Dispatches from the Creation Wars

John Lofton Interviews Roy Moore

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.

Comments

  1. #1 mark
    July 24, 2006

    God created the United States as a Christian nation 6,000 years ago.
    I think Roy Moore would be the perfect person to defend Kent “Dr. Dino” Hovind in his upcoming trial.

  2. #2 wamba
    July 24, 2006

    This is an interesting contrast to the interview of Judge Jones you commented on recently.

  3. #3 Daniel Morgan
    July 24, 2006

    These guys just live in some bizarre alternate universe.

    And unfortunately, we have to share a planet with them, and unfortunately, they don’t want to share it with liberty and justice for all.

  4. #4 Ed Darrell
    July 24, 2006

    Mr. Brayton, I think you give these guys a pass way too easily on the issue of the Mayflower Compact. It is a rather direct ascendant of the Declaration and Constitution — but it does something quite different from what Moore and Lofton think it does (they get dangerously close to 100% error here): While the Mayflower Compact has some flowery phrases that mention God, that say this particular band of colonists hoped to earn the approval of God and increase God’s glory, the meat is pure secularism. There were two groups aboard the ship, about 70 artisans and craftsman along to provide the real work to make sure the colony made money, and about 30 religious refugees. The London Company (accurately) thought the religious refugees lacking in key skills, like trapping, hunting and tanning, and barrel-making (barrels were needed to ship goods to England). When the Mayflower landed well outside the territory the company was chartered to colonize, the 70 announced they were striking out on their own. Bradford realized his group would freeze, and at gunpoint kept both groups aboard ship to work out a compromise.

    Here’s the meat the the document, the money quote:

    “We, whose names are underwritten . . . do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

    Got that? They promised to form a government, enact fair laws, and obey those laws — government by consent of the governed, by mutual compact, not by divine right.

    Just because God is mentioned in the document doesn’t change its nature. It’s a secular compact, an agreement between men, outside the stricture of any church, outside any belief.

  5. #5 SharonB
    July 24, 2006

    I like that idea, you mention in your writing, Ed. Namely that, inasmuch as the king ruled via Divine Right, admittedly constrained somewhat by Parliament, the English monarchy represented an essentially theocratic system. The founding fathers were then, in fact, revolting against a theocratic form of government, and the LAST thing they would have done after that experience would be to create a system of government which would be open to the imposition of that theocratic form on the citizenry.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    July 24, 2006

    Ed-

    Regardless of the actual content of the Mayflower compact, the point is that what they set up when they got here was a theocracy that could not be more different from the system set up by the Constitution.

  7. #7 Keanus
    July 24, 2006

    Ed Darrell’s right about the Mayflower Compact, but Ed Brayton is also right about the theocratic trajectory of early New England. I’ve had fun since the advent of the internet doing some family genealogy and since both my wife and I can trace some of our ancestors back to the 1620′s in New England, New Netherlands, and New Jersey, I’ve learned much about early American history, more than I ever learned in either high school or college.

    Most New England towns from the 1620′s on were local theocracies, run by the minister of the church who was also the head of the civil government. If someone didn’t like that ministers interpretation of the bible and his religious tenets, they almost always left town, quickly, usually to set up a new town with like minded believers. Although by no means the only driving force for settling early New England, theological apostasy was a catalyst for developing new towns in the wilderness. With time, however, that old Puritanism of the 17th century mellowed, giving birth to Congregationalism and, ultimately, what became the Unitarianism eventually followed by John and Abigail Adams. And, that mellowing, liberally seasoned with John Locke and the 18th Century Enlightenment also spawned many of the ideas that also flowered in the minds of those not from New England: Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, and so on. But back to the topic of Ed’s original post, our friend Roy Moore. He would have found nirvana in some of those early New England towns, if he was the minister or agreed with the minister. Othewise he would be on the road to find the next clearing where he could build his own little theocracy. I can easily imagine him condemning someone to the stocks or worse complete with a fire a brimstone sermon.

  8. #8 Ed Darrell
    July 25, 2006

    Oh, Ed and Keanus, yes, you’re right — the governments of many of the settlements in New England did not follow the design of the Mayflower Compact — but Moore doesn’t point to the later falling away from the Compact, nor do most other dominionists. They claim the Mayflower Compact shows the way to putting God in government, though it does the opposite. Diane Ravitch, a Reaganiste and Assistant Secretary of Education for Research under Bush I, is no slouch as a conservative. Yet, when she assembled her reader on American history, in her introduction to the Compact she got the history right. The Compact is an ancestor of the Declaration and Constitution, while those small-minded theocracies in New England were, at absolute best, bastard children (I would argue they were not related by blood).

    I can’t see Roy Moore agreeing to be subject to any minister, so it’s likely he would have established a little “Mooreville” or “Mooretown” somewhere. It would have failed when everyone at a town meeting sentenced everyone else to death by stoning for minor building code violations, and then the congregation would have adjourned to the courtyard to carry out the sentence . . .

  9. #9 Jurjen Smies
    July 25, 2006

    Says Lofton: “[A]nd I began the founding in 1620 — when the founders first came over.”

    Aside from the observations with regard to the Mayflower Compact, there are two more problems with Lofton and Moore’s tendentious version of American history. First, Jamestown predated New Plymouth by 13 years, so why does Lofton consider the Pilgrim Fathers “the founders”? Probably the fact that Virginia was founded for distinctly worldly reasons, namely as a forward operating base for privateers raiding Spanish shipping in the Caribbean, and therefore doesn’t lend support to any “Christian nation”-type claim.

    Second, New Plymouth was annexed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691, at which point the Compact ceased to have any legal weight. There is no signature on the Declaration of Independence from the delegate for New Plymouth, because the Colony of New Plymouth had ceased to exist over eighty years previously.