Gut Rumbles

August 28, 2003

wise words

We ARE a country obsessed with symbols over substance. I agree with Kevin here when he writes about Judge Roy Moore and the Ten Commandments.

In this case, I think the misunderstanding has to do with the power of symbols. We have become a society obsessed with the power of symbols, from burning flags to rebel flags to stone tablets. As was often argued during Georgia's flag debate (though obviously to no avail) changing our state flag from the one adopted in 1956 wasn't going to have a substantive impact on the plight of a single black man, woman or child in Georgia, whereas the state's African-American population is far more likely to live in poverty than white people. I still want someone to justify why so many resources were expended on an empty fight over a symbol instead of on trying to achieve something substantive to make things better for all those millions of people. It will never happen because there is no justification.

I first took Judge Roy's side because I saw the Ten Commandments fiasco as another example of ONE asswit insisting that the REST OF THE WORLD adjust its attitude to suit HER. But I changed my mind after Judge Roy started talking like a Baptist minister in full-blown religious fever. I don't want a judge who places a Christian God above his duty to abide by the laws of this nation.

I am an athiest. I have no problem with the Ten Commandments being displayed in a courthouse, because I believe that they are TEN GOOD RULES TO LIVE BY. But when a judge starts talking about "God's Law" instead of the U.S. Constitution, he has lost my unbelieving ass. After that crap, I not only want the monument hauled away, I want HIM hauled away, too.

My mama is a true Christian woman. She believes, she attends church every Sunday and she is truly a loving person. She thinks I am misguided in my beliefs, but she has NEVER attempted to inflict her beliefs on me. That's what a true Christian does.

Roy Moore started sounding like an Islamic Iman to me after he got really carried away. I don't want people such as he deciding my fate in a court of law. And a lot of sick people came to PRAY for him.

If he had approached the controversy with my "I am sick and tired of adjusting every goddam thing we do in society today to fit the desires of the most neurotic individual among us," I would have been staunchly on his side. THAT'S what I saw happening here, in the beginning.

But I was mistaken. Roy got all evangelical on me, and I didn't like it. I joined the other side.

I am delighted that the monument is gone. And Judge Roy should never sit on the bench again.


Actually, my point was about people who oppose symbols because they fear their power.

I agree that Moore undermined his own case by talking the way he did, and maybe he is temperamentally unsuited to sitting as a judge (although it would probably be unfair to judge his temperament based on how a national media hostile to his religious views portrays him).

People who go off the deep end demanding that symbols be suppressed, however, are in effect frightened of some kind of mystical magical power allegedly contained by pieces of cloth and chunks of rock. That fear is far more dangerous than any belief others might hold as to a positive power in symbols.

Posted by: McGehee on August 28, 2003 06:54 AM

Those symbols of the 10 Commandments are NOT being surpressed; they have simply been moved from what was a totally innappropriate location from the beginning of this shameful display of hypocracy! That "monument" belongs in a place of worship, not a courthouse. That's the true separation of Church and State.

Posted by: MommaBear on August 28, 2003 08:18 AM

You wrote:

"But I was mistaken. Roy got all evangelical on me, and I didn't like it. I joined the other side.

I am delighted that the monument is gone. And Judge Roy should never sit on the bench again."

AMEN to that!!!

Posted by: drex35 on August 28, 2003 08:38 AM

Love your blog.
Moore is a power-mad idiot.

I don't understand how you can say this:
"I am an athiest. ... I believe that they are TEN GOOD RULES TO LIVE BY"

Almost anyone would agree that the last 6 would qualify as "good rules to live by", but 1 thru 4 should strike any non-believer (or rational thinker) as pure crap that have no place ANYWHERE NEAR a goverment/judicial building.

Posted by: Andy on August 28, 2003 08:50 AM

Move the damn rock, but if you burn the flag, move your sorry ass out of the country.

Posted by: James on August 28, 2003 09:40 AM

That "monument" belongs in a place of worship, not a courthouse.

Then all the depictions of the Ten Commandments also need to be removed from the U.S. Supreme Court building, and the federal court in Georgia should have required the county seal mentioned in my post to have the Ten Commandments depiction removed from it.

Legally, there is (as I also said in my post) a lot less to the anti-monument position than meets the eye.

Posted by: McGehee on August 28, 2003 09:55 AM

.....all the depictions of the Ten Commandments also need to be removed from the U.S. Supreme Court building.....

Well, let those other locations be challenged and settled on a case by case basis.

Posted by: MommaBear on August 28, 2003 10:18 AM

I was a goddam chunk of rock with words on it. God didn't put it there and there's nothing holy about it.

I wouldn't give a rat's ass one way or the other except for all the attention Roy Moore brought down from on high.

And he showed his ass.

Posted by: Acidman on August 28, 2003 11:23 AM

I have one question. Before I state it, I want to clarify some things:
1. Moore can fuck off. He is all the things A-Man said and should not continue to sit the bench (a separate issue from this, by the way...Moore is unfit to judge because of many things...and this monument nonsense ranks very low on them).
2. I could not give less of a shit whether the monument stays. Do not try to lump me in with those people laying down trying to keep it from being removed.
3. Whether or not I am a believing Christian has no bearing on the question I am about to ask.

