Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s undeclared candidacy for governor could receive a boost from a Monday appearance at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference.
Polls suggest the 58-year-old Southern Baptist, who was forced from office for refusing to remove a 2 ½-ton monument bearing the Ten Commandments from the state Judicial Building, has a good chance at beating fellow Southern Baptist Gov. Bob Riley for the Republican nomination next year.
Riley, a member of First Baptist Church in Ashland, Ala., angered conservatives when he proposed the largest tax increase in history, arguing the state’s regressive tax system goes against Jesus’ teaching to care for the poor.
Moore, a member of First Baptist Church in Gallant, Ala., who also attends Cross Point Community Church in Gadsden, where his 5,280-pound granite monument is now displayed, meanwhile, became a hero for the religious right for defending what he contends is a constitutional right for the state to “acknowledge God.”
Moore hasn’t said officially he is a candidate for governor, but only that he has been asked to run and is considering it.
‘”There’s enough people in Alabama clamoring for him to run that I don’t see that he has much choice,” Texas Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, who chairs the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration and has criss-crossed the country to protest Moore’s ouster as chief justice, told the Boston Globe.
Moore now is chairman of the board for the Foundation for Moral Law, organized in 2003 to defend the right of America to “acknowledge Almighty God,” educate the public about the Constitution and America’s “Godly foundation” and promote public policies that “assist in re-establishing society with good morals and values as set forth in the Holy Bible.”
He filed friend-of-the-court briefs in two Supreme Court cases over public displays of the Ten Commandments and for the Cobb County School District in Atlanta’s right to put a sticker on textbooks labeling evolution a theory and not a fact.
Moore also helped draft bills in the House and Senate that would prohibit federal courts from ruling in cases involving government officials who acknowledge God “as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government.”
His recent book, So Help Me God, is published by Broadman & Holman, a division of the SBC publisher, LifeWay Christian Resources. In it, he argues that the separation of church and state has been largely misunderstood for the last 40 years, and that public officials have a right and obligation to acknowledge God as the foundation of American government and law.
“Can the state acknowledge God?” Moore wrote in an excerpt on the LifeWay Web site. “It certainly can–and I believe that for America to continue to enjoy the blessings of liberty it must– and we must always recognize God as the source of these liberties.”
Quote in a LifeWay press release about why he decided to publish the book, Moore said: “It is time that the American people awake to the true meaning of separation of church and state and our unique relationship to God as a nation. No longer can we afford to sit quietly by while the ACLU and others take away our right to publicly acknowledge God secured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
He explained to CBS News that the First Amendment would not even exist without the first law of the Ten Commandments. “‘I am the Lord thy God. Thou shall not have other gods before me’ is a particular god identifiable with this nation, which gave us freedom of conscience without which we would have no prohibition against government interference thereof,” he said.
Moore’s Monday afternoon message, sandwiched between longtime evangelism professor Roy Fish and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, will be his first to the Pastors Conference, an annual event held just prior to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The SBC in 1997 passed a resolution declaring that public displays of the Ten Commandments should be permitted. An earlier resolution in 1995 called on Congress to amend the Constitution to allow ceremonial acknowledgements of religion.
Moore’s invitation came from Steve Gaines, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gardendale, Ala., and president of this year’s Pastors Conference.
Last year Gaines preached the SBC’s annual sermon, in which he said doctors who perform legal abortions were no better than Muslim terrorists who beheaded American hostage Nicholas Berg and urged Christians to “take back our nation from the militant gay activists.”
Gaines also advocated involvement by Southern Baptists in voting and voter registration.
“Encourage your people to vote only for candidates who have Christian values,” Gaines said. “We don’t need to tell [our people] who to vote for, but we ought to tell them that they don’t need to let the Democrats tell them how to vote; they don’t need to let the Republicans tell them how to vote; or the independents or a labor union.
“They need to let God tell them how to vote. That’s what we need to tell our people. We need to tell them not to vote pocketbooks but to vote principles.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.