Calling Charlton Heston

Bill Murchison
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Posted: Aug 19, 2003 12:00 AM

Well. We know who wins whenever states butt heads with the federal government. We know, for one thing, who controls the B-52s and paratroop divisions.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is a goner for sure. The might, majesty, dominion and power of the government in Washington will cause his granite monument to the Ten Commandments -- all 5,280 pounds of it -- to be confiscated and whisked away before you can say Charlton Heston. Ostensibly, this is to keep the wall of church-state separation in good repair. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says no way can the chief justice embed a thing like the Ten Commandments in -- gasp! -- a public venue such as the Alabama Judicial Building.

The question before the house is not whether Judge Moore will prevail in his confrontation with the might, majesty, etc., of the national government. The question is whether he deserves to prevail.

The answer: You bet he deserves to prevail. With bells on.

What a balmy topic for public debate: May a state acknowledge the priority of God in its legal and constitutional undertakings?

The founding fathers certainly thought so, if that's of interest. The First Amendment forbids establishment of a national religion; likewise, it protects the free exercise of religion. Neither provision can be seen as a veiled attempt to force God to the periphery of national life.

Thomas Jefferson's famous metaphor -- "a wall of separation between church and state" -- is a mere, if fetching, figure of speech, lacking constitutional standing. Nor was Jefferson himself an absolute separationist, as are those who chivvy Judge Moore.

Alabama's chief justice has created a scandal (it would seem) by the public assertion of a connection between divine and human justice -- the kind of connection taken for granted up to the last 40 years or so. Secularists go limp and cover their eyes. Then, they call their lawyers. (Three lawyers, in league with the Southern Poverty Law Center, are pushing this dumb suit.)

What's the beef? All that God stuff in the commandments: keeping the Sabbath holy, taking divine names in vain, and so on.

God?!! Why, some poor wide-eyed plaintiffs lawyer from Demopolis, in town to file an asbestos lawsuit, might get the impression the State of Alabama thinks highly of God. Mercy, we can't have that -- never mind that the founders thought highly of God.

Let's put that another way: Most mainstream Americans, even today, think pretty highly of God. The secular intelligentsia is of another mind. That's clearly what counts around here. Anyway, it counts in argumentation before the federal courts, which have for 40 years been diligently misreading the First Amendment, construing it less as a protection for religious practice than as an impenetrable barrier to religious expression.

The secular intelligentsia so thoroughly controls the federal courts, not to mention the mass media, that word of this usurpation rarely leaks out. Ordinary Americans -- the likes of Judge Roy Moore -- must bear with the standard imputation that religion disturbs, rather than entrenches and enriches, the social peace.

Dedicating the Ten Commandments monument a couple of years back, Judge Moore reflected that its purpose was to remind the courts of Alabama and their officers that "to establish justice, we must invoke the favor and guidance of Almighty God."

He could have asked, innocently enough, what else there is to invoke. The ever-shifting standards of the federal judiciary? God might have been good enough for the founders; he was certainly good enough for the generality of political leaders who succeeded them (e.g., Abe Lincoln). He isn't quite good enough -- alas! -- for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the Southern Poverty Law Center. But, then, as Robert Bork observes in a book out next month: Judges "are enacting the agenda of the cultural left."

The Ten Commandments may not be their thing. Paratroopers -- that's another matter.