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SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Moore may need refresher course on Constitution

On his web site, www.judgeroymoore.net, Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore outlines his five-point plan to "return Alabama to the people."

Unfortunately, one of the candidate's proposals is clearly unconstitutional, while another would actually diminish the power of voters.

Judge Moore's five points include:

  • Legislative reform;
  • Education changes;
  • Tax and spending reductions;
  • A crackdown on illegal immigration; and
  • The centerpiece of the former state chief justice's political platform, preserving our moral heritage.

    Judge Moore would "stop power of special interest lobbyists and return control of government to the people," he says of his legislative reform plan. Included in this plank are a proposal to conduct regular sessions of the Legislature every other year, legislation to prohibit lawmakers from holding two state paid positions, and a term-limit proposal that would prohibit legislators from serving three consecutive terms in the same office.

    Although Judge Moore would like to see the Legislature convene once every two years, recent history has proven that lawmakers can barely get the state's business done by convening twice each year — once in regular session and again in a special one. And how would lawmakers perform their constitutional duty to set budgets two years in advance, with no idea of the revenues available?

    Judge Moore's proposal for term limits actually diminishes voters' control by reducing the pool of potential candidates for office. Voters already have the option of limiting legislators' terms by voting them out of office on Election Day. To disqualify an effective legislator on the arbitrary basis of his longevity in office is to squander a resource that is all too often scarce in this state.

    Judge Moore says he will urge the federal government to close its borders to illegal entry and propose legislation imposing fines and penalties on those who employ illegal aliens. These are federal issues and, most likely, outside the jurisdiction of the governor.

    But the centerpiece of Judge Moore's platform is the issue for which he is most famous. His government-imposed morality created a national stir when then-Chief Justice Moore defied a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building.

    The platform says the judge would "defend the right of every person to include teachers, judges, and state, county and municipal offices to publicly acknowledge God as the moral foundation of law, liberty and government."

    Judge Moore's campaign communications director, J. Holland, characterizes the candidate's struggle as "upholding the right of ordinary citizens to acknowledge God in public." But that is far from the issue.

    Ordinary citizens have every right — in fact ought to — acknowledge God in public as they see fit. But the U. S. Constitution specifically prohibits government from creating laws establishing or endorsing religion and from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

    Surely the distinction between ordinary citizens and government is not lost on Judge Moore.

    Judges, teachers and elected public officials have a constitutional responsibility to remain neutral on religious matters in their professional and official capacities. They may, of course, exercise the religion of their choice — or not — in their private lives.

    Founder and second U.S. President John Adams said, "Statesmen may plan and speculate about liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles on which liberty can stand."

    Adams was right. Liberty can stand only where there is morality and religion.

    But the founders included the "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses in the First Amendment anyway, and for good reason: to prevent the religious tyranny they experienced in England. They realized that true religion must be sincere and freely expressed, not force fed by kings and judges.

    God is always present, regardless of whether he is acknowledged — even by Judge Moore.

    Why, then, does Judge Moore feel obligated to re-interpret what is so clearly written in the Constitution? Is it that he believes he is wiser than the founders were?

    Or could it be that he realizes the political value of perceived martyrdom?

    In the end, Judge Moore's platform is more of what we have become used to hearing from him: popular conservative rhetoric with little substance.

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