Posts

Bill Pryor

The Treachery of Bill Pryor

treachery
n. pl. treach·er·ies
1. Willful betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust; perfidy.
2. The act or an instance of such betrayal.
(The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.)

I’ve written before of the treachery of Bill Pryor, former Attorney General of Alabama and now sitting judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. With the looming vote on Pryor’s nomination to a lifetime appointment to that court, I offer more reflections.

Jeff Sessions served as Alabama Attorney General until his election to the U.S. Senate. Governor Fob James appointed Pryor to the office vacated by Sessions. At the time, Circuit Judge Roy Moore, of Etowah County, was defendant in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) because of prayers Judge Moore allowed in his courtroom and a Ten Commandments plaque in the courtroom.

Gov. James steadfastly defended Judge Moore and showed his solidarity by speaking publicly on the issues involved. When Gov. James was considering Pryor for appointment to the office of Attorney General, he questioned Pryor about his support for Judge Moore and the Ten Commandments display. The governor was assured that Pryor, like him, would stand in defense of Judge Moore.

Judge Moore had stated that he would not obey any court order to remove the Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom. Pryor had defended this type of “non-acquiescence” in conversation with Gov. James and had even written in favor of such an approach in the Tulane Law Review. Pryor publicly stated that he would defend Judge Moore and that, even if some court ordered that Judge Moore remove the Ten Commandments from the courtroom, he would stand with Judge Moore in refusing to obey the order. On April 12, 1997, I attended a “Ten Commandments Rally” on the lawn of the state capitol in Montgomery. At that rally, Attorney General Pryor vocalized–before thousands of supporters–that he stood firmly in agreement with Judge Moore and Gov. James and even that he had become an attorney so he could fight the ACLU.

Later, when Judge Moore became Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and installed a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building, Attorney General Pryor defended him. He appointed two of Chief Justice Moore’s lawyers as deputy attorneys general. The chief justice was sued in his official capacity and the state defended him in that capacity (albeit, at no cost to the state).

When Myron Thompson, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, ordered that Chief Justice Moore remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama judicial building, the chief justice refused. Attorney General Pryor then set out on a crusade to portray himself in the best possible light and Judge Moore in the worst; he appeared on television programs and gave several interviews to the press in which he vilified the action of Chief Justice Moore and painted himself as a man who had to do an unfortunate duty because of the wild, unbridled reveling of a hardened criminal. Pryor lobbied the associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court to remove the monument themselves. The associate justices did so.

A complaint of ethical misconduct was filed against Chief Justice Moore before the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) and he was suspended from the bench pending an investigation. The JIC initially acted as a grand jury, considering the evidence against Chief Justice Moore and deciding whether the complaint warranted an ethics trial. The Commission concluded that there was sufficient reason to bring the case to trial; at this point, the JIC became the plaintiff in a case against the chief justice before the Court of the Judiciary (COJ).

When the JIC brought the case to the COJ, Attorney General Pryor became the prosecutor. Chief Justice Moore’s attorneys protested Pryor’s prosecution of the chief justice because Pryor had been privy to Moor’s defense of the Ten Commandments case–if Pryor were to prosecute the chief justice, the attorney-client privilege would be violated. Not only would this have been problematic; the attorney general’s own prior statements were in support of the chief justice and his subsequent prosecution of Moore would have been a betrayal of the chief justice and the state’s position on the display of the Ten Commandments and the public acknowledgement of God.

However, this was not the only conflict of interest at issue. The terms of two members of the COJ had expired. The attorney general issued an advisory opinion to Governor Bob Riley, stating that it was acceptable for the two members to remain on the court even though their terms had expired. In effect, Attorney General Pryor was hand-picking two judges of the very court before which he would prosecute Chief Justice Moore. Every one of the several challenges of the chief justice’s attorneys to the numerous conflicts of interest in the case were denied by the court.

