Thursday, February 26, 2004

Theocracy in America:
Judge Roy Moore, Shenandoah Valley Tour 2004

On Friday night, February 6th, Judge Roy Moore spoke at JMU’s College Center. Now, I didn’t know about this, else I’d have probably managed to make it to Harrisonburg to hear the guy with my own ears. According to the school paper, The Breeze, 445 people listened to Moore speak, while 30-40 people protested outside. According to the extremely conservative local Daily News-Record, 520 people “packed” the “Grand Ballroom” of the College Center, “while a handful of protestors lingered outside.”

Here are some fascinating things Moore said, according to The Breeze:

> “The ACLU told us we can’t pray in school, can’t display religious symbols in public, can’t acknowledge God…”

> “I must acknowledge God, it says so in the Constitution of Alabama. It says so in the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

Also according to the Breeze, “throughout his speech, Moore urged the audience to acknowledge God as the State.”

I don’t know what the heck that means, but I don’t like it. Not one bit.

According to the DNR, Moore said:

> “It’s about the right to acknowledge God….Without acknowledging God, I cannot do my duty.”

> “paraphrasing Jefferson”: “God gives us rights, government’s job is to insure those rights and if government fails, it should be removed.”

> Allegedly paraphrasing Madison: “We are entitled to have a Constitution because of the laws of nature and nature’s God.”

One attendee asserted that “He [Moore] is the voice of our founding fathers.”

You may be interested to know that judge Moore is writing a book on God in public life, due out in the Fall. I’m sure it will be an enlightening and scholarly work, destined to take its place in the canon alongside Cicero and Voltaire.

Let me end by saying that at least some of this conceptual cluster-fornication could have been avoided if not for some infelicitous phraseology and bad philosophy on the part of Mr. Jefferson—a great man and a great statesman, but not a philosopher of the first rank. Jefferson was apparently a natural law theorist, and natural law theory for all its proud history has an unfortunate association with one of the more disreputable of the moral theories, the divine command theory. Mr. Jefferson mistakenly asserts that “we are endowed by our creator” with rights. But rights, you see—fundamental rights, human rights (as opposed to, say, civil rights)—can be neither granted nor taken away. Not even by an omnipotent God, oddly enough. If people have such human rights at all, they have them intrinsically and necessarily. If people have such rights at all, then ‘Smith is a person but Smith has no rights’ is like ‘T is a triangle but T does not have three sides.’ And even God can no more make a person without rights than he can make a triangle without sides. Certain moral theories on the left as well as the right mistakenly entail that human rights can be granted and taken away. On the left, the grantor is usually the culture, on the right it is usually God. But neither of these positions has a snowball’s chance in Hell of working. In fact, Cultural Moral Relativism and the Divine Command Theory are, at root, the same kind of view, and they fail for the same kind of reason.

What is that reason? Well, that’s a long story for another day, a day when my neurons are not short-circuiting from sleep-deprivation.

For right now, I only have time for a conclusion and not the argument, though in this case the conclusion may be enough: Judge Moore may be about to put pressure on us to do something that it might have been better for us to do a long time ago: acknowledge that the moral theory hinted at in the Declaration of Independence is indefensible.


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