In this country everyone is entitled to his or her religious beliefs or lack thereof. Freedom of religion and from any state-held set of truths is a fundamental right of our democracy. It is based on diversity as a strength and not a moral conundrum to be corrected.
But Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court is on a crusade to convert the country to his particular religion because he's concerned it's going to hell in a hand basket. The conservative Christian has made a name for himself in the state and advanced a judicial career by testing the limits of church-state separation.
Not long ago Chief Justice Moore was a little known county judge making news by tacking up a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. But his biggest play for notoriety came when he sneaked a 5,280-pound monument into the rotunda of Alabama's state Supreme Court.
The 4-foot tall structure prominently displays the Ten Commandments on two tablets sitting atop a granite block. “Roy's rock,” as it is known, was paid for by an evangelical group. In his spare time, the chief justice helps raise money for such groups and proselytizes on his unique blend of church and state.
It is certainly Chief Justice Moore's prerogative to express his personal convictions when not conducting public business. But he crossed the line by scheming to press his religious point of view in so public a venue as the state Supreme Court.
The monument has stirred the fervor of fundamental Christians in the South, many of whom arrive at the state building by the busloads to kneel and pray by the courthouse shrine to the commandments.
It is flat out wrong that church congregations are flocking to a public place that is supposed to recognize no religion - not even the chief justice's.
A federal judge agreed. While U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said not all Ten Commandments displays in public areas are illegal - Toledo has the tablets on a marker along with the Bill of Rights in front of the Lucas County Courthouse - the one in Montgomery's judicial building pushes the outside of the constitutional envelope.
Judge Thompson rightly ruled Chief Justice Moore's monument with its “religious air” went too far in promoting religion in a government building and gave the obdurate jurist 30 days to get rid of it.
But Judge Moore has vowed to fight the federal order to remove his claim to fame and contentious attempt for converts. Alabama's top judge, who questions any federal authority over his actions, is truly the religious demagogue his critics describe, and both he and his illegal tablets should be purged from the courthouse.
Then Roy Moore, private citizen, can minister to the like-minded wherever he pleases without restraint.
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