definition is immoral and inconsistent with good parenting. But he's not even content to leave it at that - in the opinion, he takes us all the way back to Sodom and Gomorrah and goes on from there.

So, aaronshaf - I'm left confused about your post saying that while Church and State are separable, Ethics and State are not. I, for one, see a very big difference between the Court's opinion and Moore's concurring opinion. In your view, is Moore's opinion a blurring of Church and State, or is it the simple application of "universal ethics" and "community morals"?
posted by Chanther at 8:44 AM on February 21, 2002


I think central to this issue is that nasty old first amendment which in case you forgot it reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis added)

This is the primary area where judge Moore over steps his bounds as a representative of the constitutional law. In fact, his contempt for the constitutional law embodied within the first amendment is legendary. As a result, this issue is less about a judge making decisions based on his personal ethics, but about whether his personal ethics conflict with his role in applying the constitution to the cases that he oversees. He is employed for specific job that requires him to make decisions based on what is good law rather than what personally pleases him. If he fails to do his job, then he is open for criticism.

owillis - I'm troubled by persons such as you because you so flippantly associate Christian fundamentalism with the Taliban. I will assume that you correlate all committed Christians to those who kill for the sake of glorifying God. And don't pull up some historical fact showing my Christians kill innocent people. Sinful people kill people. That is why we need Christ.

Certainly it is a bit extreme to casually associate Christian fundamentalism with the Taliban. In fact, I think we should be quite sober about pointing out the parallels. Certainly most groups within Christian fundamentalism do not go to the same extremes as the Taliban. However, the politics of Christian fundamentalism is if not identical to the Islamism of which the Taliban is the most extreme form, at least kissing cousins to it. Moore, Falwell, Robertson and others are quite clear as to their vision that the prohibition against the free practice of religion primarily only applies to Christians, and perhaps other monotheists as the frequently neglected stepchildren in our culture. Perhaps even more disturbing are the convictions expressed by former President Bush that atheists have no place in government, and by current President Bush that polytheists have no place in the military.

Personally, I didn't see the original post as an attack on Christianity. Instead, I saw it as an attack on a specific judge and a specific religious group that in the past has been quite clear in regards to its agenda to transform America into a Christian theocracy. Many Christians strongly object to attempts to turn the state into a tool of the particular flavor of Christianity.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:57 AM on February 21, 2002


aaronshaf: Your references to Romans 1 and 2 mention the law. This is The Law, Torah, and not natural law. It is said of the Gentiles that they obey some of Torah in their natural state, because it is in their heart.....

Are you saying that the general tendencies of people to follow Torah in some subset comprise a specific portion of Torah to be known as "Natural Law"?

As a theologian, I find this to be an interesting direction. Oh, and I also feel that fundamentalism, taken to the extremes I've seen by some people in Alabama (and I've spent quite a while there), is very much like the way the Taliban started. If Alabama could be legally turned into a Theocracy, it would already be one, with similar restrictions on the citizenry.
posted by dwivian at 9:10 AM on February 21, 2002


Of course, just about everybody agrees on six of the 10 commandments. It's the remaining four that focus on specific forms of religious observance and laws derived from those four that cause problems.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:41 AM on February 21, 2002


Disclaimer: any time I use the word "Christian" in the following post, I mean fundamentalist. And this is also pretty off-topic.

aaronshaf: Here's the thing. Coming into a thread and posting about how Christianity is vilified on MetaFilter does not constitute a defense on Christianity. I'm not saying that you've never defended Christianity; that's not true. But sometimes, people fall into thinking that a declaration of MetaFilter's left-wing slant, when stated in an ironic tone, is in itself valid support for everyone to suddenly become centrist and stop attacking conservative thought.

Coming from a fundamentalist Christian background, I'm of the opinion that this variety of Christianity should be rigorously critiqued in a forum like this. And I think that this article is a good example of why I feel that way. To the best of my knowledge, there is no legal obstacle anywhere in American society to keep one from living a Christian lifestyle. If you don't want to have premarital sex, you don't have to do it. If you want to go to church, that's your right. If you want to go to a school where creationism is taught, feel free. If you want to attend an institution free from the perils of rock music and homosexuality, go right ahead. There may be some issues dealing with the subjugation of women in domestic partnerships, but I think you'll be hard-pressed to find cases where that behavior is litigated. Generally, my experience with fundamentalist Christianity is that it is often practiced within profoundly insular communities where its ideals are rarely questioned. In 10 years of attending a Christian school, the way I was taught to think of evolution was that it was entirely founded on flawed carbon-dating practices. It was never presented as a viable scientific theory. And that's fine. Sort of. I was a little chafed about it when I started to realize that there was more to evolution than carbon-dating, and that my science teachers had withheld massive amounts of scientific knowledge we've gained over the last century, and that my parents had paid for what I now feel was a rather incomplete education. But it was still my prerogative; I was free to believe those things.

