Do Moore’s Actions Really Represent Religious Freedom?

by Griffin Powell
01-06-04

For the past several months, I’ve heard the pros and cons regarding Judge Roy Moore and his Ten Commandments monument. I will say at the onset that I supported the removal of both the monument and Judge Moore.

Before being condemned by the fundamentalists, you should know that I’m neither anti-religion nor anti-Christian. In fact, I visited the judicial building to view the monument and was not offended by its presence. However, after reading the court case (Glassroth v. Moore) and relying on my political ideology and belief in the rule of law, I can’t support Moore or his monument.

Moore’s supporters assert that the government is infringing upon their religious liberties and preventing them from acknowledging God. Their arguments are groundless. To my knowledge, there are no documented incidents in which Alabama State Troopers have set up roadblocks preventing them from getting to church on Sunday mornings nor are there any cases where the government has went into their private homes to confiscate Bibles and other religious items. If such were true, I would be fighting along their side. Though, such is not the case.

Religion is and should be a personal matter. An individual may choose to be one of deep faith or agnostic, what church he or she wants to attend, whatever faith he or she wants to pursue, or whether or not he or she wants to believe in God. Regardless of the decision, an individual has the right to pursue his or her spiritual journey without outside intervention so long as it does not infringe upon the life, liberty, and property of another individual.

So, where does the government fit into this picture? The government’s constitutional duty is to preserve and protect religious choices and liberties. Freedom of religion is not and never has been defined by how many religious monuments the government can put in the public square. John Locke, the seventeenth century English philosopher, stated that a government’s primary obligation in its social contract with the citizenry is to protect their rights.

The Founding Fathers were men of deep faith and asked for divine guidance in establishing this nation. While our history is one of Christian values, it’s imperative to note that our nation was founded on the principles of religious freedom. The U.S. was never intended to be an entirely Christian state.

The Founding Fathers knew the dangers that were present with an established religion. Think back to your American history. Didn’t the Pilgrims set sail for Plymouth to escape a government-sponsored church and a tyrannical English king who punished those with different religious views?

Fast forward to present day Alabama. Why are some people so adamant about using public property to advertise and validate their religion? It’s not the government’s duty to serve as a billboard for religion nor is it responsible for ensuring that the masses get their spiritual nourishment.

Religion has to be a personal decision. Will having a religious monument in the judicial building make the State of Alabama any more moral? Not if isn’t in the heart and soul of the individual.

That brings us to Moore’s monument. Based on the evidence presented in the court case, Moore’s monument was designed to establish religion. True, there is a sculpture of Moses with the Ten Commandments on the south wall frieze in the U.S. Supreme Court building. However, Moses is among other noted lawgivers such as Hammurabi and Confucius, thereby giving this presentation a historical context and not a religious one.

At the monument’s unveiling ceremony, Moore stated that “to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God’” and kept referring to God throughout the speech. It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to figure out the God for which Moore was referring.

In his court testimony, Moore defined religion as a “duty of the Judeo-Christian God,” which based on a literal interpretation means that Islam and Buddhism are not religions.

Moore designed the monument based on his personal interpretation of religion. He refused other groups who wanted to put their displays in the judicial building because it didn’t conform to his interpretation. Had the monument been installed for historical reasons, Moore shouldn’t have had a problem with other monuments since the Ten Commandments are “a” source and not “the” source of American law. Instead, his position created the appearance of an established religion, which violates the First Amendment.

The rule of law is the foundation of American government. If it goes, so does our government. Roy Moore is entitled to his beliefs just as I’m entitled to mine. However, he isn’t entitled to disregard the law and use public property to push his interpretation of religion. No one is above the law.

If you serve in public office, you take an oath to uphold the law of the land. That includes laws that may conflict with your personal views. If Roy Moore can’t do that, then maybe he doesn’t need to serve in public office.


Griffin Powell resides in Greenville.

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