Chief Justice Roy Moore poses for a photo in his Montgomery, Ala., office.
Dave Martin/AP

Even in Alabama, public officials aren’t ‘ministers of God’

Updated
Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has long taken a non-traditional view of American law. Moore, sometimes known as the “Ten Commandments Judge,” willing to use his public position to advance his religious agenda, has argued repeatedly, for example, that states can ignore federal court rulings whenever they chose.
 
Indeed, in February, Moore caused quite a bit of trouble when he ordered Alabama probate judges to defy the federal courts on marriage equality.
 
That, of course, was before the U.S. Supreme Court brought marriage equality to the entire country in a ruling Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) didn’t like but is prepared to follow.
 
As AL.com reported this morning, now it’s Moore’s lawyer urging the governor to ignore the rule of law.
In harsh words and a lecturing tone, a lawyer who works for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has written a letter seemingly directed at Gov. Robert Bentley rebuking him for saying Alabama will obey the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage legal.
 
While the letter from attorney Win Johnson never calls Bentley by name or title, a spokeswoman for Bentley said the letter was directed at the governor.
Johnson’s letter reads, “Public official, what will you do?  Will you stand up for the law of Alabama, for the people, for the weak and vulnerable, for the law of God?  Or will you capitulate?  Will you become complicit in the takeover by the wicked?”
 
Johnson, it’s worth noting, is the director of the legal staff of the Administrative Office of Courts, which runs the state’s court system, and which is led by Moore.
 
Of particular interest, though, was the point in Johnson’s letter when he argued, “Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous.”
 
That, right there, seems to be the heart of the problem. Moore and his lawyer are under the impression that the United States is a theocracy. It’s this assumption that leads them to believe public officials – judges, governors, county clerks, et al – are obligated to follow religious dictates, as defined by Moore and his lawyer’s interpretation of Scripture.
 
And though this probably shouldn’t be necessary, now might be a good time to remind them that if they’re looking for public officials whose job it is to punish the wicked and protect the righteous. Moore and his lawyer are clearly in the wrong country.
 
As for the state of marriage laws in Alabama, as Rachel noted on the show on Monday, the predictable mess is still unfolding. AL.com reported this week:
At first today, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore said a state supreme court order effectively kept probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for 25 days.
 
Moore, however, later backtracked.
 
“What the order means is that within that 25-day period no (probate judge) has to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple,” Moore said.
The Supreme Court’s ruling will apply to Alabama. For now, it’s a question of when, not if.
 
Update: Just to clarify a relevant detail, though Roy Moore’s overall body of work makes his theocratic vision clear, Johnson claims Moore didn’t sign off on this specific piece of correspondence.
 

Alabama, Marriage Equality and Religion

Even in Alabama, public officials aren't 'ministers of God'

Updated