Alabama's First Lady
Mansion Is Haunted
While Hubby Fob James Fights For Prayer,
Decalogue, The First Lady Fears "Possessed"
Portraits In Governor's Residence
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
March 27, 1997
There's housecleaning with a vengeance going on at the Alabama Governor's Mansion in Montgomery. The state's First Lady, Bobbie James, has ordered that portraits of certain Confederate heroes be removed from the house after suggestions from a "spiritual advisor" that the paintings were "possessed."
According to reports in the New York Times, Huntsville (Alabama) Times and other sources, the fear of "possessed" paintings is due to Mrs. James involvement with extreme Christian charismatic sects which teach that the "holy spirit" manifests itself in physical ways, and her association with a woman named Paula Pendleton, who Mrs. James identifies as her "religious prophet." Pendleton's husband has been identified as a wholesale car dealer and "self-described lay minister" according to the Huntsville Times. At least one portrait, that of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis, was taken down and replaced with a reproduction of the Ten Commandments.
Mrs. James is also known to be holding weekly prayer gatherings in the official residence which are attended by the Pendletons and others. Governor Fob James recently appointed a son-in-law of the Pendletons to the Mobile County Board of Registrars.
The Governor has attracted national media attention recently for his
support of embattled Etowah County Judge Roy Moore, who opens judicial
proceedings with a Baptist prayer and posts the Ten Commandments in his
chambers. Those practices have been ruled unconstitutional; but a "cease
and desist" order has been put on hold while the case is reviewed
by the Alabama State Supreme Court. James has threatened to call out the
National Guard, State Police and the University of Alabama football team
if necessary to resist any court order from the federal government which
call for an end to the prayer in courtrooms, and removal of Ten Commandments
Violence A Possibility
In Alabama Prayer Flap
Religious Intolerance, Extreme Groups,
Belligerent Rhetoric Now Characterize
Efforts To Keep Prayer,
Ten Commandments In Government
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
April 4, 1997
The "Battle of Alabama" may be ready to turn nasty, even violent, as supporters of prayer and Ten Commandments postings prepare to kick off a series of heated rallies across the state.
The "Battle" is over Judge Roy Moore, an Etowah County Circuit Court Judge who has become the focus of national attention for his practice of opening judicial proceedings with a Baptist prayer, and posts a hand-carved plaque of the Ten Commandments in his chambers. The prayer and Decalogue postings were challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Alabama Freethought Association. Another circuit judge ruled in two separate decisions that Moore's prayer was unconstitutional, as was the Ten Comandments plaque which was clearly a religious display in what should be a secular, neutral environment. In fact, Judge Charles Price noted that the Baptist invocations were a form of "state-sponsored prayer that demonstrate a denominational preference (and) are proscribed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."
The rulings against Judge Moore, however, have ignited a firestorm of protests from religious organizations and government officials, including Gov. Fob James. James is on record as threatening to call out the state national guard, Alabama state police and even the University of Alabama football squad if necessary to resist any "federal" (i.e. District or Supreme Court) order which would end prayer and religious graffiti postings in government venues. In addition, Judge Moore has stated that he "will not take down the Ten Commandments, and I will not stop prayer" regardless of subsequent rulings. His case is now under review by the Alabama Supreme Court (whose judges are subject to popular election); that body is expected to rule in favor of Moore.
Threats of Confrontation, Bigotry
From the beginning, the battle over Moore's practices has been eliciting an extreme rhetoric not seen in recent confrontations over state-church separation. Governor James's threat is now considered a serious one, even though James -- who, along with his wife is an extreme fundamentalist charismatic Christian -- has been dismissed by more enlightened observers as a pathological demagogue. In February, he repeated his threat to use local police and athletes to resist enforcement of any court orders to stop prayer and religious graffiti; he told one Baptist prayer luncheon: "I say to my fellow Alabamians at this moment, the only way those Ten Commandments and that prayer will be stripped from that court is with the force of arms. Make no mistake about that statement."
There are now indications that tempers are growing short, rhetoric more
extreme, and threats of confrontation and even violence more likely.
In addition, it appears that while fundamentalist and evangelical groups
usually identified with the fight for government-orchestrated prayer
manifest an extreme distrust or suspicion for the internet, the "battle
of Alabama" has prompted the creation of a "Save the Commandments
Rally" site on the web at http://www.dbtech.net:80/rally/.
