Roy Moore was interviewed on the American View radio program with Michael Peroutka and John Lofton recently. It included plenty of crazy and just plain false statements. Like this one, which went unchallenged by the hosts:
All Constitutions of every state at some level recognize God, as does the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The first amendment recognizes God? In what bizarro world does Moore live? It can’t be this one. And then there’s this bit of breathtaking hypocrisy:
You know, as recently as 1931 and 1946 the United States Supreme Court itself recognized that our religious liberty comes from God. And in 1931, for example, in the case of U.S. vs. Macintosh, the United States Supreme Court recognized that religious liberty comes from God. Justice Southerland in that case said “We are a Christian people and that according to one another the equal right of religious freedom in acknowledging with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God.”
You might want to put your irony meters on their highest setting for this one, folks. The case of US v Macintosh that Moore references involved a man wanting to become a naturalized citizen but refusing to agree, in advance, to go to war if the government drafted him. Instead, he said that he would not go to war unless he believed the war was morally justified and would conform with the will of God. The Court upheld the decision not to grant him citizenship. And the part of the ruling that Moore cites is, in fact, a message against the position that Moore himself takes. Let’s look at it in slightly wider context:
He did not question that the government under certain conditions could regulate and restrain the conduct of the individual citizen, even to the extent of imprisonment. He recognized the principle of the submission of the individual citizen to the opinion of the majority in a democratic country; but he did not believe in having his own moral problems solved for him by the majority. The position thus taken was the only one he could take consistently with his moral principles and with what he understood to be the moral principles of Christianity…
When he speaks of putting his allegiance to the will of God above his allegiance to the government, it is evident, in the light of his entire statement, that he means to make his own interpretation of the will of God the decisive test which shall conclude the government and stay its hand. We are a Christian people, according to one another the equal right of religious freedom, and acknowledging with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God. But, also, we are a nation with the duty to survive; a nation whose Constitution contemplates war as well as peace; whose government must go forward upon the assumption, and safely can proceed upon no other, that unqualified allegiance to the nation and submission and obedience to the laws of the land, as well those made for war as those made for peace, are not inconsistent with the will of God.
Amusingly, Roy Moore (and John Lofton) take essentially the same position that the plaintiff in Macintosh did – that they did not have to follow the law if they believe that law conflict’s with the will of God. They have stated over and over again that “God’s law” trumps the Constitution, by which they of course mean their interpretation of the Bible. Their position is no different from his. Yet Moore quotes a Supreme Court ruling that knocked down that very argument as support for his position. Indeed, Moore repeats in this very interview:
When we understand that all law — you know, in the beginning of our country, the basic legal text for our lawyers was Blackstone’s Commentary and that went up to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Blackstone’s Commentary was what we turned back to, because it contained the common law, the laws of England, from which our laws were formed. And in those commentaries it said very clearly upon these two foundations the law was founded — the law of nature and law of revelation didn’t depend on human laws. That is to say, no human law should be suffered to contradict these. In other words, they understood the law of nature, and the law of revelation from the Bible, contained all laws, and that no laws could supercede those laws.
The religious right absolutely loves the English common law. Why? Because it included much church law, including punishments for blasphemy. Clearly, then, a large portion of the English common law is unconstitutional here. Who among us would pretend that outlawing blasphemy is consistent with the first amendment? Only someone who thinks that the first amendment acknowledges God, which it does not. Also telling is this statement from Lofton, which Roy Moore agreed with:
JL: Well, earlier Michael asked the questions whether the people in Alabama really understood what you were trying to do and saying, and of course what you were saying, and continue to say and basically what the founders of our country were saying and said, and I began the founding in 1620 — when the founders first came over.
RM: That’s right that’s why they first came over…
But this is historical insanity. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which founded the nation we know now, could not have been more different than the system set up in the colonies. This is another prominent myth among the religious right. It’s why they so often quote the Mayflower Compact, for example. But the colonies that they set up were completely at odds with the natural rights philosophy of our founding. There was no religious freedom in those colonies.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony knew nothing whatsoever of the liberty that forms the basis of our Constitutional system. If you were not a puritan, you were banished or, worse, put to death. Until Rhode Island came along – the first colony to guarantee religious freedom, founded by the man who invented the phrase “separation of church and state (Roger Williams) – all of the colonies were theocracies. And all, of course, were under British rule. It was that theocratic rule that the American revolution destroyed forever, and the Constitution replaced that theocratic vision with one of freedom and limited government.
One other thing from the interview that I found interesting was John Lofton calling RJ Rushdoony, the founder of modern Christian reconstructionism in America, his “theological mentor”. And yet he wanted to challenge me for calling him a theocrat? These guys just live in some bizarre alternate universe.