On November 13, 2003, I sat in the courtroom of the Alabama Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Moore was tried for ethical misconduct. I witnessed Attorney General Pryor stand before the COJ, questioning the chief justice about his actions. The attorney general and his deputies played for the court a news video tape of Chief Justice Moore speaking at a rally at the state capitol on August 16, 2003, wherein he stated that he could not and would not obey the order of Judge Thompson to remove the Ten Commandments monument. This was the entirety of the prosecution’s argument. The defense attorneys called Moore to the stand; after the chief justice’s attorneys had completed their questioning, Attorney General Pryor stepped up to cross examine him.

Thrice Pryor asked Moore if he would continue to acknowledge God no matter what any man told him. Thrice Moore answered in the affirmative. Here follows a snippet of the official court transcript:

Pryor: “And if you resume your duties as Chief Justice after this proceeding, you will continue to acknowledge God as you have testified that you would today?”

Moore: “That’s right.”

Pryor: “No matter what any other official says?”

Moore: “Absolutely. Without–let me clarify that–without an acknowledgment of God, I cannot do my duties. I must acknowledge God. It says so in the Constitution of Alabama, it says so in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It says so in everything I’ve read.”

Pryor: “The only point I am trying to clarify, Mr. Chief Justice, is not why, but only that, in fact, if you do resume your duties as Chief Justice, you will continue to do that without regard to what any other official says. Isn’t that right?”

Moore: “I … must.”

Bill Pryor has shown that he is untrustworthy; he is faithless. He violated the promise of his appointment which he made to Gov. James. He violated the statements of his own conscience made publicly, without duress. He violated the Alabama Constitution of 1901, Section 3, by prosecuting Chief Justice Moore for his religious beliefs. He violated the U.S. Constitution, Article 6, by imposing a religious test for qualification of a state judicial officer. Pryor attempted to coerce a state constitutional officer to violate his oath to uphold the Alabama constitution and to defend the rights of the people.

If all those things weren’t enough, Bill Pryor, who is supposedly a devout Roman Catholic, asked Roy Moore, a Christian, to deny God before men. This is the very thing that Satan tried to convince Christ to do (Matthew 4:8-10):

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, ‘Alll these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.’ Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.'”

And this is the very thing that Christ said would lead to damnation (Matthew 10:32-33):

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Not only has Pryor tried to entice another to accept man’s authority above God’s authority, he has done much more. He instructed Alabama’s district attorneys not to enforce, in certain cases, the requirements of the Alabama law against partial birth abortion. He testified before Congress in 2003 that, although Roe v. Wade is “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history”, he would not oppose the terms of that decision if he were to be approved for a federal judgeship–because he is able to separate his personal beliefs from his duty to obey “the law”.

Chairman [Orrin] Hatch: “So even though you disagree with Roe v. Wade you would act in accordance with Roe v. Wade on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals?”

Mr. Pryor: “Even though I strongly disagree with Roe v. Wade I have acted in accordance with it as Attorney General and would continue to do so as a Court of Appeals Judge.”

As a currently sitting federal judge, in the state-sanctioned murder of Terri Schiavo, Pryor refused to even register dissent in the federal appeals court’s decision not to allow a new hearing of her case.

For these reasons, and many more like them, Bill Pryor should have never been nominated to a federal judgeship or given a recess appointment by President George Bush. He should certainly not now be approved by the Senate for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. How long will we decry judicial activism yet continue to put in place judicial activists? Can we tolerate as a magistrate–who had a duty before God–a man who persecutes others for acknowledging God? How can we tolerate as a magistrate a man who affirms that the destruction of life is morally wrong and that judges who interpret the Constitution to allow abortion are wrong but would still go along with those judges?

Source Documents

  • Transcript of the ethics trial of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore before the Court of the Judiciary. Attorney General Bill Pryor, prosecutor.
  • Video clip of the cross examination of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore by Attorney General Bill Pryor in the ethics trial of Moore. (High Bandwidth) (Low Bandwidth) (Audio Only) (YouTube)
  • Affidavit submitted by former Alabama Governor Fob James to the Court of the Judiciary. James alleged that Pryor was faithless.
  • Affidavit submitted by Fob James, III (son of the former governor) to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. James alleges that Pryor was faithless.
  • Motion to disqualify members of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Argued that the terms of two judges had expired.
  • Transcript of the June 11, 2003 U.S. Senate hearing on the nomination of Bill Pryor for federal appeals court judgeship.
  • Federal appeals court for the 11th Circuit en banc order refusing to give a new hearing in the Terri Schindler (Schiavo) case.

