Roy Moore

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Roy Moore

Roy Stewart Moore (born February 11, 1947 in Gadsden) is a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, having served from 2001 to 2003 and from 2012 to 2016. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended him from the bench before completion of both terms.

Moore is noted for his defiance of a federal court order to remove a statue of the ten commandments he had placed in the State Supreme Court Building and his subsequent dismissal from office. His stance has made him a popular figure among those opposing the separation of church and state. He is the president of the "Foundation for Moral Law" which he established to promote the acknowledgement of God in law and government. He has campaigned for Governor of Alabama in the 2006 and 2010 Republican primaries, and won the Republican primary in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election to fill the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed Attorney General of the United States. During that campaign, multiple allegations of improper relationships with teenagers during his 30s came to light, leading most national Republicans to condemn him as unsuited for the Senate. As his poll numbers held up, some in Congress backed away from their condemnation, saying it would be up to the voters of Alabama to judge the importance of those allegations. Moore lost a close race to Democrat Doug Jones in the general election.

Early life and education

Moore is the oldest of five children born to Roy Baxter and Evelyn Stewart Moore of Gallant in western Etowah County. The family moved to Houston, Texas in 1954, but came back to Alabama after four years, making another brief foray to Pennsylvania before returning again. His father was a construction worker, employed by the Tennessee Valley Authority in dam construction and at the Anniston Army Depot. Moore graduated from Etowah County High School in 1965 and was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

While he was at West Point, Moore's father died. He graduated in 1969 and was posted to active duty at Fort Benning, Georgia and Illesheim, Germany. He was commissioned as commander of the 188th Military Police Company of the 504th Military Police Battalion and deployed to South Vietnam, where he earned a reputation as a strict disciplinarian. He was discharged in 1974 with the rank of Captain and enrolled at the University of Alabama School of Law. He completed his juris doctorate in 1977 and practiced privately in Gadsden, specializing in personal injury and insurance cases.

Early career

After a short tenure in private practice, Moore joined the Etowah County District Attorney's Office as a full time prosecutor. In 2017 it was revealed that early in his tenure, Moore, then in his 30s, had pursued romantic relations with more than one teenager, including a 14-year-old girl whom he approached while her mother was attending a custody hearing at the county courthouse and a 17-year-old whom he approached after addressing her high school civics class. Another woman came forward after the Washington Post broke the story to say that Moore had violently assaulted her in a car when she was sixteen, and had also signed her high school yearbook.

In 1982 Moore convened a controversial Grand Jury to investigate funding shortages for the Sheriff's Department. He resigned from the district attorney's office to run for an Etowah County Circuit Court judgeship in the 1982 Democratic Primary. He accused the court of accepting payoffs to delay cases, but lost in a runoff to Donald Stewart.

After his defeat, Moore moved to Texas and trained as a kickboxer, participating in a few professional fights, including a victory in the Greater Gadsden Tournament of Champions,before returning briefly to Gadsden, and then setting off for the Australian Outback. In Australia he found work as a cowboy on a 42,000-acre cattle ranch owned by Colin Rolfe. He returned to Gadsden in 1985 and ran for the office of District Attorney in the 1986 Democratic Primary. He lost to Jimmy Hedgspeth and returned to the private practice of law, decorating his office with a wooden plaque he had made in 1980 with a wood-burned representation of the ten commandments. He married Kayla Kisor, a 24-year old divorced mother, in 1985. The couple has three sons of their own, Ory, Caleb, and Micah.

Circuit Judge

Roy Moore's wooden ten commandments plaque

After switching to the Republican Party, Moore was appointed to the Etowah County Circuit Court by Governor Guy Hunt to fill the vacancy left by the death of Julius Swann in 1992. He immediately hung his ten commandments plaque prominently on the wall behind his judicial bench.

The defense attorneys for a pair of male strippers accused of murder objected to the display. Other critics denounced his practice of leading prayers at the opening of court sessions and for the benefit of the jury pool. The American Civil Liberties Union warned him in June 1993 that they intended to file suit in federal court to force him to remove the plaque and desist from public prayer on the grounds that those actions violated the U. S. Constitution's prohibition against establishing a state religion. An ACLU representative attended a court session on June 20, 1994 to record his prayer amidst his campaign to hold onto the appointed seat in the 1994 general election. Moore defeated prosecutor Keith Pitts by a wide margin in the race.

