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August 24, 2003 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Roy Ten Commandments Moore (discussed here) received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in January of 2003 from the Methodist Episcopal Church, USA (temporarily deactivated, someone, call billing!) & the National Clergy Council. The National Clergy Council has placed "Ten Commandment" plaques on the walls of politicians such as George Bush, Trent Lott, Joe Leiberman, & Rick Santorum among others. The web site of the National Clergy Council reads "There remain thousands of additional government officials yet to receive the Ten Commandments Plaques." and asks for help. Chief Justice Moore had to travel all the way to Washington DC to receive his honorary Doctorate of Divinity. It would have been far cheaper to pay $7.95 online. In case you were wondering a Doctorate in Divinity means an "understanding of the relationship between Man, His Creator, and the rest of the Cosmos." It's good nice to know that such a moral man is was the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
posted by filchyboy (29 comments total)

 
I'm curious to know if there is any precedent for criminal prosecution here. Openly refusing federal court orders is illegal. Here's an amusing tidbit:
Moore pledged to ask the Supreme Court to overrule Thompson and said the promised fines would add to the approximate $125 million the state has already spent defending the monument's place. The state is spending $25,000 a day of taxpayers' money on the case, Moore said.

Moore accused Thompson of a "callous disregard for the people of Alabama" and their tax dollars.
Wow, this guys little holy war has cost the state $125 million dollars. Imagine that money going towards education. I hope this 'ol boy is happy with himself, but like many extreme-religious types the ends justify the means. Now he has to deal with the prospect of not only losing his attempt to erase the line between church and state but also costing everyone in Alabama 125 million dollars. Can the people of Alabama sue him and/or the state legislature personally for the money?
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore warned a religious audience Tuesday night of "great consequences" when America turns away from God and suggested the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might be an example.
When in doubt and losing play the terrorist card I guess. The ironic part is he is part of the problem he decries: he is the true American Taliban

The notion that his religion and his attempt at theocracy will be any different than how it is in the middle east shows a staggering amount of self-delusion and disregard for people of different and non-faith.
posted by skallas at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2003


I call Alabama my home state.

Governor Bob Riley has alienated everyone in the state by offering an extremely controversial tax plan.

Roy Moore got elected to Chief Justice because he was the "10 Commandments Guy."

Roy Moore plans to be elected governor because of this.

It has nothing to do with religion or law.

It's political grandstanding.

And make no doubt, Roy Moore will be the next governor of Alabama.

And this is why Alabama cannot have nice things.
posted by Stan Chin at 3:19 PM on August 24, 2003


I'm as religious as the next guy (and maybe then some), but I'm always puzzled by those who go through such efforts to get the Ten Commandments recognized in various areas of our society while utterly ignoring the more fundamental commandments that Jesus gave as a summary of all others: Love thy God, and love thy neighbor.

This isn't to say that the Ten Commandments are invalid, but simply that if someone were to read the entire Bible, they certainly wouldn't come out thinking that those were the most important commandments to be sharing with others.

If, as a Christian, you're going to put your effort into something, why not try promoting the basic teachings of Christ first and foremost?
posted by oissubke at 3:23 PM on August 24, 2003


Above the head of the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is an image of Moses, coming down the mountain with the 10 Commandments in his hands. This was intended to symbolize the (undisputable) historical fact that at the founding of America the 10 Commandments were considered the basis for American jurisprudence. So I really need to read this opinion, because I don't see (off the top of my head) on what basis this monument could be unconstitutional.

True story: If you take a tour of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., the tour guide might tell you that the guy with the beard coming down the mountain, carrying two stone tablets numbered 1-5 and 6-10, is not Moses. He's an unnamed figure, carrying the Bill of Rights.

Seriously, that's what they say.

Which is obviously not what they've always said. Appearantly, the person who makes such decisions recently got replaced, and the new woman changed the official line. Weird, I think.
posted by gd779 at 3:44 PM on August 24, 2003


Stan Chin: Don't you think that, if Alabama residents were really so freaked out over Moore (so much that he's a shoo-in for governor), that they'd turn out in greater numbers at the recent protests? The small crowds at these "events" are made up of mostly out-of-state people, and they're divided into feuding factions.

In any case, the only way to get rid of him in politics, maybe, is to prosecute him. Or .... I'm noticing a lot of talk about how Mr. Ten Commandments wasn't the party rank-and-file's first choice for chief justice. That was then-law prof Harold See, who if I remember correctly loudly touted his support of Moore in going against the ACLU. It matters not, I suppose, that the GOP didn't exactly publicly repudiate Moore later. But if the GOP leadership decided it couldn't back Moore, a la the Louisiana GOP's distancing itself from David Duke, would it make a difference? Probably.