With that said, the first amendment states thusly, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

So, my question: where did Congress make a law stating that the monument be placed there? They did not. Therefore, the US Constitution does not apply to this argument!!!

Based on that, I would like to know where that federal judge got his authority to order the monument removed? There is no law supporting his order (such a law would truly be questionable under the first amendment, in a federal vs. state level) and the Constitution does not address it (blanket separation of church and state is a myth, like it or not). So, where? The Judicial branch of our federal government does not have the power to make this kind of shit up. Or rather, they aren't supposed to. The left-wing litigators would love to condition the rest of us to not question this type of bullshit. Then they can get back to trying to sue gun manufacturers and fast food restaurants out of existence, since they can't get their way in Congress.

Now, I agree that the placing of this monument on state property was highly inappropriate, but that does not make it illegal or unconstitutional. And if it is not illegal or unconstitutional, then no federal judge has any business whatsoever forcing its removal. Period. The federal judge should have taken one look at the issue, realized he had no power to judge and tossed it out. I also submit that, if the federal judge had done so, Moore would not have gotten near the amount of attention he has received.

The correct way to remove the monument would have been for the people of Alabama to have their lawmakers pass a law that stated that no religious material may be displayed on state property. Contrary to popular belief, that law does not exist, nor is it in the US Constitution.

Posted by: JPatterson on August 28, 2003 01:35 PM

I would think that Christians would be delighted that there WOULD be a separation between church and state. If I was a Christian, I wouldn't want some politician running my religion. It seems to me that prior to this media frenzy no one knew who this Judge was or what he stood for or that the monument existed. It sounds like a publicity/political stunt to me.

My grandmother was also a devout Christian woman and never imposed her beliefs. Her explanation about the Bible was that it was a book that had some good stories in it for people. She said that you could read it and if it helped you, that was good. That was wisdom. She was a great believer in what worked.

Judge Roy scares me. Politics and Religion are like mixing jalepeno peppers and chocolate ice cream. Guaranteed indigestion.

Posted by: Katherine on August 28, 2003 03:46 PM

I've been pounding this point for many years. The "free exercise of religion" does not include using other people's time or treasure without their permission during that exercise, and most Christians would understand that if they were in the minority in this country: they wouldn't stand it for one minute if a hypothetical Muslim majority claimed the right to use government school time, for example, to face Mecca five times a day.

The first amendment does not privilige the majority religion, nor is it only about prohibiting an established church; it demands the government(s) be neutral in matters of religious opinion, which includes agnosticsim and atheism, as well as formal religions.

Posted by: Brett on August 28, 2003 05:42 PM

Brett, I'm reading that as, in effect, "No part of any government should have any position regarding any religion, ever, regardless".

How do you get that out of, "Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?

Noted: I have not seen Moore 'live on TV'. I have not read his writings, and I feel I've gotten a fair sense of what he believes from the blogosphere. I'm concerned that, as the strictly Constitutional matter this has been adjudicated as, the Federal Court is imagining a violation of the First in order to explicitly violate the 10th and, indirectly, the Seperation of Powers (creating new law by judicial ruling).

Admitted: When I posted about this, I was rather wrathful, but this comment states my 'calm' version :)

Posted by: Dave on August 28, 2003 06:01 PM

Easy, Dave. For the government to promote one religious opinion to the exclusion of any other is to disparage the others. True, throughout most of out history to this very day the government(s)--I use the plural to include the states, as subordinated to the U.S. Constitution by the 14th amendment--have reneged on this responsibility. A significant part of our history has been learning to live up to the principles underlying the Constitution.

Example of reneging: the extra-legal custom of swearing on the Bible in our courtrooms. Sure, one has the option to affirm, but they trot out the Bible first; if one demurs and affirms, every believer at the bar, in the jury box, and on the bench, is immediately prejudiced against the affirmant.

When one steals another's time to practice one's religion, particularly in context of government, which rules citizens of all religious opinion, one is priviliging that religion. Congress does this every morning it is in session. Those of differing opinion quite rightly have little confidence that the government will live up to its oath to protect their rights.

This nation is the best available; it has a long way to go to truly practice the ideals by which it was founded. The majority have always been so prejudiced on this issue, I'm amazed the first amendment was ever ratified at all; had not the freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and petition not been included, perhaps it would not have been. It has been roundly misinterpreted so as to avoid living up to the responsibilities it demands.

If you still have problems understanding, try a thought experiment: imagine you are the only Christian (or whatever your ideas about the Author of Nature may be) in the nation, and the majority explicitly governs you by some other faith. How much confidence would you have in that government?

Posted by: Brett on August 28, 2003 06:54 PM

Brett, it may be a failing in my brain (especially at 10:30 at night with too little protein today), but...

I'm still not seeing how there's an Establishment Clause violation by Moore since no Legislature has Made Law on this.