Recommended Reading

Constitution Restoration Act of 2004

Constitution Restoration Act of 2004. Text of the bill introduced in Congress in coordination with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Mr. ADERHOLT introduced the following bill

A BILL
To limit the jurisdiction of Federal courts in certain cases and promote federalism.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act may be cited as the “Constitution Restoration Act of 2004”.

TITLE I—JURISDICTION

SEC. 101. APPELLATE JURISDICTION.

(a) IN GENERAL.—

(1) Chapter 81 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

Ҥ1260. Matters not reviewable
Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an element of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), by reason of that element’s or officer’s acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.”

(2) The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
“1260. Matters not reviewable.”

(b) APPLICABILITY. Section 1260 of title 28, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall not apply to an action pending on the date of the enactment of this Act, except to the extent that a party or claim is sought to be included in that action after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 102. LIMITATIONS ON JURISDICTION.

(a) IN GENERAL.

(1) Chapter 85 of title 28, United State Code, is amended by adding at the end of the following new section:
“1370. Matters that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to review
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the district court shall not have jurisdiction of a matter if the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to review that matter by reason of section 1260 of this title”.

(2) The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

“1370. Matters that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to review.”

(b) APPLICABILITY.—Section 1370 of title 28, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall not apply to an action pending on the date of the enactment of this Act, except to the extent that a party or claim is sought to be included in that action after the date of the enactment of this Act.

TITLE II—INTERPRETATION

SEC. 201. INTERPRETATION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
In interpreting and applying the Constitution of the United States, a court of the United States may not rely upon any constitution, law, administrative rule, executive order, directive, policy, judicial decision, or any other action of any foreign state or international organization or agency, other than English constitutional and common law.

TITLE III—ENFORCEMENT

SEC. 301. EXTRAJURISDICTIONAL CASES NOT BINDING ON STATES
Any decision of a Federal court which has been made prior to or after the effective date of this Act, to the extent that the decision relates to an issue removed from Federal jurisdiction under section 1260 or 1370 of title 28, United States Code, as added by this Act, is not binding precedent on any State Court.

SEC. 302. IMPEACHMENT, CONVICTION, AND REMOVAL OF JUDGES FOR CERTAIN EXTRAJURISDICTIONAL ACTIVITIES.
To the extent that a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States or any judge of any Federal court engages in any activity that exceeds the jurisdiction of the court of that justice or judge, as the case may be, by reason of section 1260 or 1370 of title 28, United States Code, as added by this Act, engaging in that activity shall be deemed to constitute the commission of:

(1) an offense for which the judge may be removed upon impeachment and conviction; and

(2) a breach of the standard of good behavior required by article III, section 1 of the Constitution.

The Honorable William Pryor?

Note: The message below came from a friend who commented on remarks I made about Bill Pryor’s treachery. My response follows.

Daniel,

I think you’ve got Bill Pryor wrong. A quick glance at Romans 13:1-4 reveals that God places individuals in governing positions and requires us to be subject to the authority of those offices. If we only follow those officials when we agree with them, then we are not submitting ourselves to their authority. Thus, we are disobeying God’s command.

I respect Justice Moore and the points he made. However, Justice Moore did not obey God’s command to Christians in Romans 13. After he lost the initial case regarding his display, he should have removed the display pending the hearing of his appeal. This is proper judicial behavior. If Moore had won his appeal, then he could have restored the display. If not, then Moore would have had to make the decision about to go obeying God in a way that brings the most glory to Him.

Actually, if Justice Moore had won his appeal, he probably would have still been removed from office. The rule is, an order must be obeyed until an appeal or stay removes the order. Disobeying an order that is ultimately overturned is still an offense against the law.