Meantime: An analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court building's imagery.
posted by raysmj at 3:52 PM on August 24, 2003


The Supreme Court's online guide to the building's architecture doesn't take Moses or the Ten Commandments out of the picture.
posted by raysmj at 4:03 PM on August 24, 2003


I only know what I gather from conversations with everyday Alabamians. I lack the patience to gather research on such ridiculous political wackiness. I'm most likely wrong.

In truth, while everybody else in the country are elevating Roy Moore to self-made martyr, there are more people concerned with the tax plan. Which is a good thing. The bad thing is that they mostly oppose the tax plan.

Which is why Alabama will still never have nice things. And this is a good indication why Roy Moore has a good shot at being Governor, because Alabama will always shoot itself in the foot.

Here's everything you need to know about Alabama (I'm sure you'll agree Raysmj, being in T-Town.):

It's Football Season.

Nothing else matters anymore.
posted by Stan Chin at 4:18 PM on August 24, 2003


Here's my question:

Who are these guys? I mean, Moore probably didn't receive his doctorate from these good people, or these folks here, and I know he's not been recognized by the congregation of my upbringing. As far as I knew, the last Methodist Episcopal Churches united with The Methodist Protestant Churches to form what would become The Methodist Church in 1939.

So... who the heck are these guys? And why would I need a password?
posted by grabbingsand at 4:58 PM on August 24, 2003


This was intended to symbolize the (undisputable) historical fact that at the founding of America the 10 Commandments were considered the basis for American jurisprudence. So I really need to read this opinion, because I don't see (off the top of my head) on what basis this monument could be unconstitutional.

If the 10 commandments are the indisputable basis of our legal system, why are they not laws themselves? Only a few even cross over with laws, and a number of them would be absolutely inconstitutional if proposed as laws.

The "basis for american jurisprudence" is most commonly cited as "innocent until proven guilty." This is not seen in the ten commandments.

I imagine the reason for having a symbolic representation of moses in the supreme court is to make reference to the idea that laws are natural, given by nature / a creator (which I think most would agree was considered true by the founders of this country, despite its not actually being true :) ); what precisely those laws are is up to the supreme court to figure out, and hence they could view themselves as a kind of moses coming down from the mountaintop, in a metaphorical way. The image of the sage returning from the hill with new guidelines for his people is different from the specific list of guidelines an ancient jew gave to his desert tribe...

anyway, presumably those placques have been there for ages; it doesn't sound like there's a major movement to try to get them removed, since people probably don't think it's that important, and there are probably other references in the building to other ancient codes (I know in NY's court bldg there are references to moses, hammurabi, solon, and a bunch of other ancient lawgivers -). But Moore actually secretly imported a brand new and very large statue into the court building in the middle of the night! And he's made it clear as well that he wishes the american judicial system to be a christian judicial system, which is against a founding principle of the country.
posted by mdn at 5:29 PM on August 24, 2003


If, as a Christian, you're going to put your effort into something, why not try promoting the basic teachings of Christ first and foremost?

My guess: a lot of people are put off by the whole, vague "forgiveness and love thy neighbor" concept. Too humanistic, too touchy-feely.

They prefer hard and fast "thou shalt nots." Sitting in judgement (on others, of course, not themselves) is much more agreeable to their natures.
posted by SPrintF at 6:11 PM on August 24, 2003


It's Football Season.

Nothing else matters anymore.


I thought it was NASCAR season.

But, here, in my little part of North Alabama, which has always been more liberal, (actually voting against secession during The Late Unpleasantness) most people support the tax plan. They are really trying hard to get the black vote out, going so far as to have specialized radio spots on WEUP, the hip-hop station.

Also, Rick and Bubba, local redneck radio djs, are very much supporters, doing free spots for the tax plan.

I think there is a very real possiblity that this will pass.

And if not, we know who to blame it on. The coalition of churches which killed the lottery, made Siegalman lose the last governor's race and supported Wallace in his 5 terms.

