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The Ten Commandments and the Alabama National Guard

Yesterday, the Mobile Register reported that Alabama Governor Bob Riley claims that former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore asked Governor Riley to call out the Alabama National Guard in order to stop the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building in 2003. Chief Justice Moore had installed the monument in the courthouse and a federal court had ordered him to remove it; he refused and was later removed from office because of state ethics charges that were brought against him on the basis of his refusal to comply with the federal court’s unlawful order.

In 2003, I was involved in a citizen presence on the grounds of the state judicial building (which houses the Alabama Supreme Court). While that event has been called a “protest”, much more than protesting was involved. Yes, we were there to protest the federal judge’s unlawful order; we were also there to pray, to encourage our state and federal officials to do the right thing, and to show that we were concerned about the public acknowledgment of God. We were there to send the message that forcibly removing and prohibiting the acknowledgment of God from society can only result in the destruction of a free society–that those who have their law founded not on the authority of God but on the sinful whims of men’s hearts shall destroy themselves.

I was also present at the state capitol in 1997 when Governor Fob James and others spoke at a rally in support of Judge Roy Moore, who was at that time a circuit judge. Judge Moore had been ordered by a state court to remove a hand-carved Ten Commandments plaque from the wall of his courtroom and to stop allowing prayer before trials. He refused to comply with the order and the order was eventually overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court on a technicality.

During that Ten Commandments struggle, Governor James stated that, if necessary, he would call up Alabama National Guard soldiers to stop the removal of the Ten Commandments plaque from Judge Moore’s courtroom. Governor James proved himself not one to make idle threats, so his statement was considered quite seriously. He went on to explain that, were the Ten Commandments plaque ordered by a federal court to be removed, and were federal marshals sent to remove the plaque, he would place Alabama soldiers at the courthouse to prevent the removal. Governor James stated that this would not have resulted in armed conflict; instead, it would have forced President Bill Clinton to either ignore the order of the federal judge and recall the marshals or to federalize the Alabama Guard soldiers and order them away from the courthouse. In Governor James’ estimation, no U.S. president would ever do such a thing.

Coming back to 2003 events, it seems that former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts, who served as a legal adviser for Chief Justice Moore, approached Governor Riley about the Ten Commandments monument. Mr. Butts asked Governor Riley to protect the monument from the unlawful order of the federal judge and to prohibit it from being removed. Apparently, Governor Riley has now stated that Judge Moore asked him to call in the Alabama National Guard. Mr. Butts has stated that he did not ask that the Guard be called in but that they did discuss the possibility that things might play out to that end if Governor Riley were to act to protect the monument. According to radio reports today, Judge Moore has denied asking that the Guard be called out to the judicial building and has stated that he agrees with Mr. Butts’ version of the story.

Why this matter is a big news story in the state today, I am not sure. Use of Alabama soldiers was promised by Governor James back in 1997. Thus, the 2003 discussion was not a new idea.

For some reason, commentators feel the need to make a big issue out of this now and to paint Judge Moore as a man filled with bloodlust–the idea being that, if the Guard soldiers were called out, a shootout with federal marshals would result. This is an absurd interpretation of the facts and seems only to be an attempt to undermine Judge Moore’s credibility. And, if weighing Governor Riley’s credibility against Judge Moore’s, Judge Moore wins every time. After all, Judge Moore has fulfilled every public promise he’s made and Governor Riley has broken so many of his own.

Tom Parker

Investiture speech of Alabama Associate Justice Tom Parker

Justice Tom Parker delivered the following speech on January 14, 2005 at his investiture to the Alabama Supreme Court.

May it please the Courts.

Governor, Public Officials, friends and family, thank you for being here today.

The defining question for the American people today is this: “By what standard?”

 

By what standard shall we govern ourselves? By what standard shall our courts interpret the Constitution? Who is the ultimate voice of authority? Is it the people? Is it the judges who wear black robes? Are they truly the ultimate voice of authority? Or is there a higher source from which even the legitimacy of constitutions ultimately derive their authority, and to whom the allegiance of every policy maker and judge is due?

