Weird practices in Alabama

Brent Bozell
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Posted: Sep 04, 2003 12:00 AM

In the minds of the national media elite, Alabama is a strange place that erupts in the news only when some backward action happens. Perhaps it's an abortion clinic bombing, a remembrance of past segregation and racist violence, or some rerun of the strange ways those Bible-thumpin' Christians act. Enlightened journalists no doubt still chortle at the memory of the 1960s singer-satirist Tom Lehrer worrying about when "Alabama gets the bomb."

The state's Chief Justice, Roy Moore, brought the national media circus to town by plopping a granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the middle of the state's top court building in 2001. What happened when the God-phobic liberal lawsuits seeking to remove "Roy's rock" came to a head in August was predictable. Secular liberal reporters found one side of the debate was extreme in its advocacy, and you already know what side it was.

The media centered on Judge Moore, who, in the interests of stoking a national discussion, pledged to refuse to uphold a federal court order to remove his monument. A leader? A courageous man? Forget it. ABC's Robin Roberts vaguely charged him with "trying to restore morality," as if that was a very threatening thing. On CNN, Aaron Brown lectured him: "Don't we also, all of us, stand for the rule of law? And, in this case, the rule of law has come from every federal court that has looked at this, and they have ruled against you. How in good conscience can a judge defy the court?"

Perhaps Roberts and Brown should take a moment of silence and ponder: At this point in the Lewinsky scandal five years ago, journalists were baying about how it was "all about sex" and had nothing to do with the president upholding the rule of law by being truthful under oath in a civil case. So much for "all of us" standing for the rule of law.

What was not deemed controversial in the eyes of the press was the role of the lawyers who sued to get these toxic Ten Commandments removed from public property. Some reports, in USA Today and in Eleanor Clift's column at Newsweek.com, actually honored the most high-profile plaintiff, lawyer Melinda Maddox, for heroically suffering through all sorts of ridicule and death threats from backward people. CBS reporter Mark Strassmann really took it to the extreme, proclaiming Maddox was offended "as a Catholic and as a lawyer."

If the national media elite spent any time on Maddox's testimony in this lawsuit, they would not be inaccurately describing her as a Catholic. When asked about the Ten Commandments obstacle in the court building, Maddox said, "My perception is that since I don't subscribe to those beliefs, myself and my clients may not get a fair shake." When asked in court about her reaction to the monument, Maddox said "My first reaction was that I'm embarrassed to be a lawyer in Alabama. I just think that religion is very personal and private, and to thrust it onto the public is almost profane." The public display of religion is profane. Some Catholic.

The monument has made Maddox feel so uncomfortable, she declared in court, that she said she avoids being anywhere near it, if possible. She claimed she has spent more than $2,000 on Internet legal services and her own law books because she no longer likes to use the state law library in the judicial building. She was apparently very disturbed by a lady praying at the monument. This is not the tough-as-nails, death-defying heroine being sold to us by Eleanor Clift. This is apparently a parasol-bearing sensitive flower who avoids whole buildings where someone might be -- gasp -- praying.

From the comfort of their own cocoons, where almost no one goes to church on Sunday, secular liberal reporters cannot see that the real exotic oddballs in this story to most Americans are hypersensitive Melinda Maddox and her fellow plaintiffs.

It's not just some ill-defined set of "fundamentalists" who revere the Ten Commandments. It's millions-- no, billions worldwide -- Christians, Jews and Muslims, honoring the spirit of simple moral teachings from the Book of Exodus. They don't all agree on the debating points of defying court orders and trucking in monuments at midnight. But they can all agree that a plaintiff who would cross the street and spend thousands of dollars to avoid the prospect of a believer lost in prayer is a deeply silly human being.