I’ve said it before: If you’re going to engage in civil disobedience, be prepared to accept the risks.
Props to Roy Moore, the anti-gay, fundamentalist former Alabama chief justice. I did and do not agree with his cause, but credit where it is due: He stood up for what he believed, despite the cost. And he says he has “absolutely no regrets.” Good going, Roy.
And it did cost him. You’ll notice that I called him “former Alabama chief justice.” On Nov. 13, a special ethics panel removed Moore from his post because he “placed himself above the law” by defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state judicial building.
His resolve is inspiring, in a way. Sadly, his cause is not. I revere the Ten Commandments, as do many people of faith. Problem is, not all Americans believe in God or the commandments. How can those citizens feel confidence in receiving justice if the state honors a powerful religious symbol that doesn’t represent all citizens? It’s bad enough that secular law excludes some from full equality because of certain people’s religious beliefs.
Roy Moore didn’t expect that he would lose his job as a result of his civil disobedience, according to the New York Times:
Ever since 1995, when Mr. Moore rose from obscurity after he was sued by civil liberties groups for placing a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments on the wall of his rural Alabama courtroom, his supporters have tried to paint the issue as God versus the unbelievers and Alabama versus “the feds.”
But in the end, it was a panel of Alabamians from across the state –€” eight men and one woman, Democrats and Republicans, lawyers, judges, a county commissioner and the director of a nonprofit organization –€” who ruled that Mr. Moore had to go. And only after opening the proceedings with a prayer.
“Anything short of removal would only serve to set up another confrontation that would ultimately bring us back to where we are today,” the panel said in its decision.
The verdict stunned the hushed courtroom over which he once presided. As soon as it was read, Mr. Moore’s shoulders drooped. His wife winced. His supporters let out a gasp. In the marbled corridors outside, shouting matches broke out between friends of the ousted judge and a handful of atheists.
“Thanks for destroying our country,” one man said to Larry Darby, president of the Atheist Law Center in Montgomery.
“Go to hell!” another man told Mr. Darby, bumping him.
“I can’t,” Mr. Darby said, straightening himself. “Hell doesn’t exist.”
Mr. Moore remains popular in Alabama, though federal courts have consistently ruled that his display of the Ten Commandments, a 5,280-pound slab of carved granite that was positioned in the middle of the building’s rotunda, violated constitutional guarantees of separation of church and state. After a federal deadline elapsed in August, Mr. Moore’s fellow justices overruled him and moved the monument to a storage room, closed to the public, where it remained on Thursday.
And here is the scary part of the story: The former judge isn’t finished with his campaign to knock down the supposed wall separating church from state. “We fought a good fight,” he said after the panel’s unanimous decision was announced. “We kept the faith. But the battle is not over. The battle to acknowledge God is about to rage across the country.” An appeal is expected. Interestingly, it would be heard by the Alabama Supreme Court, where Moore used to rule.
There is one thing progressives can learn from the Religious Wrong: tenacity. If ex-Judge Moore refuses to give up, we had better prepare ourselves to continue the struggle to protect all Americans. Whatever the cost.