Slated for the April 12 rally at the Capitol are:
Other paricipating groups include the National Clergy Councl (which released an unflattering, Bible-based "moral fitness" evaluation of President Clinton prior to the November election), Eagle Forum (headed by anti-ERA maven Phyllis Schlafly), Alabama Family Alliance, Association for Judeo-Christian Values, Concerned Women for America and the Christian Defense League (an extreme anti-abortion group).
The involvement of some of these individuals and organizations could prove to be a publicity landmine for Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition, especially with the CC trying to position itself as a relatively moderate, respectable element within the Republican Party which now has come out in support of embattled House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
For instance, the Southern League is a secessionist group which, according to some critics, masks a racist and separatist agenda behind a veneer of propoganda extolling the virtues of regional customs, history and institutions. It is hosted on the internet by the extreme DixieNet; Dr. Michael Hill, president of the group, is a co-host of "The Voice of Dixie" program.
Both Randall Terry and the Christian Defense League represent the outer-fringe of the 'legal" 'anti-choice movement. Terry and CDL have become increasingly vocal in supporting those who have carried out acts of violence, even murder against abortion clinics and providers. Terry has exhorted his supporters to "let a wave of hatred wash over" them in order to galvanize their fight against legal abortion for women.
Violence From Below -- A Cue From The Top?
Some observers now feel that the prospect of violence in Alabama over the prayer and Ten Commandments issue is not one to be dismissed, or taken lightly. Indeed, irresponsible behavior (including violence directed at those who disagree with the religious right stance on prayer and the role of religion in government) is finding its biggest supporter right in the Governor's office. Governor James, in addition to threatening a mobilization of badge-wearing, uniform-sporting hoodlums, has promised that he "would use my office to the maximum to demonstrate total resistance." Church & State magazine recently noted that " 'massive resistance' is the term segregationists used to describe their battle against integration in the 50's and 60's."
The Governor's Mansion is also a showcase of bizarre religious belief on other fronts as well. The state's First Lady has removed certain portraits from the official residence, following encouragement from a "spiritual advisor" that they were "possessed" and might by haunting the building. Mrs. James also "believes" that a $580 million oil lease earning by the state was due to her husband's recognition of Israeli Independence Day back in 1981. Church & State notes that both Governor James and his wife used a state airplane to travel to a meeting of the Religious Roundtable group (an organization of far-right religious fatcats) And the Governor's official aid and legal advisor, Bill Gray, often grills applicants for judicial positions about their religious beliefs, and holds prayer sessions in his office.
James also enthusiastically embraced a program which would have required all textbooks in Alabama to carry an official "disclaimer" sticker concerning the teaching of evolution. The warning label admonishes students that evolution is merely a "controversial theory" among competing accounts of how life and the universe arose.
Riding A Wave Of "Religious Populism"
Gov. James's threat to defy and use "total resistance" against any federal court order ending prayer and other religious ritual in government courtrooms resonates with a growing religious right campaign over the issue of so-called "Judicial activsm." This label applies to judges who give unfavorable rulings on key religious right issues, including abortion, prayer in school, evolution, censorship and other questions. Indeed, rightwing pundit and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, while gushing support for James and Moore, declared in a recent syndicated column:"If the governor holds his ground, he can make Etowah County Courthouse the Concord Bridge of a Middle American revolution against our reigning judicial dictatorship." Buchanan added that "The American people were never consulted on whether they wanted school prayer, Bible study, or the Ten Commandments out of their schools and all expressions of religious belief expelled from public life." Echoing Buchanan's jingoistic rhetoric is Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, a spin-off from James Dobson's Focus on the Family. He describes the prayer controversy in Alabama as "an early shot in the coming national battle over the judiciary."
"Judicial activism" is one of a constellation of complaints which certain religious groups have fashioned as part of a wider political movement which might be termed "religious populism." This includes such characteristics as a distrust of governmental institutions which do not conform to a religious social agenda (as with the prayer issue), a sense that "people of faith" find themselves "under siege" by a government hostile to religious belief and expression, and a belief that America is a Christian or Judeo-Christian nation founded upon Biblical principles which have been abandoned. On a deeper level, this populism manifests itself as a reaction against social upheavel and change, the influences of a secular culture, and the ideas of modernity in general. Many of the groups identified with this emergent religious populism -- including the ones active in the Alabama prayer issue -- express dismay over issues such as gay rights, abortion, the changing role of women, and the separation of church and state in secular society.
