Editor’s note: The following profile of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is from the current edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine.
“Have we become so ignorant of our nation’s history that we have forgotten the reason for the adoption of the Bill of Rights? It was meant to restrict the federal government’s power over the states, not to restrict the states from doing what the federal government can do. The time has come to recover the valiant courage of our forefathers, who understood that faith and freedom are inseparable and that they are worth fighting for …” –Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
The sun-drenched Chihuahuan Desert sand became a palette of America’s history for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore as he sketched a litany of America’s rights to a quiet audience of rapt listeners. As he spoke, he wrote his line of reasoning in the dust with a twig, then erased it with a plowboy’s large hand, and began the next epoch.
Moore and Former Otero County, N.M., Judge Yvonne Oliver
Justice Moore spoke and wrote from memory for more than two hours without a single note. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the writings of America’s Founding Fathers, biblical quotations and case law flowed from his mind, mouth and hand in an unbroken stream approaching poetry. Poetry is an apt description for Moore’s constitutional lesson, for he delivered it in a mild Southern accent, accentuated with a heartfelt passion and palpable genuineness. Only when he quoted Patrick Henry did his voice rise to thunder.
Judge Moore is a national icon, catapulted into the limelight in 1995 when, as a circuit judge in Etowah County, Ala., he placed a hand-carved wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments on his courtroom wall. That simple act set off a storm of controversy that branded him as the “Ten Commandments Judge” – a label he certainly wears with delight, but also a great oversimplification of his views on the origins of American law. He spent years studying the writings of the English legal scholar Sir William Blackstone, whose commentaries inspired America’s founders, the Constitution, and scores of historical documents and diaries.
“These were things that had never been taught me, never been taught other lawyers,” he says. “It was a different kind of education. It was inquiring, it was absorbing – the truth, and I couldn’t get enough.”
Moore engages group in discussion of American rights
He is convinced, and prepared to persuade everybody else, that there is no law on the books, no freedom enjoyed by Americans, that did not come first from the Creator. Lines from his recent poem “America the Beautiful” echo his view of the American Judicial system.
- We’ve voted in a government that’s rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges who throw reason out the door.
Ranching folks from across the West gathered at the Jones family Wineglass Ranch picnic ground in south-central New Mexico at the base of Cornudas Mountains for an old-fashioned “Dinner on the ground.” Many simply wanted to personally meet the legendary judge after he spoke at the “Sovereignty and Your Rights Seminar,” sponsored by the Paragon Foundation and Eagle Forum, in Alamogordo, N.M. He did not disappoint them – not because of his status, but because he is cut from the same tough cloth as the sun-hardened ranchers.
Judge Moore grew up in rural Alabama as a farm kid in what he calls a “poor Christian home,” admiring a father who “lived what he believed.” A close friend of Roy’s, Alabama attorney Frank Bailey, described Moore as “just pure country. Heck, he grew up poor. He knows what it is to make a cotton crop with a team of mules and cut wood with a crosscut saw. The frame house his family lived in was built on rock piles for corner posts and had no indoor plumbing. I’ll tell you, Roy never forgot his rural roots, and his daddy taught him to honor God, cherish family, and love his country.”
In the ninth grade, Roy saw a movie about the United States Military Academy. “It just aroused something in me,” Moore says. So, with the encouragement of his parents, he studied hard and in 1965 received an appointment to West Point. He remembers, “My daddy hocked his toolbox to get the $300 to get me physically to the academy. We didn’t have to live off anyone.”
Moore graduated from West Point in 1969, was stationed in Germany for 16 months before shipping off to Vietnam as a military police officer. His troops nicknamed him “Captain America” for his strict adherence to military regulations.
“I handed out a lot of Article 15s, (disciplinary measures that do not warrant trial by court-martial) and that didn’t make me very popular,” he remembers. “At night, I used to take sandbags and put them under my bed and around my barrack so that if anyone
exploded anything it wouldn’t kill me.”
Moore, left, with Paragon Foundation President Bob Jones
Moore left the Army in 1974, graduated from the Alabama School of Law in 1977, and began work as an assistant district attorney in his native Etowah County. He ran afoul of the court system because of his public criticism of the court’s inefficiencies, resigned bitterly from the DA’s office, lost a bid for a circuit-court judgeship in 1982, went broke, moved to Texas to train as a professional full-contact karate fighter, and later to Australia to wrangle wild cattle as an outback cowboy.
The cowboy’s life and the searing hot, harsh, vast spaces of Australia suited Roy perfectly. He spent nine months in what sardonic Aussies call “the back of beyond,” mustering wild cattle in the red Simpson Desert and remote bush areas in Queensland. “It was like going back in America 100 years. It was wonderful,” he recalls. “Everything was built by hand; we drank rainwater that was gathered in a barrel on the roof. We killed cattle when we wanted meat. We stripped it right there on the field.”
It seemed that being in New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert with a bunch of working ranchers reminded the chief justice of his cowboy days in Australia. His eyes wandered happily across the stark landscape to the Guadalupe Mountains, the Cerro Diablo and Sierra Tinaja Pinta as he continued to reflect on his days in the Outback.
“The experience just gave me a bigger perspective of life. It was something God gave me that I didn’t know existed. It showed me that all my efforts to do what I wanted to do, when they were defeated, ended up in a blessing.”
Moore, left, former Idaho Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage and Paragon Foundation President Bob Jones at the Paragon/Eagle Forum, Alamogordo, N.M.
What he considers “blessings,” some would count a burden. In 1997, Federal Circuit
Court Judge Charles Price ordered Moore to remove the Ten Commandments plaque from Moore’s county courtroom in Etowah County. Moore firmly refused, stating, “the Ten Commandments are the foundation of Western civilization and American law. What they’re coming against is not me, but … against truth.”
Judge Price threatened to remove the Ten Commandments forcibly. Moore responded, “If the feds want this plaque down, tell them to send U.S. marshals to tear it down.” Then-Gov. Fob James intervened, saying he would be willing to “call out the State Police and to mobilize the National Guard, if necessary, to prevent anyone from attempting to remove the plaque.”
The plaque stayed firmly nailed to the courthouse wall.
In 2000, right after Moore was elected to serve as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he promptly authorized the placement of a two-ton, granite Ten Commandments monument in the Rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. That drew instant and serious fire. Two separate court cases were filed against Moore by plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The lawsuits positioned well-known civil rights attorney Morris Dees against constitutionalist Roy Moore.
On July 1, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Moore. But the next day, Moore vowed publicly to fight the ruling and to keep the granite monument depicting the Ten Commandments right where it is.
Justice Moore’s experiences, beliefs, tribulations and knowledge were important to folks assembled at the Wineglass. Most were beleaguered public land ranchers and strongly sympathetic to his unbending stand against the federal courts. G.B. Oliver, III, rancher and executive director of the Paragon Foundation noted, “Roy Moore makes us think about what it would be like if we restored our tattered Constitution to its origins. In standing against U.S. court orders, he’s seeking to reestablish the rule of law against a federal government that is acting illegally by assuming powers that the Founding Fathers specifically left to the individual states. Chief Moore sets the example for all Americans that we can reclaim self-government by standing-up for our rights.”
The preceding is reprinted from the August edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine, an issue titled “LAW-LESS: Why many Americans fear attorneys and judges more than terrorists.”
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J. Zane Walley is executive director of the Environmental Conservation Organization and a spokesman for the Paragon Foundation in Alamogordo, N.M.