Could Justice Roy Moore be Right?

This morning I heard Christian conservative talk show host Sandy Rios interview Justice Roy Moore from Alabama. Many may know him from a series of court cases and much controversy several years back regarding a Ten Commandments memorial that he set up in his courthouse or the more recent refusal to bow to the Federal Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. He is now back in the news having again been suspended without pay from his duties as judge until the end of his term. In response to this, he has retired from his appointment and is now running for the U.S. Senate. Many consider him a kook, but could he be right?
My concern today: "Is Justice Roy Moore a Kook or Correct?" Being that Moore is from the deep South, many may simply disregard him as "backward," slow, or merely ignorant. However, his credentials as a graduate of West Point, a Vietnam veteran, and a successful Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice (until these church/state issues arose) seem to challenge that prejudicial perspective. Perhaps his concerns over the role of religion and the state have valid philosophic roots and reflect more than mere ignorance of proper law.

Therefore, rather than discussing Moore in the issues that surround him, I would like to address some of the issues that may make him right! In fact, though using more "God speak" than most, Moore is actually reflecting a trend that is blowing through the more secularized democracies of Europe, Canada, and Australia. In these nations, secular ideologies are beginning to be treated as "religions," and with this new perspective, there is a greater concern that governments do not propagate naturalistic belief systems. I would venture to say America is slow to pick up this trend.

However, I believe America is coming to the end of the "neutrality" phase of its church/state understanding, which gained a firm foothold in the 1960s. Prior to this time, American government worked off of a general Protestant view of truth and value while supporting efforts to secure the religious liberties of citizens. Government did not mandate that people be Protestant or involve itself with theology, but neither did it presume that government leaders could or should lay aside their beliefs regarding truth and value to operate in an official capacity.

After about 95 years, this came to an end. Following the Supreme Court rulings of the 60s that removed the vestiges of prayer and Bible reading from public schools, and the popular scholarship of liberal political scientists such as John Rawls, the legal as well as the political mood of the ruling class viewed the mixing of religion and politics to any degree as completely improper within a free nation. The new rubric of religious liberty conceived that it was possible for government to be neutral toward all religions as well as all ideologies (such as naturalism, secularism, atheism, and veganism) that paralleled the place of a religion in the lives of those who believed them.

I believe we are finally beginning to recognize the failure of this proposition – while we have not yet decided what its replacement should be. Judge Moore is taking a stance because he has the insight to recognize the prejudice embodied in the current language of neutrality and that the practical out workings of these "neutral" efforts have provided a cloak to hide a robust government alignment with "non-religious" or naturalistic ideologies.

Take for example the following scenario: one man sues his local public school when a teacher claims that life is a gift of God. In another state, another man sues his local public school because a teacher is teaching that the human race owes more to science than to any other area of thought. While the first man would surely win his case (or a quick retraction and apology from the school), the second man would have difficulty finding a lawyer who would even listen to him. Though both schools have made ideologically based statements that were offensive to different citizens, with our lack of ideological literacy, we as an American people quickly recognize what "religion" looks like and ban it while giving a free pass to state sponsored naturalistic ideologies. Does this look like neutrality?

From my years of study of church state topics, I have concluded that government cannot be neutral regarding ideological perspectives or that massive governments can operate on "an overlapping consensus." Neither are secular ideologies anymore offensive than religious ones. In fact, I do not believe government can function without a general ideological foundation, and these ideological foundations are what have given rise to the diverse nations of the world.

Though I do not propose that America should make Christianity the law of the land, I believe that to deny or ignore our ideological roots is kin to substituting those roots with foreign ones. Why? Because human endeavors cannot take place in a philosophic vacuum - some philosophy is always a driving force that leaves its effects. Thus, it is better to acknowledge the ideology from which government is working rather than pretend one doesn't exist. Further, the ideology should reflect not only the contemporary culture, but also the historic roots that founded the nation. And while acknowledging the philosophy, government should insure that it doesn't interfere with the religious liberties of its citizens.

While operating under a Christian worldview in the 1950s, the rather mild prayer and Bible readings of the public schools surely offended the religious liberties of some. However, I believe the rubric of "neutrality" hid a much greater religious offense by aligning entire school curricula with a naturalistic worldview that opposed the beliefs of the majority of citizens. Since the 60s, government schools were not really neutral toward ideologies; they played a key role in shaping them. I do not believe that the rise of secularism, atheism, and other naturalistic religions/ideologies in America merely reflect the personal preferences of families and individuals. Rather, they reflect the preferred ideology of the state that has been incrementally infused into the thinking of children and adults through the public school system and its resultant culture over the past two generations.

I recognize that I have intermixed the idea of government neutrality with the idea that naturalistic religions can be treated as religions, but this mixing points to their connection. While attempting/claiming to be neutral, government has effectively endorsed and propagated naturalistic ideologies.

Though former Justice Roy Moore may have chosen a display of the Ten Commandments and laws regarding same sex marriage to try to expose the false rubric of "government neutrality," he is actually ahead of the times! He recognizes that our history and law point to particular ideological foundations that should not be lightly overlooked – especially under the false pretense of government neutrality!
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