Relationship Between Alabama Judge, Tv Preacher Becoming Increasingly Problematic, Au Charges

Moore Appearance on Kennedy's Pleasure Cruise 'Grossly Inappropriate,' Says AU's Lynn

The ongoing relationship between Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and TV preacher D. James Kennedy raises questions about judicial ethics, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In October, Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed a federal lawsuit against Moore, challenging the jurist's two-ton Ten Commandments display placed in the center of the state's judicial building.

Since then, Kennedy, a Florida-based TV preacher who heads Coral Ridge Ministries and an affiliated group called the "Center for Reclaiming America," has taken up Moore's cause as his own. Kennedy recently announced he would be hosting a summer cruise to Alaska featuring Moore, who will be sharing his ideas on "America's Christian heritage." Prices for the cruise start at $1,200.

Americans United believes Moore's close personal and financial relationship with Kennedy is problematic.

"I can't believe the people of Alabama want their chief justice to be first mate on a TV preacher's love boat," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "This ship is sinking in an ethical swamp, and Judge Moore and Rev. Kennedy ought to hit the lifeboats."

Kennedy's cruise is the latest in a series of arrangements that reflect close ties between the Religious Right figure and Alabama's chief justice.

When Moore brought his religious monument to the judicial building in July, he did so secretly after state employees had left the building. In fact, Moore never notified any of his colleagues on the state Supreme Court about the stunt. Moore did, however, notify Kennedy and offered the TV preacher an exclusive opportunity to film the entire installation.

After AU helped bring a legal challenge to the religious display, Kennedy began selling copies of the footage to supporters for a suggested donation of $19. Kennedy soon after announced plans to raise $200,000, which would be directed to Moore's legal defense.

"The relationship between Moore and Kennedy is grossly inappropriate," said AU's Lynn. "For a state Supreme Court justice to help a TV preacher raise money with special access and pleasure cruises is ethically dubious, to say the least.

"I'm told that the cruise is headed for Alaska." Lynn added. "If I were on board, I'd be worried about hitting a constitutional iceberg."

Though not as high profile as figures like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Kennedy is working diligently to create his own Religious Right empire. Among his most frequent targets is the constitutional principle of church-state separation, which he has called "diabolical," a "false doctrine" and "a lie" propagated by Thomas Jefferson. Not only does Kennedy consider the United States a "Christian nation," he once wrote in one of his books, "Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.