Is The Situation Getting Out Of Hand?
While Gov. James, Pat Buchanan, Ralph Reed and others may benefit from
their political stand about prayer and other religious ritual in government,
the situation in Alabama definitely threatens to get out of hand, and even
turn violent. A rally held recently in defense of Judge Moore, for instance,
saw at least one extremist speaker implore the audience to "hate the
damn ACLU." And the governor has put his own imprimatur on possible
disobedience, resistance and violence directed against any subsequent court
order seeking to end prayer in Alabama courts and schools. This, coupled
with increased resentment against ''judicial activism'' could be a fertile
ground for violence . Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and other religious right
patriarchs could well find themselves in a midst of a fire they let get
out of control.
Judge: Muslims, Hindus,
Not Welcome to Pray in His Court
by Jessica Saunders
The Associated Press
April 9, 1997
Montgomery, Alabama -- Judge Roy Moore displays a plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and opens sessions with prayer.
And the judge, a Baptist whose fight to keep religion in his courtroom has inspired a national rally, invites others to pray with him -- as long as they're not Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists.
"They do not acknowledge the God of the holy Bible on which this country was founded," Moore says.
Tens of thousands are expected to attend a rally at the Alabama Capitol on Saturday to show their support for Moore, including national conservative leaders like Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition and the Rev. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association.
The judge has won wide support from conservative groups, as well as Alabama politicians and congressional leaders, as he appeals orders for him to stop opening court sessions with prayer and to remove or alter the wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments that hangs behind his bench.
Moore contends the First Amendment gives him the right to practice Christianity in his Etowah County Circuit courtroom.
Not all are aware that Moore draws a firm line against inviting anyone outside the Judeo-Christian tradition to conduct the prayers in his courtroom.
"My duty under the Constitution is to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian God," not the gods of other faiths, Moore said. "We are not a nation founded upon the Hindu god or Buddha."
While he would not invite representatives of other religions to lead prayers in his court, he would not stop them.
"That's their right," Moore said.
Some of the judge's supporters were troubled that Moore was insisting on his own religious freedom but limiting its practice to one faith only.
"My personal view is that our founding fathers would have permitted prayer from other denominations," said former U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Denton, who will lead the Pledge of Allegiance at Saturday's rally.
Gov. Fob James, who has vowed to call out the National Guard to defend Moore's beliefs if necessary, said he doesn't think Moore is being intolerant of non-Christians by refusing to invite them to pray in his court.
"I think that's his call," said James, a rally speaker. "You might ask Congress how many Hindu or Muslim leaders they have had to lead prayers."
The House chaplain, who invites about one pastor a week during sessions to give the opening prayer, said Tuesday in Washington that he recalled a Muslim giving it at the request of a congressman. Imam Siraj Wahaj was invited by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia) and gave the prayer in 1991.
"There's no exclusion that I know of," said the Rev. James Ford, a Lutheran who has been House chaplain for 18 years.
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, which has filed a brief opposing Moore's side in the lawsuit, is concerned that the judge appears to be endorsing a specific religion to the exclusion of others, said Jay Kaiman of the ADL's Southeast regional office in Atlanta.
"If I had a problem ... and I was in front of Judge Moore -- and he knew what I did for a living and he knew my faith -- I would feel that would bias his attitude," said Kaiman, who is Jewish.
Alabama Braces for
Saturday Prayer Rally:
Judge Moore Says America Founded
On Belief In "Particular Deity"
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
April 10, 1997
Organizers for a Saturday prayer rally supporting embattled Etowah County Judge Roy Moore announced their support for Moore's claim that America is "not a nation founded upon the Hindu god or Buddha. It is a particular deity we are talking about," namely, the Judeo-Chrstian god. That statement reportedly elicited disagreement, though, with some rally participants; but Associated Press and other media report that "tens of thousands" are expected to attend the April 12 gathering in front of the state capitol building in Montgomery. Some media pundits predict that it will be the largest gathering in Alabama history.