Argue that it's wrong to put the thing up in the first place? Fine.

Argue that the Establishment Clause should be more far-reaching? Fine.

Argue that 'Congress' (or by the 14th, Legislative Branches) 'shall make no law' really means 'no faint gasp of any religion shall be used in any governmental capacity'? Doesn't pass the logic test.

Let me spell this out painfully clear:

By its written context, the First was intended to apply to the Federal Legislature.

By the sometimes overbroad application of the Fourteenth, this would also apply to the State... Legislature.

That's it. That's all it can mean, if we're not going to say 'The Constitution means any damned thing I want it to mean'.

I've seen zero evidence that the Legislature of Alabama has made a law about this.

I've seen zero evidence that the US Congress has made a law about this.

I therefore see no Establishment Clause violation until such time as a proper Amendment to the Constitution has been made to state that the First applies to every other part of Government, not just Legislature.

Posted by: Dave on August 28, 2003 10:29 PM

So you believe a court can do as it pleases, because it isn't a legislature? Of course, the constitution says the "congress shall make no law," because they had no idea we would be foolish enough 200 years later to be having our laws dictated by our courts.

Except for the U.S. Supreme Court, the courts are created by legislatures, the Federal Courts by the Congress, the State Courts by their legislatures. Congress shall make no law, etc." applies to the federal courts, and by the extension of the 14th, to the state courts as well. Q.E.D.

Of course, all this legalism is of interest to supporters of establishing religion in the government only in so far as it allows them to do so. In fairness, this criticism can be made of adherents of the other side.

In my view, the founders wanted mutual respect between believers and what they termed "freethinkers." One would think it would be easy to agree on the following principle, which I am sure they were promoting: "Don't force me to practice your views on the religious question while utilizing our common government, and I won't force you to practice mine, and we can avoid the religious dissension, and possibly war, that Europe suffered." Apparently, they had too high an opinion of the People. I'm sure the people of the time disagreed on this, as we do now. They were just people, too.

Many will say, "what's the harm if unbelievers must participate in what the majority wants vis-a-vis religious observance in the government sphere?" I can cancel that by saying "what's the harm in eschewing such observance." To answer the first question: none, if the majority will submit to observance of rituals denying the truth of their own beliefs in the same circumstances. Are you up for that?

Posted by: Brett on August 29, 2003 12:05 AM

Many will say, "what's the harm if unbelievers must participate in what the majority wants vis-a-vis religious observance in the government sphere?"

Maybe that's where we have a disconnect, Brett.

I don't see how the presence of this rock is making anyone participate in anything. Yet that it surely IS 'forcing participation' is the attitude I get from you and... not everyone, but 90% of the people on the 'pro-removal' side of the debate.

If I had to walk past a statue of Odin All-father or Shiva the Destroyer (but not both, so we don't get into 'more than one religion's being honored, so no foul' discussions) twice as tall as this thing in the government-owned-and-operated building I work in each day...

And if I were thin-skinned enough to be offended by just walking past the damned thing...

I still would not be somehow forced to 'participate' in 'religious observance' because of its mere existance in that place.

But the belief I'm percieving from the... loudest people on 'your side of the fence' is that they feel that they ARE being forced to participate in 'religious observance' by the mere presence of the Decalogue, and that due to this, their First Amendment Rights are being violated.

Which just seems fricking CRAZY to me.

To put it another way, some have said, 'Wouldn't you be offended if a judge put up ?' (usually, 'the Wiccan Rede' is used). Me, no. Other Christians, maybe. But even if I were, it would NOT be an Establishment of Religion, and it would NOT be a violation of anything except my theoretical sensibilities...

Which isn't a protected Right, last time I checked.

Posted by: Dave on August 29, 2003 04:21 PM

Oh, and yeah - whether it's right or not, the net effect is, and has been for decades, that a court can do any damned thing it pleases. If we're not willing to impeach the judge who does so and get another judge or court to overturn the ruling, as far as I can tell, it's not Unconstitutional, even if it's clearly wrong.

Posted by: Dave on August 29, 2003 04:24 PM

Of course, only adherents of Christianity every try to do this sort of thing in this country whose government is supposed to be neutral in this regard so they shouldn't be surprised if non-adherents take exception. It's easy for you to profess liberalism on the issue when circumstances never force you to actually do so. Perhaps you really mean what you say here. I'm justifiably skeptical. I know many on your side of the argument are insincere when they say they would gladly accept government-sponsered expressions of other faiths.

No, the monument itself is not religious practice, though it is obviously an attempt to open the door. The slapping of the Bible in front of any and all in our courtrooms IS a religious observance, and to require non-believers to publicly demur before they can exercise their option to affirm is blatantly prejudicial.

Let's face it; many Christians believe they are better than other people, and they want the government to reinforce that notion. Get fucked. It's always been wrong, no matter how traditionally they have gotten away with it by virtue of being the majority.

Posted by: Brett on August 29, 2003 09:50 PM

It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanisms of friendship.

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