On the other hand, there are legal obstacles many places in American society to keep one from living a homosexual lifestyle, as this article demonstrates. If you are an adult who wants to have sex with a consenting adult partner of the same gender, you may be prohibited from doing so. In fact, a policeman has the legal right to walk into your home and arrest you for doing so. Hell, if you even want to use a vibrator, there are laws in effect in several regions of America that render that form of pleasure illegal. My sexuality is being legislated all over the place. And Christians have been amazingly vocal about their support of that legislation. So I think it's very good that there are forums where fundamentalist Christianity itself is held up to the spotlight and criticized, because it seems that the only criticism that provokes change in that community comes from the larger culture. I think lives are ruined by this institution more than people know, and I'm happy when it's questioned.

If you want to counter the presentation of fundamentalist Christianity as an entirely evil institution, then find and post examples of the good that people do in the name of Christianity. And of course, you'll get cynical replies that question any positive depiction of Christianity, but you'll also allow people to see unquestionably commendable instances of Christian activism.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:44 AM on February 21, 2002


bingo- With no context, sounds to me like two morally neutral situations.

I think the idea is that 'traditional' morality concentrates too much on sexual issues. For instance - even having lots of promiscuous, unprotected sex, even if we disapprove of it (I don't mean that I do), just can't be any more serious than drink-driving. But religions make much more of a fuss about the former (okay, I know when the Bible was written they had no cars, but still). And we've got a lot of people feeling guilty about ordinary harmless sex, when they wouldn't even think about worrying about damaging the environment by driving.

The unfortunate result is that the word 'morality' gets to be used in a slightly mocking way, as if it's all a bunch of sex-obsessed nonsense about sin. But there's nothing in the concept of morality that makes it that way, which is why I don't see the distinction between morality and ethics. After all, 'irresponsible' sex and drink-driving are presumably ethical issues if they're moral ones. No?
posted by Gaz at 10:49 AM on February 21, 2002


dash_slot: Of course, I didn't have to share it with you (every opposing comment could begin with this)...

Not every "opposing comment" is a description of one's own lifestyle, coupled with a question that I interpreted as a challenge to find fault with that lifestyle. However, I understand with your explanation that you didn't mean it as agressively as I took it. And I'm certainly not saying that you're the only one on the thread who's getting all uppity; it's just that your particular version happened to grate on me more.

dash_slot also said:...but your 'creepy' reaction seems to indicate an underlying fear..what might that be? It seems to me that your lack of moral objection doesn't exclude the presence of an emotional disgust.

That's true. The "disgust" and the "fear" that you're picking up on have mostly to do with

a) a distrust I hold for the idea that straight As are necessarily a sign of an emotionally healthy child, and

b) the fact that the phrase "two homes where she has freedom and responsibility to become the best she can of herself"...well, for me there's something disturbingly vague about your concomitant use of "freedom" and "responsiblity," two concepts that can mean a whole range of different things in terms of a parent's attitude toward a teenager, and the fact that you are connecting them both directly to a statement about her being "the best she can," another tricky subject, especially since you ended the sentence with "of herself," a typo that leaves it somewhat unclear in terms of who is making the determination as to what her "best" is or ought to be. It's quite possible that you are a wonderful parent and that your daughter is bound for greatness of many sorts, but the way you summed up the situation made me think of Sissy Spacek's mother in Carrie.

