Thou Shalt Not…

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In its coverage of the Ten Commandments tussle playing out down in Alabama, most of this country’s mainstream media has focused on crazy ‘ol Judge Roy Moore and his Bible-based defiance of the judicial powers. But is Moore really such an anomaly? The chief justice of Alabama’s supreme court may be the unrepentant ringleader in this Church-and-State circus, but Englishman Gary Younge argues that the spectacle is undeniably made in the USA.

Writing in the London Guardian, Younge explains that he’s been spending some time getting to know the Moore supporters camped out on the grounds of the state Supreme Court, vowing to protect the granite Ten Commandments monument surreptitiously placed in the court’s rotunda by Moore two years ago. Based on those conversations, Younge writes, two things are clear: Moore has a well-organized constituency behind him; and a significant number of American Christians just don’t hold with that whole separation-of-church-and-state thing. The Alabama controversy, Younge concludes, isn’t just about Moore’s convictions — it’s also about America’s contradictions.

“The US is at one and the same time one of the most fiercely secular and aggressively religious countries in the western world. The nation’s two most sacred texts are the constitution and the Bible. And when those who interpret them disagree, the consequent confusion resonates way beyond Montgomery.

This is a country where 11 states, including Alabama, refuse to give government money to students who major in theology because it would violate the constitution, and where nativity plays are not allowed in primary schools. It is also a country where, a Harris poll showed, 94 percent of adults believe in God, 86 percent believe in miracles, 89 percent believe in heaven, and 73 percent believe in the devil and hell.”

Yep. That’s home sweet home. Younge points out that these enigmantic, contradictory tendencies aren’t just limited to the obscure elements of American society. In George W. Bush’s America, he declares, they can be seen throughout the cloisters of the rich and powerful.

“These differences go all the way to the top and explain much of the reason why the tone, style, language and content of America’s foreign policy has been so out of kilter with the rest of the developed world, particularly since September 11. For these fundamentalist tendencies in US diplomacy have rarely been stronger in the White House than they are today. Since George Bush gave up Jack Daniels for Jesus Christ, he has counted Jesus as his favourite philosopher. The first thing he reads in the morning is not a briefing paper but a book of evangelical mini- sermons. When it came to casting the morality play for the war on terror he went straight to the Bible and came out with evil. ‘He reached right into the psalms for that word,’ said his former speech writer, David Frum.”

Trust a foreigner to point out what so many in this country overlook. Moore may be taking all the heat in this struggle, but he certainly isn’t the only politician around who makes literal connections between their religious and political beliefs.

Still, the chief justice is impossible to ignore. For two years, he’s been stomping around the issue, doing his best to poke holes in the constitutional separation of church and state. Although Moore has plenty of pulpits to speak from, his lengthy editorial in Monday’s Wall Street Journal gives a full explanation of why his moral beliefs and legal oath command him to defy the founding fathers.

“We must acknowledge God in the public sector because the state constitution explicitly requires us to do so. The Alabama Constitution specifically invokes ‘the favor and guidance of Almighty God’ as the basis for our laws and justice system. As the chief justice of the state’s supreme court I am entrusted with the sacred duty to uphold the state’s constitution. I have taken an oath before God and man to do such, and I will not waver from that commitment.”

In other words, blame it all on Alabama. The problem here isn’t that Moore snuck the massive monument into the court under the cover of darkness or that he has defied a series of court orders and judicial directives demanding he move it. The problem is the great injustice the Unites States constitution seeks to impose on poor Alabama.

While Younge is airing America’s secrets to Europe, the whole charade continues to escalate back home. Moore’s attorneys are busy filing petitions to block the removal of the monument. But on the other side of the fence, editorial boards and even some religious Christians are getting fed-up with the whole mess. The Orlando Sentinel reminds Moore that many Americans don’t share, let alone appreciate, his insistence of keeping his vision of the Christian God in the government.

“By refusing to yield, Mr. Moore and his followers are, in effect, putting their Christian religious beliefs above the beliefs of others. Mr. Moore, in fact, freely admits that the battle is all ‘about the acknowledgement of God.’ Many Americans, however, don’t share his religious beliefs.

The First Amendment promotes the protection and respect of all faiths. Mr. Moore and his supporters should, too.”


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