If Justice Moore did not in good conscience feel that he could have obeyed God’s command in Romans 13 while still displaying his monument, then he should have resigned his office. God calls us to live a quiet, peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Justice Moore could have been much effective in bringing attention to this matter and glory to God if he had resigned in protest and led the movement as a private citizen.

Bill Pryor demonstrated a willingness to humble himself before God and follow the rule of law–even when it cost him. Pryor did not prosecute Moore in order to gain brownie points with Senate Democrats. Pryor’s too smart to think that he would be cut any slack from them regardless of what he did. Pryor knew that prosecuting Moore would not make him any more popular at home, either. He could have refused to get into the mess and found himself elected governor or senator in a couple of years. Instead, he took his duty to God and the governing authorities seriously even to his own hurt.

Be careful before you impugn the reputation of a man or woman who is doing his or her best to understand God’s commands for us and how to apply those commands in an evil world. If it should prove out (when we all stand before God and ask His supreme opinion) that either or both of these men are right or wrong, we should not be in a position of being forced to recant our harsh words against them–regardless of that outcome.

I hope I’m not being too heavy. I follow these events closely through your list. Sometimes, though, I think that we may be doing a disservice by attacking a Christian so harshly–even if we are absolutely convinced he is wrong. Jesus commanded us to love one another as an example before a world that’s going to Hell. If we fight each other so harshly over disagreements such as this, how will the world ever see the love of God?

Feel free to disagree with me. If we can’t settle it here, we’ll just let our Big Brother settle it for us later.

Sincerely,
Concerned

Dearest Concerned,

We should certainly obey the word of the Lord. Yes, Romans 13:1-4 is a command to “be subject unto the higher powers.” However, to consider the Alabama Ten Commandments issue simply as a case of disobedience due to disagreement is a grave mistake and unjust trivialization.

If we must obey God’s commands, we must obey them in all things. Christ demands obedience and submission to him. By appealing to Romans 13 as the basis for the authority of those who govern, you are, in fact, proving Judge Moore’s point: all authority to govern comes from the hand of the Lord.

And this is the issue. This is not about a piece of stone in some building. Had Judge Moore been prohibited by law from placing the monument in the building, perhaps it would be about the monument. But, as I’m sure you are aware, no law prohibited the monument then and no law does so now.

See, this is about whether any court, any executive, or any legislature has any authority without God. As you’ve so plainly stated, they do not. Judge Moore realizes this. He went about the business of acknowledging the authority of God. He knows that, if we remove from our society the acknowledgement of God as the moral judge superior to our own sinful human desires, we will not long remain an ordered society and we will certainly not remain a just society.

There being no law to compel Judge Moore to remove the monument and there being no law to compel him to not acknowledge God, he was justified in his course of action. In fact, even if there had been a law prohibiting the acknowledgement of God, he still should have done so. No government exists without the authority of God and every government owes God recognition and submission.

Disobeying an illegal order is not illegal. The federal judge’s order had no basis in law. In fact, the plaintiffs alleged that Judge Moore had violated the First Amendment by installing the monument. The federal judge agreed with the plaintiffs. A simple reading of the First Amendment shows that the court’s conclusion was not based on the words of the First Amendment. In fact, the judge’s order that the monument be removed was designed to prevent Judge Moore from doing that which he had lawful authority to do. And, of course, as a constitutional officer of the state of Alabama, he had a legal and moral obligation to acknowledge God. We can’t at once say that the acknowledgement of God is illegal but that the obligation to do so is legal.

The federal judge said that he could not define the word “religion.” But, he also said Judge Moore had illegally established religion. Does that make sense? If I don’t know what a thing is, how can I recognize it when I see it?

The court said it would delay its order to remove the monument while appeals were ongoing. However, even though the appeals process had not been exhausted–the U.S. Supreme Court had yet to render its decision as to whether it would hear Judge Moore’s appeal (a decision that wasn’t given until more than a month later), the federal district court actually terminated the stay of its order and said that the monument should be removed.

