Governor Forrest James
Governor Forrest James is a native of Lanett, Alabama.
He was a starting left halfback on Auburn's football team in 1952, 1953,
1954 and 1955. He gained All-American status as a senior. As a freshman
he was third in the nation in kickoff returns. As a sophomore he led the
SEC with 6.7 yards per carry; his overall career mark was 5.5 yards per
carry. In 1955 Fob was the Atlanta Touchdown Club's Southeastern Conference
Player of the Year. He served as Governor of the State of Alabama, 1978-1982
and in 1995 began serving his second term.
The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center
August 1, 1995
All three branches of government are now engaged in the national debate over the role of religious expression in public schools and public places.
President Clinton, in a July 13 speech in Vienna, Va., attended by a broad range of religious leaders, joined the fray by spelling out what forms of religious expression are permitted in public schools. He directed the Education Department to inform all public school districts of the guidelines before school begins in the fall.
"The First Amendment does not require students to leave their religion at the schoolhouse door," Clinton said. "The First Amendment as it is presently written permits the American people to do what they need to do."
Clinton said that while he has disagreed with some of the Supreme Court's rulings on establishment clause issues, "the direction of the First Amendment has been very good for America and has made us the most religious country in the world by keeping the government out of creating religion, supporting particular religions, interfering with other people's religious practices."
The genesis of Clinton's remarks was a "joint statement of current law" signed by 34 religious groups and separationist organizations in April. The American Jewish Congress, which led the effort to draft the joint statement, applauded Clinton's speech as "a welcome and ringing affirmation of the spirit of the First Amendment."
Clinton's remarks came against the backdrop of the Supreme Court's recent rulings on religious expression. Those decisions, while not directly related to public schools other than universities, have generally been viewed as opening the door to greater government accommodation for religious expressions.
The most visible action by the high court this past term specifically on the issue of religion in the schools came June 26, when the court set aside an appeals court ruling that said student-initiated graduation prayer was improper under the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals case (Harris v. Joint School District) involved prayer at a Rangeville, Idaho, high school graduation.
While the court's action came on technical grounds, advocates of religious expression interpreted it as a tacit approval of student-initiated prayer in schools.
"School board members, parents, teachers, all say they don't know what's permitted," says Charles Haynes, who wrote Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion and Public Education. "Many of these mistakes flow from that confusion."
Clinton's entry into the debate was also aimed at blunting the campaign by Christian conservatives and many congressional Republicans in favor of a constitutional amendment to protect religious expression.
Supporters of an amendment said Clinton's speech did not change the fact that the Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment in ways that unduly restrict religious practices, especially in schools. "A constitutional amendment is the only way," said Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla, who has spearheaded the campaign.
Church-and-state case set to take new twist
The Ten Commandments have no place in the courtroom, nor should court sessions begin with a prayer, said the plaintiffs in a recently dismissed Alabama church-and-state case.
The State of Alabama has moved the issue to a federal court by filing a separate suit requesting the court to declare that the display does not violate the State or the U.S. Constitution.
The Alabama Freethought Association, along with three Gadsden residents, filed the original suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy Moore, who refuses to stop prayer or remove the religious statements from his courtroom.
"The Ten Commandments represent the foundation of our law and government," said Moore, whose attorneys had filed a motion asking Judge Robert B. Propst to dismiss the lawsuit.
Copyright 1995 The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center
September 4, 1995
Volume 146, No. 10
Unequal In The Law
August 28, 1996
It is not often that a divorce case draws 200 spectators. Of course, it isn't every day that a judge like Roy Moore faces a case of divorce which involves homosexuality.
Moore made headlines for having a replica of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and for having Christian clergy open his court sessions with prayer. Now a sought-after speaker among Christian conservative groups and a poster boy for breaking down the separation of church and state, Moore has sued the American Civil Liberties Union saying the ACLU is trying to establish the religion of secular humanism in public life.
Moore ruled in January  that Suzanne Scott Borden, who had an extramarital affair with another woman, could not have custody of her children and was to visit them only under the supervision of her parents.
Borden, mindful of Moore's very public beliefs, felt she could not get a fair hearing in front of Moore and wanted another judge to hear the case.
