Our VoiceCulture

Roy Moore, pilgrim ships and blind justice in Alabama courts

Kalia Abiade • May 14, 2014

“They didn’t bring a Koran on the pilgrim ship, Mayflower. Let’s get real. Let’s learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

These are the words of Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore during a January appearance at the Pastors for Life Luncheon in Mississippi. In a video that surfaced only recently, Moore is shown speaking from a pulpit suggesting that the First Amendment only applies to Christians. He says everybody, including the Supreme Court, misunderstands the Constitution’s use of the word “religion” and that it only refers to those who follow “God the Creator.”

“Buddha didn’t create us, Muhammad didn’t create us. It’s the God of the Holy Scriptures.” Moore told the audience.

The chief justice attempted to clarify his remarks last week — four months after the original statement — saying, indeed, the First Amendment protects all religions, not just Christianity. But in light of Moore’s track record of trouble on religious freedom issues, his weak attempt to save face is unlikely to hold.

Rather than merely affirming his own faith to a crowd of like-minded individuals, he used his speaking time to denigrate and condemn those who practice their religion differently that he does — and those who choose not to practice any religion at all. It is troubling that an elected official in a position would use his or her influence to perpetuate and validate bigotry.

On pilgrim ships and slave ships

In his call to “get real,” “learn our history” and “stop playing games,” Moore conveniently ignores records of the legal recognition of non-Christians in the earliest days of the United States as a nation. Further, he makes the choice of invoking an interesting historical detail: “They didn’t bring a Quran on the pilgrim ship, Mayflower.”

While Moore is likely right that there weren’t any Qurans on “the pilgrim ship,” his example prompts questions about how much “history” Moore actually wants to unearth.

Would he be interested in engaging in a real conversation about  which “ship” or ships may have transported Qurans — whether as physical books or in the hearts of African “cargo” who had memorized the text? Is the man who has publicly accepted financial support from avowed white nationalists ready to “get real” about “our history” when it comes to the legacy of slavery and institutionalized oppression and discrimination?

Of course, this is the same man who opposed efforts to remove language from the constitution that referred to separate schools for “white and colored children” because doing so would mean “painting Alabama as still racist.”

But, who is “playing games” here?

Blind justice from the Chief validator?

Beyond Moore’s peculiar interest in history, his remarks raise some serious questions — once again — about his fitness to be an impartial judicial officer. January’s episode, the subsequent release of the video footage and his non-apology are just the latest in a long string of words and actions that have prompted doubts about his willingness to carry out his duties in a fair manner.

Moore is far from alone on his views and may even be emboldening others who share his brand of conservativism. Other politicians and elected officials are using their own religious convictions and prejudiced views of other people’s religious convictions to build and maintain political careers.

When Moore speaks, he does so as a public figure and as a the chief representative of Alabama’s highest court. His decision to use his position to denigrate non-Christians, slurs same-sex couples and stand with or by racists who openly support him calls into question his ability to be fair and just in his official capacity. Further, his willingness to reject history and embrace bigotry — in his role as Chief Justice — calls into question the fairness and justness of the entire state court system and casts doubt on all those who’ve elected him again and again.

Image source: AP

Video source: Raw Story


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