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The fury of Roy Moore’s critics knew no bounds in February after Moore, Alabama’s chief justice, issued a ruling that condemned homosexual practice and cited the Bible.
“Moore’s opinion could have been written by the Taliban,” fumed Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “There is no place,” she said, “for such fanaticism in the courts of America.”
It wasn’t the first time Moore has been linked to radical Islam.
After Moore put the Ten Commandments into Alabama’s Supreme Court, Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told a “Coral Ridge Hour” producer that it was “just one example of an effort by some in the country to merge church and state.” For Lynn, Roy Moore ranks right next to Osama bin Laden as a threat to America. “One of the lessons I think we should have learned from Sept. 11,” he said, “is the great danger of a merger of state and religion.”
While Lynn is wildly off-base about Roy Moore, he is right about one thing: There is a grave threat to civil liberty when the state becomes the Church – or the mosque. Take Saudi Arabia, for example, where beheading can follow one’s decision to leave Islam for Christianity. Or post-Taliban Afghanistan, where the new chief justice, an Islamic cleric, has displayed not the Ten Commandments, but a sword over his desk. It is a symbol, according to a National Public Radio report, of his intent to enforce three fundamental rules of Islam.
Those rules, according to this Muslim chief justice, are that a man should first be invited to convert to Islam. If he doesn’t, he should simply obey Islam. And, if he neither converts nor obeys, “the third option is to use that sword and behead him.”
When interviewer Scott Simon told the chief justice that some people stateside might see that as not too judicial in temperament, he only reiterated his point: “The sword is here because it is according to Islam … We believe that Islam should invite people to Islam in peace, but if that does not work, then the last option would be force.”
So, are Roy Moore’s critics correct? Is he just a Western rendition of Afghanistan’s sword-wielding chief justice? Is his stone monument bearing the Ten Commandments the same, in effect, as that sword – a symbol of theocratic rule?
Not at all. The Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building symbolize freedom, not religious tyranny. It is because of the Ten Commandments – and the reliance of America’s founders on the Bible – that we in America enjoy liberties unknown in human history and unavailable in Islamic lands.
Governments, as history attests, have the bad habit of wanting to take God’s place – to be the final authority in every area of human life. Try, for example, to have more than two children today in communist China. Or to believe in God in the now defunct Soviet Union.
It is that theocratic impulse – the one on display in China, Saudi Arabia, and a motley collection of repressive regimes across the globe – which the Ten Commandments provide a safeguard against. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas put it 40 years ago: “The institutions of our society are founded on the belief that there is an authority higher than the authority of the State; that there is a moral law which the State is powerless to alter; that the individual possesses rights, conferred by the Creator, which government must respect.”
After all, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” as the first commandment declares, pretty much disqualifies any government from trying to take His place. Which is why Roy Moore will never be an American Taliban. The Ten Commandments won’t let him.
Nor will the Decalogue let him use his post as chief justice to impose his own opinions about homosexuality or religion on the people of Alabama. His much-reviled ruling on a lesbian mother’s fitness to take custody of her minor children is not 35 pages of Moore opinion, but citation after citation of current case and statute law, as well as their foundation in common law and Scripture. The first case he cited, let’s remember, is a state high court ruling from 1998.
And Moore’s decision to display the Ten Commandments is not based on a personal fancy, but the historical fact that American legal history is intertwined with the Ten Commandments. Twelve of the original 13 colonies, for example, adopted all 10 of the commandments, and John Quincy Adams, America’s sixth president, said “The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code … laws essential to the existence of men in society.” Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court building, itself, displays the Ten Commandments in two places.
Roy Moore understands – in a way his Muslim counterpart in Afghanistan and his domestic critics do not – that liberty is a gift from God. That is why it is Moore’s critics, not he, who are the true enemies of freedom. For in seeking to eliminate the root of liberty – a recognition of God’s law – they will surely destroy its fruit. These self-styled guardians of civil liberty ignore Thomas Jefferson to their peril. “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure,” he said, “when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?”