Judge Moore has attracted national attention for his controversial practice of opening judicial proceedings in his Etowah County courtroom with a Baptist invocation. He also posts a hand-carved copy of the Ten Commandments on the courtroom wall above his dais. Both practices have been challenged by the ACLU on behalf of the Alabama Freethought Association. Another Circuit Judge, Charles Price, has ruled that both the prayer and the Decalogue represent a violation of First Amendment state-church separation, but Moore remains defiant and insists that he will neither stop the invocation nor remove the Ten Commandments. Among Moore's vocal supporters is Alabama Governor Fob James, who has declared that he intends to resist any "federal" order to stop the prayer or take down the Decalogue, and will call out the National Guard, State Police, and even the University of Alabama football squad.
The effort to include prayer and other religious ritual in Alabama's schools, courts and other government venues has attracted support from major religious groups across the nation. Among those scheduled to address Saturday's event are Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, and Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. Televangelist Pat Robertson was invited to speak, but declined. James's office has reportedly been inundated with letters, some from individuals offering to join the Alabama guard. And organizers for the prayer rally describe a "publicity blitz" complete with newspaper ads, radio-television publicity, and even a site on the internet (http://www.dbtech.net:80/rally/). John Giles, chairman of the "Save the Commandments" group which is orchestrating Saturday's event, said earlier this week that he expects 2,000 religious radio stations throughout the nation to cover the rally live.
But as previously noted, the Saturday event is increasingly marked by extreme groups, divisiveness and belligerent rhetoric. The rally has attracted support from traditional religious right groups such as Christian Coalition and James Dobson's Focus on the Family, but even more extreme groups are involved as well. Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue is a scheduled speaker, along a representative from a secessionist group known as the Southern League. The Christian Defense League, an extreme anti-abortion group which has spoken out in defense of individuals who have engaged in acts of violence (including murder) against abortion clinics and employees is also involved.
There are new developments since our last dispatch, though, which suggest that the Saturday rally continues to drift in the direction of inflammatory rhetoric, racism, homophobia, confrontation and even violence.
Thirty eight sponsors have now signed on to support the "Save the Commandments" rally including the Council of Conservative Citizens which is based in Missouri and maintains an active chapter in Alabama. According to an Associated Press report, a posting on the group's internet site asks: "Is it racist to say that it is legally and morally wrong for government to force a mixing of the races to produce a mongrel race?" Among the Council's activities is a protest against the U.S. Civil War Center at Louisiana State University and the planned sesquicentennial celebration (which it terms a project by "liberal Senator John Breaux and signed by President Clinton, the 'Arkansas Scalawag'"). Links from COCC lead to other "heritage" and secessionist groups or publications. The American Renaissance magazine carries claims about "the superiority of ... the European-derived way of life," along with articles such as "Why We Revere Our Confederate Ancestors." Even more bizarre is another link oddly titled the American Civil Rights Review which extolls the alleged idyllic and self-esteem building properties of slaveocracy.
Despite COCC's racism and partitionist-secessionist overtones, though, demonstration Chairman John Giles said that "We're wanting to have this (Saturday's prayer fest) as a very positive, family-oriented rally." Associated Press and the Huntsville (Alabama) Times quote another "Save Our Commandments" organizer, Tom Blackberby, who claimed that the Council's Alabama Chapter had asked to be listed as a co-sponsor of the upcoming event. "We checked them out," insisted Blackberby, and they were not a political organization or a militia organization." He added that "If they were in some way a racist group, it would concern me." He obviously hadn't checked their website and literature.
Despite the involvement of groups like the Council and the Southern League with their penchant for glorifying "Southern tradition" and "culture", though, black churches appear to be lining up -- for now -- behind the prayer issue. When SOC Chair John Giles spoke to reporters last week on the steps of the Alabama Capitol, he was flanked by aide and rally coordinator Tom Blackerby, and a black minister identified as Clifford Terrell of the Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ.
Judge Moore hasn't been much help, however, in fostering the objective
of portraying the prayer rally as an interfaith, "family"-style
event. Earlier this week, AP reported that Moore "believes it's his
duty under the U.S. Constitution to recognize the Judeo-Christian
god, rather than the deity of other faiths. For that reason, he doesn't
invite non-Christian religious leaders to lead his courtroom prayer."
Prayer Rally Looms
"Army of God"
Threatening Dissent at
Alabama Prayer Rally?
