Encyclopedia of American Loons: #285: Roy Moore
Roy Moore is something of a legend in the history of the separation of church and state. A month after being elected to an Alabama court (despite being astoundingly incompetent, something he has shown again and again), Moore decided to erect a Ten Commandments statue for the Court lobby - replacing the one already there with a bigger one. He repeatedly insisted that the statue did not mean that the court, or he as a representative of the court, endorsed a particular religion. For instance, when the statue was unveiled, he included the following in his speech: “Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded … 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.” The whole spectacle is covered here. In fact, one of Moore’s arguments was that the Ten Commandments monument could not offend any religion because all religions believe in the Ten Commandments; when asked about Hindus or Buddhists he said “they are not real religions so they are not protected by the First Amendment”. Problem solved.
After complaints and requests to remove the statue, Moore argued that he couldn’t do so, since removing it would violate his oath of office (also here) by making him act against the “moral foundation” of the law (“we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs … by recognizing the sovereignty of God”). To the argument that the statue violated the Establishment clause and the separation of church and state, Moore argued that it didn’t; it just showed that “the Judeo-Christian God reigned over both the church and the state in this country, and that both owed allegiance to that God”. Thus, the separation is upheld.
That argument didn’t fly with the courts (including Supreme Court), and Moore was told to remove the statue. That’s when the tumults started; Moore refused to follow the ruling, Ol’ Falwell threw in his support, there were protests, the courts ordered the immediate removal and Alabama faced daily fines unless they ensured its removal (Moore argued that using daily fines was illegal coercion and a violation of his rights). His followers were outraged that local courts didn’t refuse to follow the Supreme Court’s demands.
Moore has later clarified his arguments. No deity but the Judeo-Christian God can be held in official esteem in the US (and we have to hold him in esteem, since God is the metaphysical basis for the law), at least not if religious tolerance is to be maintained: “The Judeo-Christian God is the one that gives religious liberty. The Muslim God, Allah, does not give religious liberty”.