The ACLU filed their lawsuit in 1995, but it was dismissed on a technicality. Then-Governor Fob James, however, asked Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to file a countersuit in Montgomery County's Circuit Court. Judge Charles Price ruled against the state on the question of courtroom prayers, but did not find the display of the ten commandments in the courtroom to be unconstitutional, on the basis that they had a secular role in the development of Western jurisprudence. In his response to the ruling, Moore promised to continue the prayers and also affirmed the religious intent behind his display of the commandments. Price revised his ruling to require the removal of the plaque based on Moore's statements. Moore appealed the decision and was granted a stay against the court order, but the case was dismissed on technical grounds before it reached the Alabama Supreme Court.

Moore gained national publicity for his defiance of the courts and appeared on national television, vowing to continue praying and to defend the display of the ten commandments behind the bench. In a statewide poll, 88 percent of Alabama residents supported Moore's position in the matter.

Alabama Supreme Court

In 1999 Perry Hooper, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, announced that he would not seek reelection in 2000. Moore, initially hesitant, announced on December 7 that he would enter the crowded Republican field to fill the open seat. He focused his campaign message on religious appeals. His popularity helped him win a narrow victory over the early favorite, Harold See in the primary, and an easy win over Democrat Sharon Yates in the general election. He was sworn in as Chief Justice on January 15, 2001. In his inaugural speech, Moore stated that he had "come to realize the real meaning of the First Amendment and its relationship to the God on whom the oath was based. My mind had been opened to the spiritual war occurring in our state and our nation that was slowly removing the knowledge of that relationship between God and law."

Ten commandments monument commissioned by Moore

Shortly after taking office, Moore collaborated with supporters to commission a 5,280 pound granite monument engraved on the sides with quotations from notable figures in the founding of the United States and topped with a carved representation of the ten commandments. The monument was installed in the Supreme Court building's rotunda late on the evening of July 31, 2001, with videographers from Coral Ridge Ministries, a Florida-based religious organization, on hand to document the event. Moore unveiled the piece in a press conference the next morning, saying that "Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded....May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land."

The ACLU joined with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center to file a federal lawsuit on October 30, arguing that the presence of the monument in the Supreme Court building amounts to a governmental endorsement of Judeo-Christian religious tenets in violation of the First Amendment.

In defending the placement of the monument, Moore reaffirmed its religious intent, arguing that recognizing the sovereignty of God is the foundation of all morality and the basis for the laws his court was pledged to uphold. He provided an alternate view of the separation of church and state, saying that while both entities should keep their affairs separate, they were equally subject to God's sovereignty. United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the monument violated the U. S. Constitution and ordered that it be removed from the rotunda before January 3, 2003, failing which the State would incur a fine of $5,000 for each day it remained on display.

Moore appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia and was granted a temporary stay of Thompson's order pending the outcome. The Circuit Court upheld the District Court's decision on July 1 and Thompson amended his previous order to give Moore an August 20 deadline to remove the sculpture. In the days leading up to August 20, Moore's supporters held continuous demonstrations at the Supreme Court building. As many as 4,000 were present for rallies during which Alan Keyes and Jerry Falwell spoke on Moore's behalf and joined in urging him to defy the federal courts.

When Moore failed to comply, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission filed a complaint with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, effectively suspending him from the bench pending their hearing. Meanwhile his colleagues in the Alabama Supreme Court issued an 8-0 ruling of their own ordering the monument removed immediately. On August 27 it was relocated to a room in the building not open to the public to avoid confrontations with protestors outside the building. It was finally removed from the premises, quietly, on July 19, 2004.

The Court of the Judiciary heard arguments on November 12, 2003, during which Moore promised to return the monument to a publicly-visible location at the first opportunity. The panel issued a unanimous finding that Moore violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics and, given his refusal to acknowledge the authority of the federal courts, ordered him removed from office.

D. H. vs H. H.

In a 2002 case, D. H. vs H. H., a custody dispute between a woman who had entered into a lesbian relationship and a man reported to have abused their child, the Supreme Court overruled a Civil Appeals Court decision to award the mother custody on a technical matter. In his concurring opinion, Moore argued that "to disfavor practicing homosexuals in custody matters is not invidious discrimination, nor is it legislating personal morality. On the contrary, disfavoring practicing homosexuals in custody matters promotes the general welfare of the people of our State in accordance with our law."

The inflammatory content of his decision triggered protests from local and national civil rights groups. The Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund filed a formal complaint with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission.

Moore's comments led to protests in front of the state judicial building and drew nationwide criticism from civil rights groups such as GLAAD, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Human Rights Campaign. An official complaint with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission was also filed by the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.

