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Judge Roy Moore: Who Cares?

Does It Really Matter If He Posts The Ten Commandments?


Does it really matter if Roy Moore opens his court sessions with prayers, places a plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtrooms, or installs a massive monument to the Ten Commandments in Alabama Judicial Building? Are any of these actions really unconstitutional? The answers to both questions is an unqualified Yes.

Roy Moore’s actions in his court matter because, while acting as a judge, he is an officer and representative of the government. He cannot only represent his personal views or defend the rights of those whose religious views are like his own; instead, he must uphold the laws created by the people and apply them to all citizens equally.

Roy Moore’s actions also matter because he has become a genuine celebrity for the Religious Right in America. Moore’s perpetual court cases over his various Ten Commandments displays have become a popular cause for fundamentalists around the country. Because of this, the court cases involving Moore play an important role in the relationship not only between church and state, but also between separationists and America’s religious right.

Moore’s actions are unconstitutional because they are an attempt to promote his religious views — this is something which officers of the state are simply not permitted to do. People can promote their religion on their own time, but not when they are acting as representatives of the government. That Moore has acted to promote religion and not simply out of personal piety has been made very obvious.

A curious and little-known fact about the case of Glassroth v. Moore is that Moore originally was satisfied with continuing to display his hand-carved plaque in the Supreme Court. However, this was in his outer office, a place not visible on tours of the building or by people in the clerk’s office — and that wasn’t enough for his right-wing supporters or, perhaps, himself. This is a very important point to note: it isn’t simply the display of the Ten Commandments which is important; rather, what is necessary is a grand and obvious display which everyone must see and think about. That isn’t a personal, private, and pious act: that is a political and rhetorical act — and that is why it is illegal.

Another facet of this monumental display is the fact that it is isolated in the judiciary buildingÕs rotunda. Displays in other places around the nation have been constructed in such a way that other religious, legal, or historical texts are placed alongside; Moore, however, has pledged to keep it alone and thus protect its sacred nature by not diluting it with other material (a pledge he has not been able to keep, but it does demonstrate his goals).

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