The people of Alabama did America a favor last night by voting against Roy Moore for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Moore is just what we don’t need right now. His disdain for fundamental American values – from religious freedom to civil rights and equality to the rule of law – makes him a danger to our democracy.
Americans United knows Moore all too well. He’s been a strident voice against church-state separation for decades, and we’ve fought back and won against many of his reckless actions.
Moore has a poor grasp of U.S. history, but, even more disturbingly, he’s blind to the reality of the country as it exists today. He has no respect for our vibrant, diverse society that embraces people of all faiths and none.
The main problem with Moore is that he believes his religious beliefs trump the Constitution. Moore, who still calls himself Judge Moore even though he has been twice removed from the office of chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, really doesn’t seem to understand how the Constitution or the courts actually work.
In 2016, six months after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage equality, then-chief justice Moore defied the federal courts. He issued an “administrative order” to Alabama probate judges insisting that a state law banning marriage for same-sex couples was still in effect. His willingness to flout the Supreme Court was likely based on his disturbing belief that “homosexual conduct” is “abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God” and should be the subject of “physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution.”
As a result of his order, couples in several counties were denied marriage licenses. Americans United, along with allied groups, was already representing several couples who challenged Alabama’s marriage ban in federal court and won. Because Moore elevated his personal beliefs above the Constitution, we had to go back to federal court to stop the state from enforcing his illegal order. After an ethics investigation, he was suspended from his position.
Moore’s bad habit of defying court orders didn’t start then. In 2001, after then-chief justice Moore arranged to have a two-and-a-half-ton Ten Commandments monument displayed at the Judicial Building in Montgomery, Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued. A federal court ordered the monument removed, but Moore refused. In 2003, a state judicial oversight body ultimately removed Moore from the court because he refused to follow the court order.
Roy Moore's disdain for fundamental American values – from religious freedom to civil rights and equality to the rule of law – makes him a danger to our democracy.
But Americans United’s first run-in with Moore was way back in 1997 when we sued a couple of public school districts in Alabama because they were promoting religion, including by sponsoring prayers in classrooms, during school assemblies, at graduations and before sporting events.
A federal court ruled that the school districts had violated the Constitution, but Moore, who was then a state judge in a completely different county, issued an order attempting to nullify the federal court’s decision. His order – wrong on religious freedom law and court rules – was rightly ignored.
As a senator, Moore would have been offering the president “advice and consent” on all federal court appointments. During the campaign, he said he hoped to sit on the Judiciary Committee, which provides oversight of our federal courts and constitutional issues that arise in Congress. That won’t be happening.
Moore does not support religious freedom. He has stated, on more than one occasion, that he believes the Constitution was written only to protect Christians (and, of course, he defines “Christian” in a narrow, fundamentalist way). Yet, it was still a surprise when he wrote an op-ed asserting that U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) was not fit to take office because he is a Muslim who announced plans to take his oath of office on a Quran. Comparing the Quran to "Mein Kampf," Moore wrote, “Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!”
This anti-Muslim sentiment also led Moore to fall for the false claim that some parts of the United States are operating under Islamic law. During an interview with Vox in 2017, Moore asserted, “There are communities under Shariah law right now in our country.” When asked to name specific communities that follow Shariah, Moore replied, “Well, there’s Shariah law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana – up there. I don’t know.” (The fact-checking website PolitiFact rated the claim “Pants on Fire.”)
Had he been elected, Moore would have had a say in shaping our civil rights laws and foreign policy, endangering the rights of Muslims and those of minority faiths, as well as non-believers.
For 20 years, Americans United has sounded the alarm about Moore’s troubling views, and we’ve fought him in court – and won. We were ready to take him on again as a senator. But now we don’t have to do that, and that’s very good news!