Preceded by:
Perry Hooper Sr
Alabama Supreme Court, Chief Justice
2001-2003
Succeeded by:
Drayton Nabers
Preceded by:
Chuck Malone
Alabama Supreme Court, Chief Justice
2013-2016
Succeeded by:
Lyn Stuart (acting)

Later political life

Moore was considered a potential candidate for the Constitution Party in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, but he did not pursue either nomination. One issue before Alabama voters in that election did prompt him to speak out. A proposed amendment to the Constitution of Alabama, listed on the ballot as "Amendment 2", would have removed language from the 1901 document making reference to poll taxes and requiring schools to be segregated by race. He argued that changing the wording could give federal courts leeway to force the state to increase taxes to fund school improvements. The measure was narrowly defeated in the polls.

In 2004 Moore collaborated with Constitution Party Vice-Presidential candidate Herb Titus on a piece of proposed legislation dubbed the "Constitution Restoration Act", which sought to remove federal courts' jurisdiction over a government official or entity's "acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government." The bill was introduced in both houses of Congress in 2004 and then reintroduced in 2005, but never emerged from committee.

In 2006 Moore began contributing a regular column to WorldNetDaily. In one of his columns he called for the disqualification of U. S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) on the grounds that, given his understanding of the tenets of Islam, a practicing Muslim could not fulfill the oath of his office.

Moore has also made frequent calls for the abolition of the federal income tax, including speeches at rallies sponsored by the We the People Foundation.

On October 3, 2005, Moore announced that he would run against incumbent Governor Bob Riley in the 2006 Republican primary. He accused Alabama Republican Party chair Twinkle Andress of unfairly favoring Riley's bid and called for her resignation. His frustration with the party's support for the incumbent led him to harsh criticisms of state leaders as well as of President George Bush, who campaigned for Riley. In the vote he lost by a 2:1 margin. He did not endorse Riley in the general election, but also did not fulfill rumors that he would continue campaigning as an independent. Nevertheless the Alabama Constitution Party and Jefferson Republican Party urged their members to write-in Moore's name on the November ballot.

On June 1, 2009, Moore announced his campaign for the 2010 Republican nomination for Governor. He won an endorsement from from NASCAR driver Bobby Allison in April 2010.

In the 2012 Republican primary, Moore won just over 50% of the vote over incumbent Chuck Malone and challenger Charlie Graddick. He went on to defeat Bob Vance, who had been tapped by the state Democratic party to run in place of primary winner Harry Lyon in the general election.

During his second term, Moore issued orders to county probate court judges claiming that a January 2015 federal court ruling nullifying states' prohibitions of same-sex marriage did not apply to Alabama and that they must uphold state law and the Alabama Constitution of 1901. The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charged that Moore's orders violated the United States Constitution and he was suspended from the bench for the remainder of his term after a hearing before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary in September 2016. During his suspension, Moore formally resigned from the court to campaign for the 2017 special election to fill Jeff Sessions' former seat on the U.S. Senate. He won a runoff in the Republican primary against Luther Strange and then lost a close race to Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the December election.

A month prior to the general election, The Washington Post broke the story about Moore's involvement with underage girls during his time in the Etowah County District Attorney's office. Many Republican leaders in Congress and the Trump administration commented that if the allegations were true, that Moore was unfit for office and should withdraw from the campaign. Some, including John McCain and Mitt Romney, used no qualifiers. Alabama GOP leaders, on the other hand, questioned the report and excused the alleged activities as harmless. After a fifth victim gave a news conference to share her story of a violent assault when she was 16, Moore lost the support of Ted Cruz and earned stronger condemnations from GOP senators Mitch McConnell and Jeff Flake. The Post won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for the exposé.

In February 2018 Moore was offered an expense-paid trip to Washington D.C., ostensibly to receive an award for his strong support for Israel. During the visit he was interviewed on camera by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the guise of an Israeli military anti-terrorism expert. Baron Cohen brought out a device which he claimed was used in Israel to detect pedophiles through a hormone in their perspiration. After Baron Cohen demonstrated the device, which emitted an audible alarm in Moore's vicinity, Moore objected and walked off the set. Moore later issued a statement calling the stunt a "defamatory attack" and threatening legal action. The interview aired in July as part of Baron Cohen's "Who is America?" series on Showtime.

Publications

  • Moore, Roy (2005) So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, Judicial Tyranny, and the Battle For Religious Freedom. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman ISBN 0805432639
  • Moore, Roy (2005) "The Rule of Law" in Mark Sutherland, ed., Judicial Tyranny: The New Kings of America? St Louis, Missouri: Amerisearch ISBN 0975345567

See also

References

External links