Weekend Update 05/07/2016: Religious callings, good and bad
Berrigan was a Catholic priest who was also a peace activist who wound up on the FBI’s most wanted list and spent some time in prison because of his anti-war activities during the Vietnam War. He continued his anti-war efforts throughout his lifetime, but he also won some notoriety for ministering non-judgmentally to AIDS victims in Greenwich Village in the 80s, when most of the Catholic hierarchy was busy condemning gay men.
If only more the of the church’s leaders were like Berrigan. The world is a slightly darker place without him.
Now I need to segue from talking about a peace activist who clearly loved his neighbor, to talking about a hate monger who clearly doesn’t.
I think it’s important to know just how long and how determinedly Moore has been defying the law he has sworn to uphold: Way back in 1993 Judge Moore drew criticism for displaying a wooden Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom, and insisting that each session begin with a prayer. This eventually led the ACLU to file a lawsuit in 1995. This led to a series of rulings and counter-suits, sometimes with appeals being thrown out on technicalities. At each stage Moore vowed to never stop the prayers and never remove the plaque. The state supreme court allowed the appeal that reached them to languish without ruling, effectively allowing Moore to have his way and preventing any appeal. Ethics complaints were filed against Moore, but eventually came to nothing.
Trading on his high profile in the media because of the case, in 2001 Moore campaigned for Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court runnng on the idea that the law must come from god in order to be legitimate, and this being Alabama, he won. And immediately began construction of a massive granite Ten Commandments monument to install in the rotunda of the state courthouse. The Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU, and other organizations filed suit.
Before that case was resolved, Moore incited protests and controversy by writing in a 2002 ruling about a child custody suit that it was better for a child to be put in the care of a heterosexual father despite that father having a history of child abuse, than to allow the mother (who had come out as lesbian) to have the child. Again, ethics complaints were filed which came to nothing. The other justices had simply relied on Alabama’s anti-sodomy laws in the ruling. When the U.S. Supreme Court threw out all anti-sodomy laws in 2003, the child custody ruling became moot.
The court rulings on the massive monument went against Moore, but he refused to obey the orders. Ethics complaints were files against Moore, and this time he was found in violation and removed from office. Moore sued the ethics commission, but lost.
For a while Moore made overtures to try to seek the Republican nomination for President, but instead wound up running for election as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court yet again. And yet again, he was elected. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land, Moore has fought it: issuing an order declaring that the ruling only applied to the specific states who were sued in the lawsuits the Supreme Court had consolidated for their ruling. Trying to get the rest of his State Supreme Court to issue a similar ruling. And sending messages directly to probate judges telling them that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is not legal.
And so various people, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, have filed ethics complaints against Moore, and Moore has been temporarily suspended while the commission investigates the case. Moore is, like every other anti-gay so-called Christian out there, claiming to be the victim in all of this. He insists that the charges aren’t real ethics complaints, but are politically motivated. He has accused the Judicial Inquiry Commission of falling under the sway of “a professed transvestite, and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organizations which support [the homosexual] agenda.”
Right. And Moore doesn’t have an agenda at all, despite saying: “God gives rights and the government’s role is to secure those rights. When governments [sic] dismisses god out of the equation and pretends to get rights, we suffer accordingly.”
The charges against him, by the way, aren’t merely that he is defying the U.S. Supreme Court order and issuing improper orders to try to enforce his defiance. The complaint also cites his endorsement and other support (using the resources of his judicial office to promote and fundraise for) a non-profit corporation founded by his wife for the explicit purpose of promoting and enforcing acknowledgement of god in law and government.
We can all hope he gets removed from office soon. I suspect it is far too optimistic to hope that if so, he stops causing trouble for queer folks and anyone else who doesn’t share his religion.