Moore, in his decision, said Borden's relationship was against the laws of Alabama and "the laws of nature". When does a judge swear to uphold the "laws of nature"? Isn't a judge supposed to rule on the laws of the state?
In the most outrageous aspect to this story, Moore's former media coordinator, Dean Young, invited Gadsden church-goers to fill the courtroom for the hearing, saying "the people of Etowah County are going to stand against the homosexual lifestyle and against things that are against the laws of God."
This was not an instance of justice being served. This was a judicial
lynch mob, an example of a judge's bench being turned into a pulpit.
Governor with a Mission
by Adam Cohen in Montgomery, Alabama
September 4, 1995
Caller number 10 to Fob James' radio call-in show is upset. A huge cross that stood on state-owned property along a highway in Gulf Shores, Alabama, was taken down under a federal court order, and Caller 10 wants to know how to get permission to put it back up. Now, Fob James has a lawyer right here in the studio to advise on pesky issues like church-state conflict. But James doesn't turn to his lawyer. He just leans into the mike and issues marching orders: "Get your cross, just like the one that was there, go on back there, and put it back up. I'll tell 'em you're on your way." James can do that. Heck, he's the Governor.
Heck, he's Fob James. The Republican landslide that transformed the U.S. Congress last fall also ushered in a gaggle of ardent G.O.P. conservatives in state capitals around the country. But James, 60, is more a throwback than a young zealot. He has spent his first seven months in office loading up one discarded policy of the Old South after the other and lobbing them at Alabama's moderates, minorities and, yes, at the federal judiciary. "We are going in the same direction as the rest of the country, but we are more extreme," says Auburn University professor Wayne Flynt.
Certainly that describes James' penal philosophy, unveiled in April, when Alabama became the nation's first state to restore the prison chain gang, putatively as an "experiment." Last week, judging the experiment successful, the James administration began strapping leg irons every day on 160 prisoners at the Limestone Correctional Facility so they could be sent to break rocks with sledgehammers.
Lest local civil-liberties lawyers tire of cruel-and-unusual punishment cases, however, James has also engaged them in the First Amendment arena. He has called for a law permitting school prayer (not a moment of silent prayer, but the vocal kind). Specifically, he embraced the cause of Judge Roy Moore, whom the American Civil Liberties Union has sued for praying over his Etowah County courtroom. James not only raised money for Moore's defense; the Governor is suing the aclu for suing Moore.
In fact, in true Alabama tradition, James is at war with the law. State and federal judges have, at one time or another, declared Alabama's public schools, mental institutions and foster-care system constitutionally inadequate. Rather than giving in to judicial rulings he dislikes, James inveighs against "pygmy-headed, pea-brained so-called jurists," harking back to the time when Governor George Wallace recommended "barbed-wire enemas" for federal judges. More substantively, James introduced a long-shot bill that would allow the legislature and the Governor to overturn rulings of the Alabama Supreme Court from which three or more judges dissent. Says Flynt: "He's arguing philosophical points that have not been debated in 200 years."
James is also upsetting another, more recent achievement. Alabama's racial climate has improved steadily in recent years . But one of James' first official acts this year was to cut sharply the number of minority voting registrars, an emotional issue in a state where many blacks remember the poll tax. Hard feelings were made worse when James initially named an all-white cabinet, only later adding one black -- as tourism officer.
James is unapologetic, saying he just likes to do the right thing and "let the chips fall where they may.'' His supporters tout James as the future of American politics, and are advising Republicans nationwide to take note. But others say James is an anomaly. He was elected by a razor-thin margin -- about 11,000 votes out of almost 1.2 million cast -- in large part due to the weakness of the scandal-plagued Democratic incumbent. It will be three more interesting years before the state's voters decide whether the old days should be left behind.
Copyright 1995 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Ten Commandments Posting
in Courtroom Challenged by
Alabama Freethought Association
ACLU "Hates Christianity,
The Christ Of The Bible!" Says Minister
Once again, the question of whether prayer
and the Ten Commandments are really religious
has been raised in a court of law.
