Two-time former Chief Justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court Roy Moore, the continued “birther” and believer of inane right-wing conspiracies, is running to become the state’s next senator despite his lawless actions that twice forced him from his elected offices. And he very well may win. Polls show with a slight edge over Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the general election. But let’s be clear: It’s insane to support Roy Moore, a man whose derelictions of judicial duty due to his refusal to accept the Constitution – and not the Bible – as the supreme law of the land twice resulted in his vacating a position entrusted to him by the people of Alabama, for the United States Senate.
Moore’s disdain for man-made law has long been clear. Following his first election as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (he ran on a largely theological platform), Moore erected in the Supreme Court’s building a 5,280 pound monument to the Ten Commandments. At its unveiling, Moore announced “today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded.” The taxpayer-funded religious monument quickly earned its day in court as a lawsuit claimed that its installation on state property “sends a message to all who enter the State Judicial Building that the government encourages and endorses the practice of religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular.” Lawyers of different religious beliefs changed their work practices to avoid the religious atmosphere and public prayer around the monument.
Defense of the statue largely fell flat with Moore citing its necessity to “remind the Appellate Courts and judges of the Circuit and District Court of this State and members of the bar who appear before them, as well as the people of Alabama who visit the Alabama Judicial Building…that in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.’” In other words, Moore claimed the state needed the monument to reinforce his belief that justice comes not from the Constitution, but from God – Roy Moore’s God. Unsurprisingly, Moore lost. U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson found the monument violated the First Amendment as the monument existed to establish “a permanent recognition of the ‘sovereignty of God,’ the Judeo-Christian God, over all citizens in this country, regardless of each taxpaying citizen’s individual personal beliefs or lack thereof.” Thompson ordered the monument be taken down.
Yet Moore refused to follow the directive from a judge whose superiority had been established through federal laws. Doing so risked a $5,000 a day fine, paid for by Alabama’s taxpayers (a cost saved only by the other state Supreme Court justices quick actions to overrule Moore and move the statue to a private location). Moore decided that Alabamans should pay a fine because his religious fealty precluded him from obeying his oath of office. This contempt for the law led to Moore’s forced removal from office for actions that “undercut the entire workings of the judicial system” by sending a message “to other litigants” that “[i]f you don’t like a court order, you don’t have to follow it.”
A little more than a decade after his removal, Roy Moore decided to again run for the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court and, despite his earlier refusal to follow the law, Alabamans again elected him to the post. Once on the bench, Moore showed that nothing had changed – he still followed his religious practices, not the laws of land. After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation through its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Moore ordered Alabama court judges to ignore the decision and continue denying marriage permits to same-sex applicants.
This, of course, violated the Constitution: The Alabama state Supreme Court cannot overrule the U.S. Supreme Court. Laws interpreted by and constitutional declarations of the Supreme Court become the supreme law of the land (see the Constitution’s supremacy clause, reified by McCulloch v. Maryland). A rogue justice cannot ignore the Supreme Court’s orders simply because of his religious convictions; doing so is clearly illegal, as Moore (again) learned. The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission submitted a list of six ethical violations to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which, in turn, recommended Moore (again) be removed from the bench. He resigned and turned his attention to the Senate.
Alabama’s voters must look at Roy Moore’s history of ignoring federal laws and instead trying to implement and enforce his austere religious code. His actions on the bench, short-lived though they may have been, show Moore believes the Bible and not the Constitution should govern America. He’s willing to ignore man-made laws whenever they come into conflict with his religious teachings. Voters mustn’t allow lawless action be rewarded electorally – it would be insane to elect Roy Moore to the Senate.