Roy Moore was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000, but he was removed from office in 2004 by a special state court before he refused to obey a Federal court order to remove a very large Ten Commandments monument from in front of the state’s Judicial Building. He is running to regain his office, and won the Republican nomination on March 13. His Democratic opponent if Harry Lyon, but various interests in the Republican Partyare seeking to run an independent candidate against him. Moore claims that his enemies are the big business wing of the Republican Party “who has never been able to buy me or control me.”
Moore gained a lot of supporters with his “protection of religious freedom” position, and fighting him has never been done properly.
Above is a picture of the monument Moore erected. If you can’t read it, it says:
1. I am the Lord Thy God
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me
3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
4. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
5. Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy
6. Honour thy father and thy mother
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery
8. Thou shalt not steal
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness
10. Thou shalt not covet
Are those your Ten Commandments? They are not mine. They are not even a complete rendering of Exodus 20:1-17. That’s the underlying issue. Those who claim to be defending religious freedom, and those claim that America is a Christian nation, represent one form of Christianity, not all of them. That is the real issue. It is easy for them to claim to speak for Christianity. Very few people question that statement. After all, they also like to go the broad way – citing Judeo-Christian traditions and values. Ever known a Jewish Christian? At least they have dropped the Judeo-Christian-Muslim nonsense that was popular a few years ago. Now, they can be openly anti-Muslim as all good Christians should be.
Take those Ten Commandments. Moore’s supporters in 2004 toured with a mock-up of the monument on which the second commandment read “Thou shalt have no other god.” It may seem like semantics, but there is a vast difference between “Thou shalt have no other god,” “Thou shalt have no other gods above me,” and “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The first one is absolute. There are no other gods. The second and third, which are the older translations, allowed for the existence of other gods just as long as they were secondary to Jehovah. That was essential to the conversion of pagans in the early days of Christianity. They are an expression of tolerance for other faiths, so long as they are not placed above true Christianity. It is that translation that makes it possible for Christians in many cultures to incorporate the rituals of their old faiths into the new one, including ours. Those Puritans that Americans are supposed to idolize banned popular celebrations like Christmas, Easter and Halloween because they were overlaid upon pagan ceremonies and rituals. The Yule log, the holly and ivy, Easter eggs, everything about Halloween, those are all taken from the older rites. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” allows us to celebrate these holidays in the ways we traditional have.
In Catholicism, the commandments “I am the Lord thy God” and “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” are combined into the First Commandment, while “Thou shalt not covet” is divided into “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Catholicism and Protestantism not only have difference versions of The Lord’s Prayer, but they have different commandments. Which one should we adopt as part of our American government? There are multiple Catholic translations of the Bible, running the range from the most modern and colloquial to the older Latin one, and even more Protestant translations, from the beautiful King James version to modern ones that are almost unrecognizable in the liberties they take with the translations. And those are just the Christian translations. There are also Jewish and Muslim translations of the Bible that differ from the Christian one.
That is the real issue – which form of Christian are we supposed to be? If a government agency or elected official chooses one Bible or one form of Christianity and says that one represents our nation or a state, what about all the others who believe in the Bible, but not in that particular translation or interpretation?
When this country was founded, no one serious thought about freedom of religion in terms of Buddhists or Muslims or even Jews. What they were looking at was nearly 300 years of Christian-on-Christian war in Europe, wars that had already spilled over to North America in the French and Indian War. They were looking at the way the English had treated the French Canadian refugees from Nova Scotia and the way Catholics were treated in England and in the colonies where they had no legal rights, things that were going on during their lives. It was the taxes levied on the colonies to pay for that French and Indian War, which was part of wars over which faith would sit on which nation’s throne, that were the flashpoint that stated our Revolution.
The religious-freedom-fighters, or more accurately, the theocrats, keep asserting that this nation was founded on “Christian principles” and “Biblical principles.” But the truth is it was not founded on any principles that existed at the time. The Constitution was a wholly radical document. And the laws written after it were based on common principles, principles that existed in almost every culture on earth, not just in Christian nations or nations that followed the Christian Bibles.
Roy Moore should not be fought because he’s not liked by the corporations. He should be fought because he is demanding the power to choose one form of Christianity and say it is our official religion. His position is not just un-Constitutional, but a rejection of what our founding fathers believed. As Washington, Adams and the entire United States Senate affirmed in the Treaty of Tripoli, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion….”
There is no single “Christian” religion. There are dozens of religions based on the life of Jesus Christ. We don’t need anyone deciding that just one of them is our national religion.