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
September 13, 1996
In Montgomery, Alabama, a hearing was conducted yesterday in the case of Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy Moore, who insists on posting the ten commandments in the hearing chamber and opening judicial proceedings with a public prayer led by a minister. That practice has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union; a federal judge dismissed the suit, but it carried over into state court in Montgomery. Judge Moore now enjoys the support of the state Attorney General's office, as well as several hundred people who clogged the front of a county courthouse yesterday for a rally.
Events quickly got out of hand. Following a round of prayer and hymn singing from the flag and plackard waving crowd, Rev. Mickey Kirkland of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Montogomery, Alabama, took the podium and told listeners that "The ACLU hates Christianity, the Christ of the Bible and we hate the ACLU." He reportedly termed the team of ACLU lawyers "blood-sucking parasites."
That was too much even for the embarrassed local head of the Alabama American Family Association; Dean Young tried to admonish the crowd that "We love the ACLU, we just don't agree with them."
Rev. Kirkland ran for governor in the 1994 GOP primary.
Inside the hearing room, though, lawyers for both sides admitted a finding-of-fact that the only person who had ever complained about prayer in Judge Moore's court was permitted to leave and return later. A report in the Birmingham News noted that Civil Liberties Union attorney Bobby Segall argued the coercive nature of the ten commandments plaque; he added that only Christian ministers had been asked to lead the prayer in Judge Moore's courtroom, and that any lawyer who happens to leave the chamber over the prayer issue risks offending certain jurors.
The attorney for Judge Moore told officials that the U.S. Supreme Court's practice of calling on god to bless its proceedings was the same as a prayer. Segall quickly noted that ACLU would agree if Moore constrained himself to that practice alone.
Back outside, Roy Moore told supporters that "All the Ten Commandments and prayer is an acknowledgement of the Almighty God," (sic) adding that "We will not back down from that." The Birmingham News says that Moore also described the commandments as "the foundation of our laws."
Local atheist Larry Mundinger took a dim view of the proceedings, saying that "this is a place where being an atheist can be dangerous to one's person, property and employment."
Amen! to that!
The New York Times
in Election Choice
by Kevin Sack
September 28, 1996
Gadsden, Ala. -- The people of Etowah County, explains the Rev. Aaron Johnson, the preacher at the First Baptist Church of Gadsden, are a little bit different. In their distinctly Southern way, they are a tad mistrustful, a bit suspicious. Even in the best of times, it seems, they fear that distant forces may be conspiring to take their jobs and undermine their values.
Maybe, Johnson suggests, it is all the talk out of Washington about gun control and gay marriages. Maybe it is because even in the best of times, the economy of this blue-collar city of 45,000 people in northeastern Alabama never quite feels secure.
The steel mill has been sold and sold and sold again, three times in a dozen years. With contract talks approaching at the Goodyear factory, the plant manager has distributed an ominous letter warning employees of a "crisis" caused by global competition. Memories linger of the old Dwight Cotton Mill, which was closed by a strike in 1959 and then stood abandoned for 20 years as a reminder of the capriciousness of life.
"They're skeptical, untrusting, almost as if there's a feeling of paranoia," Johnson said of the members of his congregation. "I made the statement from the pulpit one day that 'just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.' And nobody laughed. I may have gotten a few 'amens' on that, but nobody laughed."
Inevitably in a campaign year, that skepticism and uncertainty seeps into the region's politics.
It is not simply that people here are unenthusiastic about their choices, which many describe as being between the lesser of two evils. It is that they are struggling to sort out conflicting impulses. Unlike the old days, when there was only one party in Alabama, voters here, as throughout the state and much of the South, have found that the party that is best for their pocketbooks is not always best for their principles.
They are weighing their often disdainful feelings for President Clinton against the relative prosperity of their lives under a Democratic administration. They are drawn to the conservative values embraced by the Republican Party, but are uninspired by its standard-bearer, Bob Dole.
When they read the headlines, they see their way of life under assault. Down at the county courthouse, lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union are trying to force Judge Roy Moore of the circuit court to remove the Ten Commandments from the wall of his courtroom. When he is not on trial himself, Moore is hearing the divorce case of a lesbian who is seeking custody of her child.
