Funny, you never hear Republicans complaining about this kind of judicial activism:
The Alabama chief justice locked in a fierce battle with a federal court vowed Thursday that he would not remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state’s judicial building’s rotunda.
“I have no intention of removing the monument of the Ten Commandments, the moral foundation of our law,” he said. “To do so would, in effect, be a disestablishment of the justice system of this state.”
Chief Justice Moore’s justification:
“The issue is: can the state acknowledge God?” he said. “If this state can’t acknowledge God, then other states can’t. … And eventually, the United States of America … will not be able to acknowledge the very source of our rights and liberties and the very source of our law…
“When a court order departs from the law and tells you what you can think and who you can believe in,” he said, the judge issuing that order is “telling you to violate your oath. And he can’t do that. Judges simply don’t have that power.”
1) Acknowledging Christianity (along with other religions), is different from brazenly thrusting one’s own religious edicts front and center, against the wishes of one’s colleagues, and then demanding the public accept them as the guiding principles of its governmental institutions.
2) The only person who has told people “what you can think and who you can believe in” is Justice Moore. It is rather shocking that any officer of the court can be so irrational and dishonest.
3) Imagine if, say, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff refused to obey a presidential order because he didn’t agree with it. If the Chief Justice cannot fulfill his duties or obey the rulings of a higher court, he ought to resign.
4) The fact that Christianity has historically inspired many laws is part of the problem. For example, how else to explain the laughable yet infuriating laws that prohibited sodomy?
But, whatever. There’s really precious little to say in this case that hasn’t already been said before. The guiding legal precedent seems reasonable to me: A Decalogue must serve a “secular purpose,” and be presented as such that a “reasonable observer” would not view its “primary effect” as “endorsing religion.”
But this episode, for all its irritating banality, does raise a serious question. After all, government cannot state “God save the United States and this court,” coerce children into pledging allegiance to “one nation under God,” and print “in God we trust” on its money, yet still claim that it does not recognize the establishment of religion.
The point, I think, is that government should be agnostic.
That is not to say that government should oppose the expression of religious beliefs in public. It shouldn’t. However, neither state-sponsored commandments nor ceremonial gestures toward generic monotheistic entities will do. If government is to serve all the people, then it must be indifferent, in both appearance and practice, to any system of beliefs not derived from the text of the United States Constitution or the practice of secular jurisprudence.