Also, I will admit that I think the issues of who one sleeps with and who one should be raised by are not necessarily connected. I think that men and women have different energies, yin and yang or what have you, and I think that it's healthy for children to grow up around both energies. So, all other things being equal, I think that a child is going to be in a better situation with both a mother-figure and a father-figure, regardless of what each of those figures do with their sex organs in the bedroom. Of course, all other things are never equal, and I understand that given your own mother's absence, you feel that two loving fathers (or whatever your setup is) are better parents than one loving father and an absent mother, and (all other things being equal ;) ) you are probably right.
posted by bingo at 12:01 PM on February 21, 2002


Gaz: I think the idea is that 'traditional' morality concentrates too much on sexual issues. For instance - even having lots of promiscuous, unprotected sex, even if we disapprove of it (I don't mean that I do), just can't be any more serious than drink-driving. But religions make much more of a fuss about the former (okay, I know when the Bible was written they had no cars, but still). And we've got a lot of people feeling guilty about ordinary harmless sex, when they wouldn't even think about worrying about damaging the environment by driving.

Actually, I think it's rather significant that cars were invented after the bible was written. Yes, God (if it was God, etc.) had a lot to say about sex, but he also had plenty to say about, for example, mules and goats. There are people who die in the bible because of the reckless actions of others, and I'm sure that you can find a rule somewhere for a situation that would more or less be the moral equivalent to vehicular manslaughter under the influence of alcohol.

However, there's another issue you raise when you talk about the environment. Being conscious of the environment in the sense we now are is a very modern concept (as in, less than 100 years old). People living in biblical times were lucky to survive the day in many cases; where they threw away their completely biodegradable posessions was a non-issue.

Sex, on the other hand, was of course always important. A lot of the biblical restrictions on sex seem to be about making sure that paternity can be established, which is getting to be a non-issue for us now with DNA tests, to establish the social class of the child, still an issue but less than it was then, at least in America, and to keep that dangerous female sexuality under lock and key (a bad idea that has prevented a lot of people of both sexes from getting laid as much as they should).

In terms of ethics vs. morality, I think the philosophy 101 idea is that ethics are connected to some sort of universal or objective truth, and morals are not.
posted by bingo at 12:14 PM on February 21, 2002


adampsyche - You asked, "Ethics and morality can coexist in a religious-neutral context, no?" If you took away my religion I would have no basis for my ethics other than a hairball of human emotions.

dash_slot- - Your worry about the 'christian /natural law' structure is correct. Christian ethics will inevitably affect you. I would like to add a personal statement: I think Christian ethics are necessary to keep the world salty. That is, without Christ's influence, ethics would unwind and diminish.

What would you appeal to if judges used Christian ethics as their guide? Well, my dogmatic-self says: if you're not appealing to positive law, then you are ... get this... by nature appealing to natural law. Ethics of the conscious. Inescapable.

BTW, which parts of the Bible do we ditch now ("Don't wear mixed fibres?/ Stone disobedient sons?/ Don't eat pork?") I am sincere, but sceptical, in this ramble:)

This is a COMMON misunderstanding of scripture. Please listen carefully, and let this sink in for future thought and conversation: Jesus nullified the necessity of Levitical law.

Chanther - I think his injection of scriptures was inappropriate. It sounds like a breach of Church and State. If previous rulings ruled against homo-discrimination (my word!) and for tolerance, then his bias is obviously out of place, and can be best expressed at a higher level where issues like this are codified.

KirkJobSluder - I see your point.

dwivian - Take a look at some verses in chapter 2:

[7] To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [8] But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

To reject the truth is far different from being ignorant of it.

[9] There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; [10] but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. [11] For God does not show favoritism.

In verse 14, "to do by nature things required by the law" isn't Levitical Law itself.

Here's the biggy:

Matthew 23:23
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

KirkJobSluder - Interesting that you point that out... that "everybody agrees on six of the 10 commandments". That, my friend, would be support for Natural Law.

grrarrgh00 - You have raised some thought provoking on my side. Thank you.
posted by aaronshaf at 1:41 PM on February 21, 2002


KirkJobSluder - Interesting that you point that out... that "everybody agrees on six of the 10 commandments". That, my friend, would be support for Natural Law.


Is it support for "natural law" (defined by you as a god-given moral sensibility) or is it support for the sociology derived concept of "functional law" which claims that certain minimal moral structures are necessary for societies to survive, or a "evolutionary law" in which moral sensibility is derived from creating an environment that is optimal for propagating our genes? To quote and old saying even stopped clock is right two times a day. I am a bit more fond of Neal Gaiman's and Terry Pratchett's statement that most people whether raised Christian or Satanist turn out to be generally good people in spite of their religion.