And yet, times are about as good here as they have been in recent memory. The county's unemployment rate is now at 5.1 percent, down from 14 percent in 1984, and is the lowest in 20 years. Sales tax revenue has increased by an average of 15 percent a year for the last five years.
At Gulf States Steel, the second-largest employer in Gadsden, it has been three years since the last round of downsizing. Workers are being paid an average of $17 an hour, and last year they received nearly $5,000 each in profit sharing.
Steven G. Blackwell, a burly young steelworker from nearby Collinsville, used his profit-sharing money to buy lumber for the house he is building. He gives the president much of the credit for the health of the economy.
But in a state where cultural conservatism reigns and character counts, Blackwell has deep reservations about Clinton -- about his integrity, about his alleged marital infidelity, about his smoking marijuana, about his support for abortion rights, about "those shady Whitewater dealings."
"He has no morals whatsoever," Blackwell said of the president.
And so, after voting Republican in the last two presidential elections, Mr. Blackwell finds himself wavering between Clinton and Dole.
"I never thought I would see the day," he said, shaking his head as he lumbered toward the mill gate to start a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift.
Another steelworker, C.T. Abney, who has worked at the mill for 32 of his 54 years, said the economy had persuaded him to vote Democratic.
"If the economy went bad, I probably wouldn't vote for Clinton," Abney said. "Some of these moral issues I don't like, like this gay business. I don't give a flip for that. But right now the good outweighs the bad."
That Blackwell, Abney and other white, blue-collar workers would even consider voting for Clinton is a somewhat remarkable development. They are exactly the kind of voters who have transformed Alabama into a reliably Republican state in recent years.
But like the steelworkers, Alabamians interviewed across the state last week -- whether at a coffee shop in Birmingham, a feed barn in Snead or an outlet mall in Boaz -- often had difficulty reconciling their optimism about a stable economy with their contempt for declining standards of morality.
They rarely expressed anxiety about the economy and almost never volunteered any interest in tax cuts, the centerpiece of Dole's economic plan. They voiced amorphous fears that cutting the size of the federal government would endanger the elderly and threaten jobs in agriculture, the military and NASA, all major employers in Alabama.
But they also were quick to criticize the Clinton administration about its moral tone. Many volunteered particularly strong feelings about homosexuality, a subject they tie directly to Clinton because of his support for allowing lesbians and gay men to serve openly in the military.
"I don't agree with it, giving gays rights in the workplace," said Wayne Ragsdale, a 60-year-old mechanic from Allgood. "If God had meant for two of the same sex to be all right together, he wouldn't have made the other one."
The politics of culture and values is vital in Alabama. Natalie Davis, a Democratic political scientist at Birmingham Southern College, said her "fundamental axiom about Alabama politics is that we vote for people we like, not necessarily people we agree with."
That helps explain why the state attorney general, Jefferson B. Sessions 3d, the Republican nominee for the Senate, took along both a former vice president, Dan Quayle (family values), and a former stock car racer, Bobby Allison (Southern culture), on a bus tour of Alabama last week. At a few stops Quayle actually won more applause than Allison.
With the exception of Jimmy Carter in 1976, no Democratic presidential candidate has carried Alabama since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Clinton has not stepped foot in the state since April 1992. The governor, a United States senator and three of seven members of Congress are Republicans.
In January, 10 Democratic judges from Birmingham defected to the Republican Party en masse. And when a special election for sheriff was held in Birmingham this year, the Democrats did not even field a candidate.
History suggests that the president and the Democratic Senate nominee, State Senator Roger H. Bedford, should be considered underdogs this fall. But the most recent polls indicate that both the presidential race and the Senate campaign are closely contested.
The numbers do not suggest that Alabamians are growing less conservative. Rather, they reflect the ability of Democratic politicians to outrun accusations of liberalism by embracing all manner of conservative positions and by speaking unceasingly about their "Alabama values."
To distinguish itself from the national Democrats, the Alabama Democratic Party adopted its own platform this year, stating that schools should not be hostile to any child's religious belief, emphasizing its support for the death penalty and acknowledging the right of Democrats to differ on such issues as abortion and gun control.