I think it's time for a revolution in Alabama.
posted by nyxxxx at 6:11 PM on August 24, 2003


I've been thinking about this since the earlier thread and what I don't understand is why christians would want to elect this guy. The guy used to start his day in court by bringing in pastors for an invocation. To me that is less about being a christian than it is about being a bully. I couldn't imagine getting a fair hearing in such a courtroom. Judge Moore has the right to worship whatever god he chooses but he seems way too eager to use the power of the state to advance his religous agenda. That doesn't seem very christian to me.
posted by rdr at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2003


If the 10 commandments are the indisputable basis of our legal system, why are they not laws themselves?

mdn: Foundations are concrete, houses are wood or brick. If concrete is really the foundation, why isn't it the house?

If you want a more serious answer to your question, I suggest you research Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, which was, without overstatement, the most profoundly influential document in early American jurisprudence. Blackstone systematized British law and then published his summary, with the result being that the "common people" knew the law (and their rights) for the first time in history. Though his Commentaries, Blackstone also popularized the notion of natural law, the idea that human laws are first subject to the divine laws found in the Bible. He also said that though Christianity was the foundation of English law, the law protected both believers and non-believers equally.

Therefore, if you accept (as an honest historian must, I think) that Blackstone's Commentaries was one of the primary foundations of early American jurisprudence, (in both the eyes of the law and the eyes of the common people), then you must accept that Christianity was one of the primary intellectual foundations of early American jurisprudence. But you can also see how a distinction was drawn between Christian laws as the moral foundation of law and secular law designed to protect non-believers.

(It's a bit more complex than that, actually. The right of conscience, politics, and several other forces all played a part. But the general point is the same - in early American legal thought secular law was laid down by God to be discovered by man, just as the natural (scientific) laws were).
posted by gd779 at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2003


skallas, where did you find that $125 million figure? Link, please?

If it's true, you'd think the citizens of AL would remove this clown just for that alone. Pissing away a 9-digit amount of public money on something that you knew would be controversial (why else would you have had it snuck in during the dead of night?) certainly ought to be acceptable grounds for a recall attempt (unlike what that other coastal state is doing).
posted by pmurray63 at 7:23 PM on August 24, 2003


talibama?
posted by madamjujujive at 8:17 PM on August 24, 2003


Amusingly enough, as an aside it could be pointed out that the 10 commandments don't apply to gentiles. The 10 commandments was a covenant between God and the Jews.

Gentiles come under the previous "Noahic" and earlier covenants--a different set of rules. The New Testament specifically disposes of Jewish dietary laws, sacrifices and circumcision, among other things.

I'm just pointing out the irony, here. It's like the judge posting 10 rules in his court that said:

1) No calling JHVH "JHVH".
2) No pork and no shellfish.
3) No cheeseburgers, either.
4) Celebrate Passover Seder.
5) Read the Talmud...

etc.
posted by kablam at 8:20 PM on August 24, 2003


> skallas, where did you find that $125 million figure? Link, please?

It was linked in the previous discussion.
Here you go:
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson (search) of Montgomery, who ruled the monument violates the constitution's ban on government promotion of religion, had said fines of about $5,000 a day would have been imposed against the state if the monument were not removed.

Moore pledged to ask the Supreme Court to overrule Thompson and said the promised fines would add to the approximate $125 million the state has already spent defending the monument's place. The state is spending $25,000 a day of taxpayers' money on the case, Moore said.
posted by skallas at 8:33 PM on August 24, 2003


Thanks, skallas, didn't realize it was in the previous thread. If accurate, that sum is truly staggering. $27.86 for every state resident -- and counting.

Has anyone else noticed that many of Moore's arguments can be applied against his side with no changes? Two examples come immediately to mind:

- Moore has made statements to the effect of "one judge's opinion doesn't matter, we're following the law." Well, duh. The other side can say the same thing about him.

- "Moore accused Thompson of a "callous disregard for the people of Alabama" and their tax dollars." The same could of course be said about the man who singlehandedly had the monument installed in the first place!

The Chief Justice could use a lesson in irony.

This also raises questions in my mind about governmental structure -- not in a "let's pick on Alabama" sense, I mean in general. Since when does the Chief Justice wield the power to redecorate without consulting anyone? And why must the state fund the lawsuit costs? Why not let his honor cough up his own money?
posted by pmurray63 at 9:40 PM on August 24, 2003


mdn: Foundations are concrete, houses are wood or brick. If concrete is really the foundation, why isn't it the house?

