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Sunday, July 17, 2005
PoliColumn: Moore, the SC and the Ten
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:04 am

From today’s Mobile Register:

Supreme Court brings Roy Moore back to the front
Sunday, July 17, 2005
By STEVEN L. TAYLOR
Special to the Register

Predictably, the recent rulings by the Supreme Court regarding the display of the Ten Commandments have brought Roy Moore to the fore once again. Indeed, Moore was given space in The Wall Street Journal wherein he revisited some of his basic arguments for the display of the commandments — his signature issue.

In his piece in the Journal, Moore raises a familiar issue from his own argument for such displays: the question of the meaning of some key words in the Establishment Clause of the Ten Commandments [sic-that should be “The First Amendment”-Ed.]

He states: “We need to restore the original definitions of ‘law,’ ‘establishment’ and ‘religion’ in the First Amendment. A monument or display could never be a ‘law,’ the mere posting or installation of it is not an ‘establishment,’ and the recognition of God by the public display of the Ten Commandments is not ‘religion.’”

I would concur that the mere display of a religious symbol or text does not constitute establishment of religion. Here, there is legitimate room for debate; however, Moore well knows that the court has ruled in the past that the endorsement of a particular religious view by government is considered tantamount to establishment.

The question legitimately arises as to whether the government should, or should not, be supporting a particular theological view.

I will grant that the history of our nation is one in which Christianity has been the prevalent religious view, and, indeed, remains such. Still, we are quite diverse in our views even within Christianity; and, further, there are many who do not hold to Christianity or to any religion at all. Certainly the issue of minority protections is worth considering.

The issue of what purpose the display of a religious text has is a legitimate question to ask, and one that the Supreme Court took into consideration in both of the rulings under discussion here. In short: If the display is done primarily to advance a specific religion, it isn’t legal.

Certainly for Moore, the goal of the display of the Ten Commandments is clear: He wishes to acknowledge God. While I personally have no trouble acknowledging God, the question still remains as to whether it is the proper job for the government to be so doing.

By definition, if government as a collective entity is seen to have the responsibility and right to acknowledge God, then the task of determining which God, and by what method, would fall to whomever it was who was in charge of that government at a given point in time.

And while a monument itself may not be “religion,” it is certainly the case that the goal of such displays such as Moore’s own monument is to promote a specific religion. By Moore’s own admission, this was the case.

As I am wont to point out, the only way to get everything one wants from government is to be the absolute dictator, and those jobs are hard to come by. As such, I suspect I could be happy with a government that espoused religion, so long as it was my view of the religious.

However, any government that I do not fully control, but is granted the authority to espouse religion, has the potential to espouse a religious view that I do not support.

Yes, Alabamians — who are quite religious and predominantly Southern Baptist in their orientations — may well have no trouble allowing the state to “acknowledge” God. However, their zeal for allowing the state a prominent role in religious acknowledgment might fade if they found themselves transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Having a government composed by Baptists is one thing, but what about one composed of Mormons? Or, what if one’s mayor or governor were an agnostic or an atheist? At that point, would we be content with assigning government the role of religious arbiter?

And, by the way, Roy Moore is correct: we do have an unalienable right to acknowledge God, and it is enshrined in the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, which forbids any prohibitions by government on the free exercise of religion. This is, however, the right of individuals which allows us all — without interference from the state — to decide whether we will acknowledge God or not, and what that means to us. It does not give the state the right to determine that acknowledgment for us.

Moore’s problem is that he wishes to take his personal view of God and use the state as the mechanism of acknowledgment.

Filed under: US Politics, My Columns, Alabama Politics, Courts/the Judiciary, Religion | |Send TrackBack

Politics In Alabama linked with Dr. Taylor: Well Spoken My Friend

3 Comments »

  1. Dr. Taylor: Well Spoken My Friend

    Once again Dr. Taylor over at Poliblogger has written an editorial entitled: Supreme Court brings Roy Moore back to the front and once again he has portrayed the perfect response to the Roy Moore “saga.”

    In his piece in the Journal, Moore …

    Trackback by Politics In Alabama — Sunday, July 17, 2005 @ 11:54 am

  2. Amen, brother.

    Comment by Jan — Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 10:18 am

  3. Very well said. Finally, a Christian who understands that their view of the world is not the ONLY view of the world. It’s a shame it takes a Christian who is also a political science prof to realize this.

    Comment by Flightfire — Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

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