But An Ad Hoc Group Of Individuals Will
Protest On Behalf of State-Church Separation,
Civil Liberties & Freedom To Disagree
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
April 11, 1997
There are reports that the "Army of God" group which has carried out violence against abortion clinics, and has been mentioned as a potential suspect in the Atlanta, Ga. Olympic Park bombings and other actions, is threatening anyone who protests tomorrow's rally in Montgomery, Alabama in support of Judge Roy Moore.
Even so, freethinkers with the Alabama Freethought Association (which initiated the original complaint against Moore for his practice of beginning court sessions with a Baptist prayer, and posting a copy of the Ten Commandments above his dais) say they're going ahead with carefully mapped plans to coordinate a demonstration of private individuals at the prayer rally. AFA leaders will be huddling with American Civil Liberties Union representatives before tomorrow's events, and have drawn up a list of "guidelines" for those individuals wishing to participate. Adam Butler of AFA is urging any participants to focus on the state-church separation aspects of this case, avoid antagonizing prayer boosters, refrain from engaging in (endless) religious debates of Jesus or the Bible, and exercise prudent judgment.
"Army of God"; Other Prayer Bullies: A Cue From Above
Threats from "Army of God" or other groups should surprise no one; tomorrow's prayer rally slated for the steps of the Capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama is being organized by "Save the Commandments," an umbrella group which has nearly 40 member organizations. Some of those are traditional religious right outfits such as the Christian Coalition, American Family Association and Concerned Women for America, but other more extreme organizations have also hopped on the Alabama prayer bandwagon. They include secessionist/partitionist "heritage" movements such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, and representatives from the Southern League. The "Save the Commandments" gathering has become a platform for other causes and issues now being linked to school prayer, some of which charge critics are rooted in racism, homophobia and regional jingoism. Indeed, smoldering altar calls such as neo-confederacy culture, could end up appropriating some of the resentment and energy expressing itself for god and the Decalogue.
But threats from "Army of God" are only part of the Alabama prayer cause saga which has seen religious and political figures become increasingly belligerent about this issue. Governor Fob James continues the refrain that he will call out the Alabama National Guard, state police, and even the University of Alabama football squad if necessary to resist any federal order which tells Judge Moore to end his courtroom religious rituals, and take down the Ten Commandments plaque. Religious right pundit Pat Buchanan, now back to his job as a nationally syndicated columnist following another run for the White House in the 1996 primaries, is pouring more gasoline on the fire, insisting that Judge Moore and his followers can become historic luminaries in "the fight against judicial activism" (a favorite term for those who don't like decisions favoring abortion, gay rights, evolution in schools, or related state-church issues). James had adopted a surprisingly extreme, "maximum resistance" stance to the prospect of any court order which might tell Judge Moore to cease and desist from praying on the public's time, and on the public's property. For himself, Moore has even dropped dark hints of being willing to go to jail rather than comply with the intent of the First Amendment.
Friday is a "Day of Repenting, Prayer & Fasting" for those
rallying behind the Alabama prayer bandwagon. And the "Save the Commandments'
group has attempted to organize churches throughout the country to ring
their bells for the first ten days of this month promptly at 10 a.m. as
a symbol of unity with Judge Moore in his defiance of the constitution.
If this all sounds like something from a news report filed from the West
Bank, it is no coincidence. Tomorrow's rally is billed as "A Call
for America to Alabama" for the faithful to "Come & Stand
with Gov. James & Judge Moore to protect the Ten Commandments."
It has all of the characteristics of a Holy War "Jihad," and
none of us should be surprised if subsequent chapters in this story turn
ugly and violent.
A Time For Differences;
a Time for Unity
April 11, 1997
One of the characteristics of nearly all conspiracy theories is that they often simplify and ultimately distort important facts in order to cobble together some pre-conceived Procrustean canvas in our minds. . Evidence that doesn't accord with some prejudiced idea, whether it has to do with UFO's or the existence of the AIDS-HIV virus, gets dismissed as irrelevant or, worse yet, part of a "cover-up." It is quite human -- and perhaps all too human -- to want to impose some mental order on our universe, but reality might have other plans. We are fallible creatures, we make mistakes, we don't always have the information we need, or properly evaluate the information we already have. We err.