You stated earlier that the ten commandments were the foundation of US law. The commandments are rules which either could be laws, as they were in the ancient hebrew theocracy, or could not be laws, as most of them are not in the modern secular state. They are not principles or structural ideas that could serve as a "foundation" for a justice system, while said justice system simultaneously allows and even encourages, as much as a limiting system can be said to encourage, the trespassing of them (eg, have no other gods before jehovah, don't take jehovah's name in vain, don't make pictures of jehovah, etc - the first amendment clearly establishes a country where citizens are welcome to break those rules).

anyway, you seem to have changed your mind, since now all you're claiming is that the basis of US law is the idea of natural law with a vaguely christian flavor, which I don't dispute - in fact, it's more or less what I said in reference to the supreme court monument. What you said earlier, and what moore seems to be claiming, was that the ten commandments are fundamental to american law, which is clearly false. These are vastly different claims.
posted by mdn at 10:58 PM on August 24, 2003


"talibama?" -- How about Tallapoosa ;-P
posted by mischief at 11:13 PM on August 24, 2003


"This was intended to symbolize the (undisputable) historical fact that at the founding of America the 10 Commandments... "

well, it may be undisputed at your church's law seminars, but in the rest of the academic community the US Constitution is considered to have been heavily, heavily influenced by Enlightenment ideas -- Enlightenment being, in Kant's words, "man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity", i.e. the emergence human rights, scientific research, democracy, an open civil society -- not necessarily Bible-inspired, Church-sanctioned concepts. sapere aude, and all that stuff. doubt. to question authority. you know, the opposite of religion in many ways

the US Constituion, trial by jury, etc, it's more about John Locke, Montesquieu, and Hume than about those grim Bronze Age characters, I'm sorry to report

also, 125 million bucks and counting for a single monument, well, Alabama could have built a really nice building, maybe a Santiago Calatrava or something, with that kind of money. but to each his own
posted by matteo at 4:43 AM on August 25, 2003


The quote from Fox goes like this:

Moore pledged to ask the Supreme Court to overrule Thompson and said the promised fines would add to the approximate $125 million the state has already spent defending the monument's place. The state is spending $25,000 a day of taxpayers' money on the case, Moore said.

A bit of math and common sense shows this to be ridiculous. It would take 13 years at $25,000 a day to get to $125 million. It would then be about a third of the size of the Alabama state deficit. The odd thing is that Fox claims to be quoting Moore. Why in the world would he want to throw around such a wildly inflated figure and why didn't Fox do a simple fact check?
posted by rdr at 5:04 AM on August 25, 2003


AU.
posted by yoga at 5:14 AM on August 25, 2003


$25,000 a day is simply the fines, that has nothing to do with the costs incurred by the state. There is surely a huge amount of salary cost associated with a stunt like this, in addition to the costs incurred by dealing with protestors, supporters, media and the significantly decreased usability of the facility.

$125m is a lot of money and sounds high, but I have very little trouble imagining that this situation is burning several hundred state employees time, thus resulting in overtime for other employees to cover the workload, and easily resulting in an effective cost of several hundred thousand dollars a day.
posted by mosch at 9:49 AM on August 25, 2003


This is what happens when you give power to the wrong people.

Do we need a stronger argument for completely separating church and state? Anyone?
posted by FormlessOne at 10:46 AM on August 25, 2003


Me thinks the monument ugly is. Why not something abstract?
posted by hoskala at 5:13 PM on August 25, 2003


What you said earlier, and what moore seems to be claiming, was that the ten commandments are fundamental to american law, which is clearly false. These are vastly different claims.

mdn: You thought I was claiming that the 10 Commandments should be (or were) laws in and of themselves? Then I apologize for not making myself clear.

On the other hand, your implicit characterization of the beliefs of the founding fathers as "natural law with a vaguely Christian flavor" is simply historically inaccurate. You can't take Jefferson, Franklin, and Paine and pretend as if they fought the British all by themselves. But this is, I think, more a failing of our current educational system than anything else - nobody studies history anymore.

Anyway, based on the signed statements of faith commonly required for church membership, at the constitutional convention it is estimated that 28 delegates were Episcopalians, 8 were Presbyterians, 7 were Congregationalists, 2 were Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodist, 2 Roman Catholic, and 3 were deist. One religious preference (James McClung) is unknown to historians.

it may be undisputed at your church's law seminars, but in the rest of the academic community the US Constitution is considered to have been heavily, heavily influenced by Enlightenment ideas

matteo: I'm an attorney (or, at least, an attorney-in-training) and I've helped to litigate multiple 1st amendment cases. Also, I don't go to church. But thanks for playing.

it's more about John Locke, Montesquieu, and Hume than about those grim Bronze Age characters, I'm sorry to report

Exactly! But like much of contemporary America, you don't know your history. I've written about this previously, but I'll reprint some of it here for convenience.