Our Founding Fathers answered this question with resounding clarity when they boldly declared that “We are endowed by our CREATOR with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

With these twenty-five simple words, that remarkable delegation of citizen patriots was able to declare with stunning precision what fewer and fewer modern jurists seem able to understand or communicate in their many thousands of pages of decisions rendered during the course of a lifetime.

Namely, this: The very God of Holy Scriptures, the CREATOR, is the source of law, life and liberty. It is to Him, not evolving standards or arbitrary pronouncements of judges, that the leaders of every nation owe their ultimate allegiance.

The most influential jurist on the thinking of our Founding Fathers, Sir William Blackstone, put it this way:

The doctrines thus delivered we call revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in Holy Scriptures. Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human law should be suffered to contradict these.

Blackstone would add a cautious reminder: Judges do not make law; they do but discover it from its true source.

Yesterday, January 13th, 2005, I was administered the oath of office at the United States Supreme Court building by the leading advocate in our land for original intent interpretation of the Constitution, U. S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Just moments before I placed my hand on the Holy Scripture, Justice Thomas soberly addressed me and all in attendance. He admonished us to remember that the work of a justice should be evaluated by one thing and one thing only–whether or not he is faithful to uphold his oath, an oath which, as Justice Thomas pointed out, is not to the people, not to the state, and not to the constitution, but an oath which is to God Himself.

Today, I once again placed my hand on the Bible, God’s Holy Word. On this day the oath was administered to me by a man who is well known to each of you, a man who sacrificed his very office in the holy cause of liberty. Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Supreme Court of Alabama understood that oaths are sworn to the Creator, that they must be upheld, and that no judge or set of justices may banish from the courtroom the very source of authority which gives legitimacy to law itself.

As I took the oath of office today, I placed my hand on the Biblical charge to judges:

“Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man, but for the Lord, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery. You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord.”

(2 Chronicles 19:6-9)

I stand here today, humbled by this charge, but a grateful man who aspires to adhere to that tradition embodied in the sentiments spoken to me yesterday by Justice Clarence Thomas, and the commitment to our Founders’ vision of authority and the rule of law personified by Chief Justice Roy Moore.

As I took the oath of office yesterday at the U.S. Supreme Court, I placed my hand on those Scriptures which represent my defining prayer not only for this Court, but for every court in our great land. This prayer is summarized in the words of the Lord, who spoke through the prophet Isaiah, declaring:

I will restore your judges as in days of old,
and your counselors as at the beginning.

Afterward you shall be called, The City of Righteousness, the Faithful city.

(Isaiah 1:26)

Thank you for the great honor bestowed upon me today. I will always view my oath as solemn, binding and mission-defining.

May God guide us and direct us. May we boldly proclaim that it is God, Jesus Christ who gives us life and liberty. May we, as justices who have taken oaths to our God, never fear to acknowledge Him. And may the Alabama Supreme Court lead this nation in our gratitude, humility and deference, to the only true source of law, our Creator.

Thank you.

Tom Parker

Judicial servants vs. judicial tyrants

Tom Parker promises godly principle and godly action

Christians in Alabama and throughout the nation were frustrated and angered by the lack of godly leadership shown by the eight associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court in August 2003. The eight justices voted to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building–where the court sits–that Chief Justice Roy Moore had installed two years earlier. The Federal District Court for the Middle District of Alabama had ordered Moore to remove the monument, claiming that its presence was an establishment of religion. Moore refused to comply and the associate justices took action.

Tom Parker served as Deputy Administrative Director of Courts in the Alabama judicial system, a position to which Moore appointed him in 2001. In this office, he worked as general counsel for the court system and director of the Alabama Judicial College. He advised trial court judges and provided new judges with training and continuing education for trial judges in the state. He also served as legal advisor and spokesman for Moore, giving statements and arranging press briefings for Moore during the standoff at the judicial building. When Moore was removed from office for refusing to take away the monument, Parker also had his employment in the court system terminated because of his support of the chief justice.

Parker is campaigning in the Republican Primary for Alabama Supreme Court, Place 1. His opponent in this race is one of the associate justices who ordered the Ten Commandments monument removed. Parker points out that the Alabama judicial building is leased from the Alabama Building Authority and that the chief justice is the leaseholder of the building–and, therefore, can control the interior furnishings and decorations. When Moore was suspended from office, this authority passed to acting chief justice Gorman Houston who, according to Parker, could have ordered removal of the monument by himself. “The other justices did not have to get involved. They made a mistake by doing so,” Parker said.