Christian conspiracy theories have become quite popular throughout fundamentalist and evangelical circles; they have to do with some sinister cabal of Atheists, "secular humanists," freethinkers, evolutionists, materialists, scientists, sex-educators and other groups which have equally sinister plans for America. Whether it's one-world government, or rounding up and executing religious believers -- a scenario vividly played out in garish promos on Pat Robertson's 700 Club -- these conspiracy theories try to make sense of an increasingly complex, changing world with all of its ambiguities, contradictions and postmodernist absurdities through the certainty of a religion-tainted lens.
There is no "cabal," of course, and any sampling of Atheists, freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics and agnostics will indicate that there are probably as many differences as there are similarities. We are an incredibly diverse, often opinionated and head-strong group collection! Madalyn O'Hair often stated that "Atheists are the hardest group of people you could ever try to organize." There are myriad differences of opinion, not only on what it exactly "means" to be an Atheist, but on questions of strategy as well. Atheists groups can often, unconsciously, mirror their religious images with splits, squabbles, acrimonious disagreement and fallout over personal issues. The same types of organizational problems that plague corporations, fraternal clubs, or cause groups of any kind apply to us as well.
All of which accounts for why, when you sign on to a web search engine and look up keywords like "Atheism" or "Freethought," you will find dozens of different groups and publications (including American Atheists) with their own program and point of view. Need we say that this is inevitable? We also think it is good; no one organization can be all things to all people. Various groups, including ours, have their own agenda, priorities and "style." Atheism is not a "one size fits all" philosophy, despite the fact that Atheists may agree on a set of important general principles. Others might have important questions about those principles, which is why other terms find their way into this alphabet soup of labels and terms. A "freethinker" might be uncomfortable with being in an "Atheist" group, but perhaps we can agree on a principle such as state-church separation.
There are times, however, when important issues can overshadow those differences. The Alabama prayer battle is one example; the movement in support of Judge Moore and his unconstitutional and bigoted practice of conducting Baptist orchestrated prayer and posting a copy of the Ten Commandments in his court clearly violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and threatens to have national ramifications. It could well contribute to a tidal wave of support for a disingenuous Religious Freedom Amendment or other proposals. For once, we must agree with Pat Buchanan; Judge Moore and his supporters can indeed fire the opening salvo in a new religious-populist war within the American culture. Pat Buchanan, Ralph Reed and others clearly appreciate this fact, and so should we.
Hindsight is often 20/20. It is pleasantly indulgent to suggest "what if Atheists, freethinkers and other state-church separationists were descending on Montgomery, Alabama for tomorrow's rally?"
"What if Adam Butler and his associates who, tomorrow, will be out protesting Gov. James and Judge Moore and their anti-secularist agenda, had several hundred, or even several thousand (we can dream, can't we?) supporters standing behind them?"
If you can join this informal group tomorrow, we urge you -- by all means, please do so. But perhaps the "Save Our Commandments" rally can be a wake-up call not for Pat Buchanan and his army of religious populists, or the Christian Coalition with their own precinct-level political machine, but for Atheists and those who are close to our position -- but for whatever reason, do not use the feared "A-word." Perhaps it can be a message for an even wider segment of the population who support the important principle of separation of church and state. Perhaps we can learn something from the exemplary efforts of Mr. Butler and his comrades in the AFA as they unite their efforts on behalf of a specific, principled call for state-church separation.
No, were not proposing yet another dreary formal alliance, or umbrella group of our own complete with dues and some stultified bureaucratic structure. Nor are we suggesting that all of the different Atheist, freethough, rationalist and skeptic groups "unite" (under whose leadership? for what purpose?). We don't want to call some "conference of conferences," or draft some long-winded Proclamation of Unity. (It wouldn't work anyway, and this writer is not sure that it even should.) We in American Atheists do not propose to tell others what groups they should join, or how they should structure their organization. We realize that people have different opinions, agendas, structures and "styles." There are also dozens, if not hundreds of smaller, local-level chapters, groups and clubs which find themselves in relatively unique situations. Their strategy and tactics cannot and should not be dictated by any central authority. If there is anything to learn from the recent years of organizational history, it is that no one group or individual enjoys the monpoly on widsom of what does and does not work.
If you don't wish to join us, well, join some other group. Or start your own. Or become independent and work on your own schedule. We appreciate, albeit from some hard-learned lessons, mistakes and experiences of our own, that organizational diversity is not only a fact of life but a necessity. We respect the autonomy and independence of other groups, and we expect reciprocity from others on this important part.