Bedford boasts of voting for Ronald Reagan in 1980. He opposes abortion rights and allowing homosexuals to serve in the military, describes himself as a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, favors repeal of the ban on assault weapons and says he would have voted for strict time limits on welfare benefits. Asked in an interview what makes him a Democrat, he replied, "I believe in helping people."
Cultural conservatism is so deeply entrenched here that candidates of both parties seem as eager to profess their faith in Jesus as their opposition to gun control.
In his stump speech, Bedford, a 40-year-old lawyer from Russelville, makes a point of describing his prayerful recovery from lymphoma in 1990, and how it nurtured a "strong belief in God." Sessions, who is 49 and from Mobile, is broadcasting a television commercial in which he testifies: "I believe in fundamental values. I believe there is truth. I believe there are principles which are unchanging, that there is a God in heaven who orders the universe."
Back at the First Baptist Church, Johnson, a loyal Republican, can appreciate that sentiment. But he also acknowledges that the economic edginess in Gadsden may lead people to vote Democratic.
"The question," he said, "is how far will they go with
the Democrats if the Democrats leave their morality? How much is their
job security worth?"
Minister: "ACLU 'Blood-Sucking Parasites'"
Gets Out of Hand
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
November 23, 1996
In Montgomery, Alabama, Judge Roy Moore is at it again. Moore has attracted national attention for his policy of opening legal proceedings with prayer, and posting a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom. A Circuit Judge heard arguments in September from attorneys with the ACLU, who maintained that Moore was, in effect, practicing his religious faith in court.
A rally organized on September 11 to support Judge Moore "got out of hand" according to press reports when a local minister charged that Christians should hate the ACLU since it "hates Christianity, (and) the Christ of the Bible." Rev. Mickey Kirkland called opposition attorneys "blood sucking parasites," phraseology too strong for even former Moore media advisor Dean Young, who now heads the state American Family Association. Young quickly told media and the crowd of Moore supporters, many of whom were praying and singing hymns, that "We love the ACLU, we just don't agree with them." Moore told his supporters that posting the Ten Commandments and praying in the courtroom was "an acknowledgment of the Almighty God."
Yesterday, it was learned that Judge Moore has won a partial victory in the case; Montgomery County Judge Charles Price said that Moore can no longer open sessions of his court with prayer, but may still post the religious plaque
But the Alabama Court of Civic Appeals has ruled in a separate matter that Judge Moore's religiosity may be a barrier to fair judicial conduct in a case involving a lesbian mother's divorce case. Susan Scott Borden has argued that Moore's "over Christianity" (Associated Press) makes him a "poor choice to preside in the case." Borden's suit also maintained that Moore would be hostile toward her own attorney, Janice Hart, due to her work on behalf of the ACLU.
The Appeals court ruling was quickly denounced by the state branch of
the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal group founded
by televangelist Pat Robertson. Center spokesman Stewart Roth told the
Huntsville-Times: "I believe this (ruling) sounds a warning
to every man and woman who sits on a bench in Alabama to not discuss their
religious beliefs, not to discuss their views and not to stand up in church
and share their beliefs because it can come back to haunt you."
The Trial Will Go On -- And So Will Prayer!
Judge Says He'll
Continue Courtroom Prayer
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
November 24, 1996
An Alabama county judge says that he will continue to open courtroom sessions with prayer, despite a ruling by another court that the practice is unconstitutional. Etowah county circuit court judge Roy Moore has been embroiled in legal problems over a number of practices, including displaying a copy of the Ten Commandments in the courtroom and beginning judicial proceeding with a prayer. Last week, Judge Charles Price ruled that while Moore may display the Ten Commandments, he must cease the prayer ritual in his courtroom.
But Judge Moore now insists that he will defy the ruling. The feisty jurist told Alabama Radio Network that "acknowledgment of God is not now, or ever has been, a violation of the U.S. constitution." Dean Young, head of the Alabama Family Association and a close confident of Judge Moore, said that if fines are imposed they will not be paid, and that mass arrests are possible.
