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August 21, 2003

ANOTHER VICTORY FOR ANTI-IDIOTARIANISM:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The eight associate justices overruled Chief Justice Roy Moore on Thursday and directed that his Ten Commandments monument be removed from its public site in the Alabama Judicial Building.

The senior associate justice, Gorman Houston, said the eight instructed the building's manager to "take all steps necessary to comply ... as soon as practicable." . . .

The associate justices wrote that they are "bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it."

I expect to see Justice Moore wearing one of those "dissent is patriotic!" buttons, though.

UPDATE: Well, he is dissenting -- and that, we're told, is by definition patriotic, right? Alabama reader Bill Reece isn't impressed, and it's not just Moore that he's upset with:

Idiotarianism. I like that. Justice Moore has managed to join a long line of elected officials who have publicly humiliated my home state of Alabama by populist poliltical pandering. Moore could care less about the Ten Commandments. He was considered to be, at best, an obscure and second rate trial judge until he first used the Ten Commandments in his courtroom to gain notoriety for himself. After pursuing the exact same "crusade" he has just completed, he leveraged the publicity he had received into support from the religious right in Alabama, allowing him to get elected Chief Justice over a far more qualified candidate who is presently a member of the Ala. Supreme Court.

Anyone familiar with the law on this issue, regardless of whether they agree with it, knows that this was a losing proposition. Moore knew it, but his crusade was "cheap" for him because the taxpayers of this impoverished State would bear the costs while he reaped the public notoriety. It was all about furthering his political ambitions.

The group that I am most disappointed in is the other members of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore went behind their backs in erecting the monument in the middle of the night without prior notice or consent. None of them publicly, and to my knowledge privately, stood up to Moore at that time or at any other time during this farce and demanded that it end. It was only after the Federal Courts ordered removal and there was no room for Moore to manuever that the other Justices ordered its removal, when they had political cover to do so (i.e., blame it on the Feds). In doing so, they also allowed Moore to climb down off of the limb on to which he had stuck himself.

Now Moore gets a free pass for his wasteful and feckless behavior and the Alabama taxpayers have to pay the enormous legal fees and have to once again incur a hit to our reputations.

But with a patriotic dissenter as Chief Justice!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another Alabama reader emails:

Let me add to Bill Reece's comments about Roy Moore and say that he is an embarrassment to both Alabamians and Christians. (I'm a member of both those groups.) Instead of heeding Jesus' call to go into your prayer closet, he's built a 2.5-ton prayer closet on public property and wrapped himself in the pages of the Bible. How many people could have been fed, clothed, shown Christian love if time and money weren't being wasted over this monument? Trust me when I say that many, many Alabama Christians are sickened by Moore's conduct.

Well, show it at the polls. But admire him for his patriotic willingness to dissent!

STILL MORE: Peter Ingemi emails:

Although I agree with Judge Moore on the merits of the monument being a basis of law in Western Civ etc. I think that he and the protesters are making a big mistake.

In these post 9/11 days we have much to fear from groups of Americans willing to violate the law and court orders on the grounds that "God wants us to do it," and I suspect that the next group that does this will have a response much less peaceful.

After all didn't an Imam on a bus a few days ago decide to defy the Palestinian prime minister because God wanted him to?

Indeed. And what about the people who think God wants them to disobey the Alabama Supreme Court?

STILL MORE: Sam Heldman emails:

Your correspondent Bill Reece (an old friend of mine, unless there are two Bill Reece's) criticizes all of the Associate Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court for not having publicly opposed Chief Justice Moore before now. But in fact one did: Justice Johnstone, the only Democrat on the Court. Soon after Chief Justice Moore installed the monument, about two years ago, Justice Johnstone publicly criticized it in quite strong terms, warning of the dangers of theocracy. See, e.g., this article quoting Justice Johnstone's public statement.

So noted. Here's a quote from the linked item:

"Courts should confine themselves to deciding their cases according to established law," Johnstone said. "I shun symbolic controversies because I think time and effort are better spent in tangible service rather than symbolic gesture. However, while I believe in God, I oppose the movement to govern in the name of God. People who govern in the name of God attribute their own personal preferences to God and therefore recognize no limits in imposing those preferences on other people."

Symbolic issues are usually employed as a way of distracting voters from noticing what a bad job politicians are doing at their actual work. What's Moore doing these days?