You can understand, then, how resigning from office was not an issue or an option for Judge Moore. In fact, he did act in accord with Romans 13. He was living a quiet and peaceable life and was certainly acting godly and honestly. Had he resigned his office, he would have failed in his duty to honor God–a duty that is both religious and civic; it is codified both in Romans 13 and the Alabama Constitution of 1901.

Leading the movement as a private citizen would not have satisfied his Christian responsibility as a public servant. He would have taken the coward’s way out. It was his duty to stand between the tyranny of a federal judge and his cohorts and the liberties of the people as protected by both the federal and state constitutions. Had he simply bowed in obeisance to the ungodly ruling of a federal judge, he would have failed to uphold his responsibility to the people of Alabama, the constitution of our state, and the admonition of Romans 13. This Pauline passage enumerates both the responsibility of the individual and of the state. No government has the right to do that which God has prohibited.

Reflect on the history of the Protestant Reformation. When the Holy Roman Emperor was ready to effect the will of those who wanted to deprive Martin Luther of his life and liberty, the princes of Europe interposed themselves between the greater power of the emperor and the rights of the people. I wonder if the pattern of blind obedience to human rulers that you suggest Judge Moore should have followed would also mean that the German church and citizenry were justified in submission to Adolph Hitler. No, you know as well as I that men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were justified in opposing the evil of the German state. It is the Scripture that gives the moral authority for us to oppose evil in high places. Rulers are to minister good and “execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4). Instead, in this case, those in authority chose to persecute the one doing good.

This is the case against Bill Pryor. He chose to stand in opposition to God. He chose to persecute those who were doing their duty to both God and man. He chose to execute wrath upon the one who was doing good.

No, Mr. Pryor did not humble himself and follow the rule of law. Instead, he followed the path of tyrants and the ungodly. Had he been truly interested in honoring God and doing good and obeying Romans 13, he would have refused to prosecute Judge Moore and he would not have sought publicity so he could try to destroy the reputation of Judge Moore. Neither would Mr. Pryor have prejudiced the Court of the Judiciary by giving the governor an advisory opinion, saying that it was okay for two judges whose terms had already expired to stay on the court to hear Judge Moore’s case. He essentially hand picked two of the judges for the court that he stood before to prosecute Judge Moore.

I was in that courtroom. I saw and heard Bill Pryor say that Judge Moore was unrepentant. I witnessed him tell the court that Judge Moore was unfit for office because he had acknowledged God even when told he shouldn’t. See, there is one thing that both Judge Moore, the federal district judge Myron Thompson, and Bill Pryor agree about: this case was about whether the state may acknowledge God. Pryor stood and asked Judge Moore if he would continue to acknowledge God if returned to his position as chief justice. Of course, Judge Moore answered in the affirmative. And Mr. Pryor asked the court to remove Judge Moore from office.

This is a battle between light and darkness, good and evil. Mr. Pryor chose to stand on the side of those who oppose God. We both know that all we do in this world will be rewarded in the next. Judge Moore fears God more than men. He, like St. Paul, is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for he knows the power of God (Romans 1:16). A man is either justified or condemned by his own words (Matthew 12:35-37).

Indeed, as you mention, the Bible does say that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). How can that love be seen when Mr. Pryor condemns a follower of Christ because that man refuses to deny Christ? Instead of showing love to his brother and, thereby, bringing honor to the name of Christ, Pryor brought a reproach against the name of our Savior. If we deny Christ before men, he will deny us before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33).

In our time, men “hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly” (Amos 5:10). “But, let judgement run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). And, we read in 1 Peter (4:11-19) that judgement should begin at the house of God:

(11) If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

(12) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (14) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. (16) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. (17) For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (18) And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (19) Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

So, friend, “here I stand: I can do no other.” I will not deny Christ before men–even before men who call themselves by Christ’s name but seek to destroy his children. I won’t close my eyes and hope it all works out in the end when we stand before God. I know my duty and I must do it now.

I will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly–instead, I will delight in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1). Those who oppose Christ and his commands are not his followers and not my brethren. As for those who simply disagree with me, I will consider them enemies in war, in peace friends.

Yours in the bonds of Truth,
Daniel