In fact, the devil is in the details and even looking across Christian denominations which all claim to be inspired by the holy spirit there seems to be huge gaps regarding what is moral and what is immoral. For example, one of the rules that is apparently not open to debate is "thou shall not kill". However even among physicians who are bound by an additional ethical statement against causing harm, a large minority would be willing to participate in the death penalty, and most Americans generally favor the death penalty. Christian denominations are also split on the issue of what if anything constitutes a "just war."

In fact, what is really interesting about ethics is that there is nothing new under the sun. Most of the same ethical positions on most issues existed long before Christ existed quite comfortably in cultures in which Christianity was never introduced, and continue to be held in the absence of Christian practice.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:34 PM on February 21, 2002


This is a COMMON misunderstanding of scripture. Please listen carefully, and let this sink in for future thought and conversation: Jesus nullified the necessity of Levitical law.

Which does not explain why Christians seem to continue feeling the need to refer to it. As a Jew, I have been increasingly baffled by Christians who, faced with the events of 9-11, justify retaliation by citing Leviticus 24:20, and who, when they wish to condemn homosexuality, have no problem with Leviticus 20:13. The last time I checked, the Sermon on the Mount had things to say about the former, and apparently Christ couldn't be bothered to get worked up about the latter. And for reasons unbeknownst to me, the local fundamentalists who come out in force during the spring keep parading around placards filled with injunctions against society, all originating from Leviticus. This strikes me as affirming Levitical law, not the opposite. Or is there some definition of "nullify" that allows Christians to continue citing a source they claim to have transcended?
posted by thomas j wise at 3:14 PM on February 21, 2002


Bingo: I thought it was clear that I have shared care with my daughter's mum: there are no two loving fathers! (I should be so lucky). The difference is that my ex-partner realised that we were both needed by our child: sadly not acknowledged by the parents in the news.
Re: your creepy feelings:
"..to become the best she can of herself" = Self-actualization. It's something many humanists would say is our goal on this earth, not to serve any putative supernatural being. Its not as if she is hothoused (since we got cable, anyway..)
Re: The Six Commandments - which six commandments: the first six, any six from ten? I don't get it.
The Commandments can be summed up thus: Love thy neighbour. I love you, and i dont need to be a christian to say it. Do you love gay people?
Anyway, my whole point was to contrast with the judge saying that gay parents are inadequate/immoral/disgusting, that's all.
Aaronshaf: Jesus nullified the necessity of Levitical law and, strangely enough for a man who said so much on morality, ethics and relationships, he is not recorded as saying anything about homosexuals. Do you think he was unconcerned about the issue? Does he love me?
Enough already, its supposed to be about the family in the papers, not mine. It's not as if we're learning from each other, is it?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:34 PM on February 21, 2002


thomas j wise: Ditto. (sarcasm) Do you think the Fundamentalists/ Catholics/ Baptists/ Episcopalians/Mormons didn't get the memo? Or maybe the bible isn't the revealed word of 'god', and we all need to remember which bits are really, really true, as defined by... o, this is getting complicated. I think i might have to work it out for myself... (/sarcasm)
posted by dash_slot- at 6:50 PM on February 21, 2002


Enough already, its supposed to be about the family in the papers, not mine.

True, but you're the one who brought your own family into the discussion. I hope your daughter indeed becomes self-actualized.

And I'm not sure if you're suggesting that "love your neighbor as yourself" comes from the ten commandments, but i'm pretty sure that's a purely christian idea, i.e. new testament.
posted by bingo at 8:08 PM on February 21, 2002


1. You get it now! great. Thanx for the thought.
2. Please, read the link: its a Xian one, not mine - but i support it.
3. My belief is that gay & lesbian parents can be successful.
4. er...
5. That's it. OK?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:55 PM on February 21, 2002


Are you talking about the "love thy neighbor" link? I did read it, and I don't think it said anything about the commandments...
posted by bingo at 12:19 AM on February 22, 2002


Whoops my mistake, its' only the first three of the 10 commandments that cause the big cultural problems.

1: I am the lord thy god, thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

2: Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain.

3: Remember thou keep holy the sabbath day.

From here.


The remaining 7 are pretty much commonsense statements of morality.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2002


Geez, I was out cruising and missed this discussion. What a good one, on both sides.
posted by evanizer at 4:59 PM on February 24, 2002


does anyone have a link to the full opinion?
posted by rhyax at 3:59 PM on February 25, 2002


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