Take John Locke, for instance. Widely considered to be once of the most profoundly influential philosophers in forming the American revolution, John Locke was a moderate Calvinist who drew his philosophy from his religion. His line about "life, liberty, and property", which finds expression in our 5th and 14th amendments, as well as in the Declaration of Independence, was a straightforward application of Calvinist covenant theory as expounded by the Rev. Samuel Rutherford in Lex, Rex. Calvinist covenant theology held that God's covenant with man is two-fold: a covenant of law and a covenant of grace. Without getting too far into the details, I don't think it'd be controversial to say that this view found secular expression in a number of philosophies, notably the view that men, in a state of nature, formed a government by mutual consent and gave it certain limited authority to act to protect their basic rights (life, liberty, and property). This "social contract theory" was also the foundation for the popular rallying cry: "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God".

You also mentioned the Baron Montesquieu of France. As you're doubtless aware, Montesquieu was responsible for the doctrine of the separation of powers, a revolutionary idea in its day. But where did this idea come from? Fortunately, we don't have to guess - Montesquieu tells us in his most famous work, The Spirit of Laws:

But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical. For though the former has also its laws, which of their own nature are invariable, it does not conform to them so exactly as they physical world. This is because, on the one hand, particular intelligent beings are of a finite nature, and consequently liable to error; and on the other, their nature requires them to be free agents. hence they do not steadily conform to their primitive laws; and even those of their own instituting they frequently infringe...

As an intelligent being, [man] incessantly transgresses the laws established by God, and changes those of his own instituting. He is left to his private direction, though a limited being, and subject, like all finite intelligences, to ignorance and error: even his imperfect knowledge he loses; and as a sensible creature, he is hurried away by a thousand impetuous passions. Such a being might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion... Formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow creatures; legislators have, therefore, by political and civil laws, confined him to his duty...


Do you see what he's saying? Maybe it will help to point out that, like Locke, Montesquieu was a Calvinist. Since the Calvinist doctrine of the "total depravity of man" taught that all men were thoroughly corrupt and untrustworthy, ("even the laws of their own instituting the frequently infringe"), Montesquieu argued that power must be set against power and the ruler therefore "confined to his duty". If you want to trace the intellectual history of the separation of powers, this is where it comes from - it's just Calvinism as applied to pragmatic politics.

George Van Droph, one of the leading scholars of American history during the 1800's, even went so far as to call John Calvin "the Father of America!" "He who would not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin", Droph said, "knows little of the origin of American liberty".
posted by gd779 at 7:04 PM on August 25, 2003


the commandments are rules which either could be laws, as they were in the ancient hebrew theocracy, or could not be laws, as most of them are not in the modern secular state. They are not principles or structural ideas that could serve as a "foundation" for a justice system, while said justice system simultaneously allows and even encourages, as much as a limiting system can be said to encourage, the trespassing of them (eg, have no other gods before jehovah, don't take jehovah's name in vain, don't make pictures of jehovah, etc - the first amendment clearly establishes a country where citizens are welcome to break those rules).

I think you've brought up a good example here, mdn, so I'll expound on it a bit more. If I'm understanding you, then you're arguing that the commandments are either laws or they are not laws - there is no in between. You don't see how the Jewish commandment against worshiping false gods can become the First Amendment, right?

Well, you're not alone in that view - many of the founding father's agreed with you, and as a result many states implemented laws that would be unthinkable today.

However, the answer lies in the right of conscience. The founding fathers reasoned that while it was immoral (under the commandment) to worship false gods, to make the worship of false gods illegal could never change people's "heart worship". It would only change their actions. Since that was not enough for salvation, and since many of the founding fathers were no stranger to religious persecution, the decision was made to tolerate all religious viewpoints. As George Washington once said:

I also give it in charge to you to avoid all disrespect of the religion of the country, and its ceremonies. Prudence, policy, and a true Christian spirit will lead us to look with compassion upon their errors without insulting them. While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience of others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only in this case they are answerable.

- Washington, Letter to Colonel Benedict Arnold dated September 14, 1775.

You see? In the eyes of the founding fathers, the freedom to believe whatever you wanted to believe was based upon the moral principle that God wanted His people to choose Him freely. And so the Commandment laid the foundation for the Amendment, without becoming a law in and of itself.
posted by gd779 at 7:34 PM on August 25, 2003


What do you think?
posted by homunculus at 12:01 PM on August 27, 2003


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