What do you call a judge who refuses to follow the law? Suspended without pay. Such is the case of Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice, Roy Moore. Moore’s suspension is for the remainder of his term, which ends in 2019, at which time he will not be able to seek re-election due to age restrictions. Justice Moore decided that the law should take a backseat to his own personal religious beliefs, and this is the price he pays for that decision.
Last year, Moore defied the federal Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Moore took it upon himself to tell the state’s probate judges to ignore a federal judge’s ruling that same-sex marriages could proceed and told them not to issue marriage licenses. His order stated that probate judges in the state “have a ministerial duty not to issue” marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He also said, “I ask you to continue to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity. Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.”
The portion of the Alabama Constitution to which he referred was Amendment 774, known as the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that makes it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. However, what Moore left out of the conversation, or simply chose to ignore, is Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause:
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing [sic] in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) launched a complaint, prompting an investigation by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. The commission found that “Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as the chief administrative officer of Alabama’s judicial branch.”
Moore is not without supporters, many of whom were angered by the ruling, claiming his suspension is “an unbelievable violation of the law.” Moore blames the Southern Poverty Law Center and “atheists, homosexuals and transgender individuals” for the charges that led to his suspension. Sorry, Mr. Moore … you have only yourself to blame and it should have happened years ago. Judges are sworn to uphold the law, not to override the law with their own personal prejudices.
Moore has a history of picking and choosing which laws he will enforce, often applying his personal religion in place of the law. During the 1990s, he came under fire for opening court sessions with a prayer seeking divine guidance for jurors. In his 1999 campaign for the position of chief justice, he vowed to “ … return God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.” Then came 2001 …
In July, 2001, Moore literally snuck, in the middle of the night, a 5,280-pound, granite monument to the Ten Commandments into the rotunda of Alabama’s state judicial building. At a press conference the next day, he announced, “May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.” This would lead to Moore’s first suspension in 2003, but meanwhile ….
In 2002, Moore wrote an opinion in a contentious child-custody case, stating in part “parent-conduct involving a sexual relationship between two persons of the same gender-creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others. Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this Nation and our laws are predicated. Such conduct violates both the criminal and civil laws of this State and is destructive to a basic building block of society-the family. The law of Alabama is not only clear in its condemning such conduct, but the courts of this State have consistently held that exposing a child to such behavior has a destructive and seriously detrimental effect on the children. It is an inherent evil against which children must be protected.”
In November, 2002, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson ruled that the placement of Moore’s monument violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, writing that it created “a religious sanctuary within the walls of a courthouse.” He ordered Moore to remove it within 30 days. Moore appealed the ruling, lost the appeal, and ultimately refused to obey the final ruling in August 2003. On orders from the eight other justices on the Alabama Supreme Court, the monument was removed and the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with violating the state’s Canons of Judicial Ethics by refusing to follow the federal court order. He was automatically suspended from office.
In 2012, Moore was once again elected as Alabama’s chief justice, bringing us full circle to today’s ruling.
For the most part, I withheld my own comments from the bulk of this post, as I preferred letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions based on the facts of the matter. For nearly a quarter of a century, this man has placed his personal beliefs above the law of the land, and the most amazing part is that it has taken this long to permanently delete him from the judicial system. Has Mr. Moore never heard of “separation of church and state”? Does he not understand that his religion is not necessarily the religion we all ascribe to? Is he unfamiliar with the concept of “freedom of religion”? Has he never understood the idea that his job was to ensure the laws of the land were upheld? If he could not do that job as required due to the tenets of his own religion, then he should have stepped down and found another career. His blatant disregard for the law is arrogant, bigoted and narrow-minded, and he should have been removed long ago. A judge commands, or at least should command respect. I can have no respect for former Justice Roy Moore.