“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”
– James Madison
Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore is a national hero.
He became one in 1995 when, as a circuit-court judge in the state, he placed a hand-carved wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments on his courtroom wall.
That act set off legal challenges that led to him becoming known as “The Ten Commandments Judge” and eventually his election by the people of the state to the top judicial position in Alabama.
It should have surprised no one when, upon assuming his new position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he installed a two-ton, washing-machine-sized granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.
Predictably, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suits against Moore, charging his action violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Last month, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Moore and ordered him to remove the monument. Moore vowed once again to fight the ruling.
Is there any validity to the charge that positioning the Ten Commandments in a state courthouse violates the First Amendment?
The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
For starters, Congress never entered the equation when Moore made his decision to erect the monument. Secondly, and most importantly, which religion is established by the posting of the Ten Commandments?
The Ten Commandments are not only revered by all believing Christians and Jews, they are the very basis of Western civilization and, more specifically, the cornerstone of American self-government.
Just ask James Madison, the author of the U.S. Constitution. He said the founders staked their entire experiment – and it remains an experiment more than 200 years later – of self-government. The only alternative to a free society of individuals governing themselves under the simple yet profound precepts of the Ten Commandments, he understood, was a society coerced to behave by the power of government.
That’s what the debate is all about in Alabama today. Do we wish to live in a society of self-governing individuals who behave themselves because of a consensus around some eternal truths, an absolute morality, a simple code of right and wrong uniting people of many faiths? Or, do we prefer to live under the rule of men and a system of ever-changing, always-evolving morality and subject to the whims of unaccountable judges and the fads and fashions of democracy?
That’s the choice. We can argue whether Judge Moore made the right tactical or strategic legal choices, as one Southern Baptist leader has done. But this fight and this choice is much more important than that. There’s a much bigger issue at stake – that issue is what kind of a country we want.
I want the kind of a country James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and our founders envisioned for us. That’s what Judge Roy Moore wants, too.
It’s time for Americans to rally around this man, his cause and tell the ACLU to take its meddling to some other country.
America was founded on the principle of self-government. We can’t have self-government without the Ten Commandments, without biblical principles of right and wrong, without a basic code of morality.
This is not a question of separation of church and state. No church is being established in Alabama or the U.S. when we acknowledge the power and principality of the Ten Commandments in our lives and in the life of our country.
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