Alabama’s self-proclaimed “Ten Commandments Judge” is headed to Congress, and it would be a mistake to dismiss him as just another religious fanatic.
Roy Moore’s insistence that the Alabama constitution and his interpretation of the Bible supersede the US Constitution has twice gotten him removed as chief justice of the state’s supreme court, but it appears to be paving his way to the US Senate.
He has a wide lead in the September 26 Republican Senate primary runoff over incumbent Sen. Luther Strange to fill the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became attorney general.
Sessions and Moore are “committed reactionaries, true believers, calculated but genuine,” said a longtime Hill staffer familiar with both men.
Moore rose to national prominence – or notoriety – 15 years ago for refusing to remove a two-and-a-half-ton granite block bearing the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building rotunda.
He rejected court orders to remove it and was himself ultimately removed from the bench in 2003 and disbarred. He was reinstated to the bar and elected again in 2012. Last year he issued an order to Alabama probate court judges telling them to disobey the US Supreme Court decision permitting licenses for samesex marriages.
He has compared the push to legalize gay marriage to the Nazis’ suppression of the Jews.
Harking back to the old southern segregationist arguments of nullification, he insisted state laws took precedence over federal laws.
He charged the US Supreme Court was influenced by “radical homosexual and transgender groups,” and its decision upholding same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, violating not only Alabama laws but divine law as well and said his mission was “to acknowledge God over the state.”
The Democratic Senate nominee, Doug Jones, is such a long shot in red state Alabama (Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 28 points in the state) that national Democrats are “snubbing” him, Politico reported.
Democrats are hoping Moore’s many controversies may play to Jones’ benefit, but it is likely to be the other way around. Moore is a folk hero to Evangelicals and former Dixiecrats who hate the godless federal government.
He told a Mississippi group that any mention of “religion” in the Constitution applies only to the god of the King James Bible, and doesn’t apply to other religions.
“Buddha didn’t create us. Muhammad didn’t create us.
It’s the God of the Holy Scriptures.” Islam is a “false religion” and “completely opposite with what our First Amendment stands for.”
His version of the Decalogue is the King James version, not the one cited by Catholics or by Jews in Exodus.
Moore beat Strange, who was endorsed by Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a current bête noire of the president. Moore warned Trump he will “lose his credibility” with his populist base if he sticks with Strange, whom the judge called the establishment candidate.
If Moore gets to the Senate, the GOP caucus could be even more deeply divided.
This race is “the ultimate national showdown between the Washington insiders and conservative Republicans who are sick of Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the establishment in Washington,” he told supporters.
That is one reason Moore has the strong backing of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and his alt-right Breitbart News, as well as Sarah Palin.
Moore’s a Trump kind of guy for other reasons as well. He is a longtime birther and Obama hater like the president and ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio; wants the border wall built “immediately,” says “homosexuality should be against military policy,” insists there is “no authority for federal involvement” in the school systems and wants to return the country to the values and teachings of the Bible. And he makes it clear he means the Protestant Bible.
He takes pride in not even knowing what DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or “Dreamers” are. “[People] want the border secured, and President Trump and Roy Moore will get that done.”
During a Chambers County, Alabama, Republican Club meeting last month Moore whipped a snub-nose revolver out of his wife’s purse and announced, “We carry.” He said when he gets to the Senate he will work to repeal all gun control laws.
“Don’t take him lightly,” warned Melinda Lee Maddox, the co-counsel and plaintiff in the landmark Ten Commandments case that forced out Moore and his granite slab. “He is very smart and sharp.”
The most important thing for Jews to understand is that he really believes Jews don’t belong here, that this country belongs to fundamentalist Protestants, and that carries over to Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, gays, uppity women and anyone else who isn’t just like him, Maddox said.
“Unlike Trump, he plots it out and says what he thinks, not just what pops into his mind. He’s been very consistent. He may be the last person in Washington you can take at his word,” said the Hill staffer.
“He’s not crazy, he’s not stupid and he’s not a loose cannon. This is all carefully orchestrated, planned with top PR firms, to advance his religious-based political career.”
Don’t look for Moore to clean up his act when he gets on to the big stage in Washington.
Maddox has sparred with Moore for most of the past 25 years as she practiced law in Alabama, most notably on the Ten Commandments issue. When she argued that all versions deserve equal time, Moore told her in a phone call (he refuses to meet with her in person), “This country was founded by fundamentalist Protestants.
Y’all don’t belong here.”
Maddox, who is Catholic, represented Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Her life has been threatened and her home and car vandalized – all, she believes, in response to her challenging Moore’s monument.
When Roy Moore gets to the Senate there may be a lot more praying, but don’t expect them all to be praying for the same thing.