Moore also told The Birmingham News that "I consider it my duty to acknowledge God. To take down the Ten Commandments and to stop holding prayer would be a violation of that duty. I will not take down the Ten Commandments and I will not stop holding prayer."
The order from Judge Price declared that the courtroom prayer must "immediately cease and desist." Copies of the ruling were distributed to all court clerks and judges throughout the state."
Moore also defended the prayer by saying that it was a "tradition" in Etowah County, "and also because of the message it sends to children (Birmingham News)."
"Moore recited the history of the founding of the United States and the role that prayer played in it," reported the paper. "He (Moore) said the separation of church and state does not divide God and country. And he declared that Americans have been misled into believing that public prayer is a violation of the U.S. Constitution."
Moore's decision to defy the circuit court order was supported by a rally of about 75 people outside the Etowah county courthouse. Young warned that "If Judge Moore is found in contempt of court for defying this order, I hope Judge Price will think very seriously about being found in contempt of the Almighty Judge." The News reports that Young is circulating a petition to the Alabama State Supreme Court to review the case and "acknowledge that the nation was founded on God's law."
Meanwhile, Huntsville Atheist Larry Mundinger reports that Birmingham radio talk show host Hank Irwin has stated that Governor Fob James might use the National Guard to keep Judge Moore in the prayer business. "Normally I would chalk that up to big talk and bravado," said Mundinger, "but I'm not sure about this bunch."
Alabama Attorney General Wants Ten Commandments Posted
New State Attorney
General Boasts He's
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
December 28 1996
Alabama, a state which boasts everything from poverty and illiteracy to "get tough" chain gangs and a strong fundamentalist religious presence, now has something new to be dubiously proud of. The new nominee for State Attorney General, Bill Pryor, wants to display copies of the Ten Commandments in every courtroom, and has declared that he is "a strong Christian and very proud of it."
Pryor has been hand-picked by Alabama Governor Fob James, himself a fundamentalist and booster for everything from school prayer to efforts to involve churches in social services at taxpayer expense. He will serve out the remainder of the term for the present Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who won election to the U.S. Senate last November. The 34-year-old Pryor has served as deputy attorney general for two years; he is perhaps best known in national media for being Alabama's "point man" in defense of controversial Circuit Court Judge Roy Moore of Etowah County. Moore has insisted on opening court proceedings with a prayer invocation conducted by local clergy, and displays a copy of the Ten Commandments in his chamber. A recent court decision ruled that the latter was clearly unconstitutional, although Moore has vowed to fight the ruling. Commandment supporters organized vigorous rallies outside of the Etowah County Courthouse recently which "got out of hand" when individual speakers told the crowd of "hating" groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.
Future AG Pryor says that in addition to being "a strong Christian," he defends Ten Commandment postings in government buildings.
Mr. Pryor is no stranger to Alabama's rough political turf. Two years ago he helped local Republicans block the counting of unwitnessed absentee votes, and helped to overturn an agreement that would have handpicked more black judges for the state appeals court. He also boosted a redistricting scheme for the State Board of Education which reduced the percentage of black voters in the districts of the two State Board members.
Fights Prayer Ruling
Copyright 1996, The American Civil Liberties Union
All Rights Reserved
February 6, 1997
MONTGOMERY, AL -- Gov. Fob James promised full defiance of an attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to remove prayer and the Ten Commandments from an Alabama courtroom, the Associated Press reports.
James told a Baptist gathering that he would use state troopers and the National Guard to stop anyone trying to remove prayer and a religious display from Circuit Judge Roy Moore's courtroom.
"The only way those Ten Commandments and prayer would be stripped from that Courtroom is with the force of arms," he said.
ACLU attorney Bobby Segall dismissed James's remarks as "pure, raw political demogoguing."
The ACLU challenged Moore's display of a hand-carved replica of the Ten Commandments and his opening court with a prayer. In a ringing affirmation of the importance of separation of church and state powers, the court banned state-imposed prayer in the courtroom in all of Alabama's 67 county jurisdictions, including Judge's Moore's. Moore has said that he will continue the prayers despite the ruling.
