Roy Moore on the Constitution

13 September 2007

Ex-Judge Roy Moore (he was fired for refusing a court order to take down a 2.6-ton monument to the ten commandments, which he had erected at his courthouse in Alabama immediately after election) will be participating in an upcoming Republican "Values Voter" debate, presumably as a questioner. In anticipation of that event, Moore has written a horrible op-ed column for WorldNetDaily, claiming that the Constituion (which makes no mention of God whatsoever) is not a secular document.

Moore begins:

Dr. Benjamin Franklin, a prominent leader at the Constitutional Convention, not only called for prayer during the deliberations, but also later stated that he had "so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence, that [he could] hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance [as the Constitution] to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being."

Moore fails to mention that, once Franklin requested an opening prayer, his request was not granted. According to Franklin, "The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary."Also, Franklin was a deist ("I soon became a thorough Deist") who did not believe in free will. It seems that all he is saying here is that Providence (a commonly used deist term) had guided the actions at the Constitutional Convention. In fact, in the very same document Moore cites, Franklin made sure to include this disclaimer: "I beg I may not be understood to infer, that our General Convention was divinely inspired, when it form'd the new federal Constitution."

Moore continues:
John Adams, Washington's successor to the presidency, aptly observed, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Adams recognized that our Constitution would not work unless we retained moral and religious principles. Were Adams with us today he would be among the first to question presidential candidates on their moral and religious views of God's sovereignty over the government.

I don't know that Adams would "be among the first to question presidential candidates on their... religious views," given that the Constitution itself says "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." As far as "God's sovereignty over the government," Adams also signed the following document (the Treaty of Tripoli) into law:
As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] … it is declared … that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. … The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.

Moore then makes the following claim:
"The recognition of the sovereignty of God is an essential prerequisite for liberty."

No, it's not. This is actually the part that bothered me the most. It's one thing to say, as the Founding Fathers did, that religion generally fosters morality (don't kill, don't steal, etc.). It's quite another to say that only religious people believe these things. Moore seems convinced that belief in God is absolutely necessary in order to value liberty and morality, which is simply not true. Thomas Jefferson acknowledged as much when he wrote:
If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God.

He also wrote that "our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."

Asserting that morality is exclusively religious does nothing but divide people. I expect that this debate (which will include questions from Weyrich and Schlafly) will devolve into a "holier than thou" contest, which ultimately leaves out 15% of the population.

There are a few other things in Moore's column that bother me, but I won't take the time to go through them all. I think that this quote from John Adams is an appropriate place to end:
"Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society"

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