There are times, however, when perhaps many of us can and should work together on an ad hoc, semi-formal basis when a specific issue warrants such attention. We submit that the Alabama prayer battle is one such case. In retrospect, we wish we could have done more to organize a grass roots demonstration to counter the "Save Our Commandments" prayer rally tomorrow, and make support for state-church separation more visible.
Let's take a cue, though, from Pat Buchanan. If Judge Moore and Governor James are firing the opening salvo in a new culture war battle, there will be other opportunities. If we can't participate with Mr. Butler and the Alabama Freethought Association tomorrow, perhaps we can at least build some bridges, encourage support and plan for the future. Maybe the next time, Mr. Butler will have those hundreds of committed Atheists, freethinkers, rationalists and state-church separationists backing him up.
Then let's see what Pat Buchanan says ...
Christians to Rally Behind
Judge's Display of Decalogue
by Jay Reeves
April 12, 1997
Montgomery, Alabama (AP) -- Judge Roy Moore is fast becoming a hero among some Christians who see his refusal to remove a display of the Ten Commandments from his court as a sign from God.
"Our passion is to see God's laws, which were the origin of our laws, brought back in front of people," said the Rev. Arthur Johnson of the Doers of the Word Church.
But others see the judge and the politicians who stand by him as trying to force their beliefs on others.
"He's trying to impose a state religion," said Hakeem Umrani, a Muslim who lives in Birmingham. "My tax dollars aren't separated from Christian tax dollars."
An Alabama court has already found that the display of the Christian tenets violates the Constitution by promoting one religion over another. Moore is appealing.
Various Christian groups are hoping Moore sticks to his guns, and have planned a rally today at the Alabama Capitol to show their support. Organizers say the rally will be attended by thousands of people.
Moore has plenty of support.
Gov. Fob James has vowed to call out the National Guard and state troopers if anyone tried to remove Moore's plaque. Scheduled to speak at the rally are former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes and Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed, as well as Moore and James.
The Southern League, which advocates secession by the South, was refused permission to act as a rally sponsor because of its views, and another group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, withdrew following news reports about racially charged postings on its Web site.
Moore was interviewed recently on the shortwave radio show of Christian
Identity leader Pete Peters, a white supremacist. He said he was unaware
of Peters' views.
Save the Commandments Rally
Remarks By The Honorable Fob James, Jr.
Governor, State of Alabama
Saturday, April 12, 1997
I thank the organizers of this rally, they have worked hard and done well: John and Debra Giles, Tom and Mary Jim Blackerby, Bob and June Russell, Eunie Smith, Rev. Pat Mahoney, Jim Burns, Bob Leavell, Jeff Barganier, Bob Macrory, Red Sanders, and hundreds of volunteers.
We appreciate the others participating today: Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, George Grant, noted author and lecturer, Don Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, Senator Jeremiah Denton, Ambassador Alan Keyes, head of the Declaration of Independence Foundation.
My fellow Alabamians welcome to Montgomery.
My fellow Americans from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a great big special hearty welcome to Montgomery, Alabama.
We gather to support Judge Roy Moore and his right to acknowledge God by the spoken word and to post the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. Judge Moore is a West Point graduate and a Vietnam veteran. He is a true patriot who knows the law and understands the Constitution and has the courage to stand by it. By defending his liberty, we preserve freedom for all Americans.
Judge Moore, hold a steady course. We are with you. Never doubt my resolve. There comes a time when free people will no longer tolerate their loss of liberty. That time has come.
Hear these words from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.... And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Rule by judicial fiat is not derived from the consent of the governed. The role of the judiciary is to make society live by the rules society has made, not to make the rules for society; thus, lawmaking by the U.S. Supreme Court is wrong, illegal, and chaotic.
What Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787 is applicable to judicial activists of today, and I quote:
"You seem ... to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.... The judges can issue their mandamus ... to no executive or legislative officer to enforce the fulfillment of their official duties, any more than the President or Legislature may issue orders to the judges or their officers ... The judges have at times overstepped their limit by undertaking to command executive officers in the discharge of their executive duties; but the Constitution, in keeping three departments distinct and independent, restrains the authority of the judges to judiciary organs, as it does the executive and legislative to executive and legislative organs."