A Montgomery native, Parker has been married for 22 years to Dottie. He attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and received his law degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He presently serves as Special Projects Manager for the Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery. The Foundation had provided legal funds for Moore and continues to work to combat judicial tyranny.

Prior to his work with the judicial system, Parker worked under Jeff Sessions in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. As an Assistant Attorney General, he handled criminal appeals and death penalty cases with experience presenting oral arguments before the Court of Criminal Appeals and the state Supreme Court.

Parker was a partner in the law firm of Parker & Kotouc. That firm was involved in two high-profile cases: the Mobile school prayer case Wallace v. Jaffree and the humanism textbook case Smith v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County. Parker also defended churches, ministries, Christian schools, and home schooling. He was founding executive director of the Alabama Family Alliance and the Alabama Family Advocates. Both organizations are associated with Focus on the Family and Dr. James Dobson. Parker also drafted pro-life legislation for Alabama and lobbied for the pro-life issue in the Alabama legislature. The Alabama Pro-Life Coalition was run out of his law office.

Parker believes the justices of the Alabama Supreme Court could have acted as buffers to the usurpation of the rights of the people and the state by thwarting efforts by the federal district court in the Ten Commandments case. “Instead, they voluntarily chose to get involved and vote to remove the Ten Commandments monument,” he said. Parker wants to serve the state with the interest of protecting the rights of the people–particularly the right to publicly acknowledge God. He says that, had he been a member of the Supreme Court during the standoff, he would have spoken out in opposition to attempts by the federal court to interfere with the state’s liberties.

Parker sees the courts as a body tasked with protecting liberty. Courts should not act as legislative bodies in order to create new laws or a pseudo-constitution. “Unfortunately, we are seeing the forces of political correctness at work in our nation and even coming here to Alabama to try to force their ways on us. We’ve seen the travesty of gay “marriage” being found to be a constitutional right by the state supreme court in Massachusetts. [And] the U.S. Supreme Court totally abandoned its means of judicial analysis in order to reach its desired goal of legitimizing homosexual activity.”

Parker knows from whence comes the authority to govern. He recognizes the same source of authority that the state constitution names: “Our constitution sets out God as the foundation for our judicial system. I cannot be faithful to our constitution [without recognizing] God as the One whose favor and guidance was invoked in the establishment of the state judicial system, as expressly set forth in the preamble of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901.”

He says that the acknowledgement of God is necessary to the constitutional government of Alabama. “Our state founding fathers, in every one of our constitutions throughout the history of Alabama, have included that important principle and cornerstone for our state government. Judicial systems have to have some moral or philosophical basis. Our system of justice is based on the Judeo-Christian belief system.”

“The Old Testament admonished judges not to make a distinction between the Jew and a stranger but to treat all equally. What that meant was that your national origins or your beliefs were not supposed to matter to the administrator of justice–it was only one–actions for which one could be held accountable. The whole concept of liberty of conscience was recognized in the judicial system of the Old Testament and protected by the first table of the Law, the Commandments I through IV. Your relationship as an individual with God is something that you were accountable to God for. And, government had no authority to try to–in any way–affect one’s belief in God or the manner of discharging the duties to God.”

Parker reminds Alabamians of their ability to counteract judicial tyranny: “We in Alabama are fortunate in having an elected judiciary. The check that the public has over judges at the polls saves us from what we have seen at the national level or in states with appointed supreme courts where those courts grabbed power and tend toward a totally new constitutional theory of judicial supremacy.”

One of the justices who sold out the rights of the state and of the people by bowing to the tyrannical will of a federal judge is campaigning for re-election. Alabama voters have a perfect opportunity to replace her with a man who is committed to acknowledging God and protecting citizens from the interference of despots. “Just like faith without works is dead, so too are principles without action. For too long, we’ve had judges telling us that they were opposed to judicial activism. But when the challenge came, they didn’t stand against it. We need state judges who have the moral courage to act on their principles and resist judicial tyranny.”

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