In 1982, a judicial ego maniac, William Brennan, while a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, gave a speech in Boston in which he instructed "laymen" on the role of the Court. Listen carefully to the unabashed arrogance of Brennan:
"Some laymen tend to assume that law, and particularly constitutional law, is ... something which is fixed and certain if only we could capture it and pin down precisely what it means. My theme tonight is that we must know better."
Brennan seems to have missed the Preamble to the Constitution in which the "people of the United States," though mere laymen, are the ones who "ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Brennan seems also to have missed that it is exclusively legislators accountable to the people or the people themselves, not judges, who ratified "this Constitution," and who have the exclusive authority to amend it, and who have amended it from time to time, under the provisions of Article Five.
George Washington warned in his farewell address, "If in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way in which the constitution designates."
Of course, in Brennan's view, mere "laymen" who signed the Declaration, such as Benjamin Franklin, an engineer from Pennsylvania; Roger Sherman, a farmer from Conn.; John Witherspoon, a preacher from New Jersey; and Button Gwinett, a merchant from Georgia could not really understand the Constitution, because, as Brennan says, constitutional law must "transcend the printed page" and only the judges can reveal its "transcendent" meaning.
Brennan's arrogance displays either ignorance or fraud rampant on the High Court. Jefferson also said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be."
And now to judicial fraud in the religion cases. In the prayer and Bible reading cases of 1962-63, and in the Ten Commandments case of 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court deliberately defrauded the American people. Nothing in the nation's history would require the removal of prayer, Bible reading, or the Ten Commandments from the schools. To the contrary, for the preceding 174 years, prayer, Bible reading, and public expressions of faith were commonplace throughout the land.
A handful of judges, pushing their own ideological agenda that despises Judeo-Christian expression in the public arena, used their "due process" wildcard to revise the Constitution. They lifted "separation of church and state" out of context from a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. This phrase does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. It did appear in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. So these judges used a phrase from the Soviet Constitution -- separation of church and state -- to strike down prayers and Bible reading in American schools.
And these judges did not mean separation of church and state in the sense of protecting individual rights of conscience, which every state in the Union in 1962 already did. Instead, these judges meant the "domination of church by the state," that is, a few judges on the High Court would decide when and where expressions of faith in God by U.S. citizens would be tolerated.
The greatest domestic need in the American political system today is for a United States president to refuse to enforce U.S. Supreme Court decisions based on judicial fraud, as did Presidents Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln and for the U.S. Congress to impeach judges for subverting the Constitution as did the U.S. Congress of 1803, 1912, and 1936.
The Supreme Court's "wall of separation," as they call it, reminds me of another wall of separation to protect communist regimes so evil they had to erect walls to keep their people in.
On one side of the Berlin wall was freedom, on the other side tyranny. We have a wall of separation in America erected not by the people of the United States, but a few elitist judges on the Supreme Court. And behind this judicial wall of separation there is a tyranny based on lies that will fall as surely as the wall in Berlin fell. Let it fall.
The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." How could a U.S. Supreme Court, after 174 uninterrupted years of prayer in school, suddenly announce one dark morning in 1962 that prayer was no longer legal? They should not make law, but they did. And chaos and confusion have followed in the courts and in the schools and in every level of society.
It was Abraham Lincoln who in his first inaugural address denied that a Supreme Court decision should ever be considered the same as the Constitution itself. He said, "the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by the decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
In the first century of America's history, the views of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln prevailed. The power of the Supreme Court was limited.
In the second century of America's history, the views of the opponents of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln have prevailed. And the power of the Supreme Court has dominated.
In the third century of America's history, it is time to return to the views of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.
The Tenth Amendment makes the powers of the states clear, and I quote, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Let the Constitution of the United States of America, the greatest formula for freedom struck off by the pen of man since the Magna Charta, stand. Our founding fathers spoke so clearly. Yet for too many years, we have watched its original meaning slip away.
President Andrew Jackson, on his deathbed, was asked about his life and the future of America. The dying president pointed to the Bible that lay on the table by his bed and said to his companion, "That book, sir, is the rock on which our Republic rests."
Some 30 years ago, near where we stand today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bible in hand, threw down the guantlet when freedom hung in the balance. And now comes our moment of truth. Let us not rest until we can say that this was the day when the American people set their minds and hearts to return to the principles that served them so well for so long.
Thank you, and God bless you.