The lower court permitted Moore to keep the Ten Commandments display, a decision the ACLU has appealed. A Circuit Judge is scheduled to visit Moore's courtroom tomorrow to inspect the display.
"Judge Moore made clear time and again that display of the Ten Commandments is not historical or educational, but, in his words, an acknowledgment of God,'" said James Tucker, special projects counsel for the ACLU of Alabama. "We think the circuit court will agree that Judge Moore's kind of display fails the legal test of separation of church and state."
Tucker noted that when Gov. James was campaigning in 1994, he made similar threats to call out the national guard, as well as the University of Alabama football team, to defend courtroom prayer.
"Governor James seems to believe in the separation of powers when
it serves his political ends," Tucker said. "But when the judicial
branch issues an order that he doesn't like, he is apparently willing to
misuse his executive powers -- not to mention the National Guard and the
Alabama football team -- to stop the enforcement of court orders."
Alabama Religion -- At The Point Of A Gun!
Alabama Governor Says
He'll Call Guard, Cops
to Keep Prayer and
Plaque in Courtroom
"A scheme to force the President to take the unpopular position
of nationalizing the Guard to enforce the First Amendment?"
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 6, 1997
Alabama Governor Fob James -- no friend of state-church separation -- has told a Baptist prayer luncheon that he will use the Alabama State Troopers and the National Guard to resist any court orders which strike prayer or the Ten Commandments from the courtroom of a state judge.
The governor's remarks were in reference to the case of controversial Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy Moore, who has included an opening prayer in chamber proceedings, and posted a religious plaque of the Ten Commandments in the courtroom. Following a lawsuit filed on behalf of plaintiffs by the American Civil Liberties Union, another county judge, Charles Price, ruled in late November that Moore could retain the Commandment plaque but was required to desist from opening session of his court with a prayer. Plaintiffs maintained that the prayer and the plaque violated state-church separation; but Judge Moore insisted that specifically Christian prayers and symbols belong in courts of law.
A Religious Cause -- And One Getting Out Of Control
Judge Moore's insistence on keeping prayer and religious symbols in the courtroom has resulted in a wave of support from various religious groups, many identified with extreme fundamentalist and evangelical causes. In September, a rally which attracted hundreds of prayer enthusiasts to the front of the Etowah county courthouse heard one speaker, Rev. Mickey Kirkland of the Lighthouse Baptist Church, suggest that Christians should "hate" the ACLU. Rev. Kirkland told his audience that "The ACLU hates Christianity, the Christ of the Bible, and we hate the ACLU!" He called plaintiffs' attorneys "blood-sucking" parasites.
Other groups active in the Moore crusade to keep religion in the public courtroom include the American Family Association, and a local group identified as the Christian Family Association. In proceedings, Judge Moore was defended by attorney's of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice. And Rev. D. James Kennedy, a major religious fundamentalist activist has also entered the fray. Ridge is one of the "signs and wonders" evangelists linked to the leadership of groups like Promise Keepers and Trinity Broadcasting Network (a major outlet for "doomsday" eschatology). His Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is one of the major new "megachurches", and Kennedy has also been involved in the founding of questionable movements like the now-defunct Moral Majority, and the semi-secret Council on National Policy.
A Judge Out of Control?
While the prayer flap was heating up, though, Judge Moore was getting into other hot water. In late November, an appeals court ordered him to step aside in a case involving a divorce proceeding with a lesbian mom. Susan Scott Borden argued that Moore's overt Christianity would bias him in any proceedings, and that religion would also be a prejudicial factor since her attorney, Janice Hart, was also cooperating with the ACLU. Judge Moore had ruled earlier, in a decision giving temporary custody of the children to Borden's ex-husband, that he felt strongly "that the minor children will be detrimentally affected by the present lifestyle of (Borden) who has engaged in a homosexual relationship during her marriage forbidden both by the laws of the state of Alabama and the laws of nature."
One Governor -- Under God?
Governor Fob James has emerged as the leading state political figure firmly supporting Judge Moore in his battle to keep prayer and religious graffiti in public courtrooms. James himself has staked out extreme territory when it comes to the role of government and religion; in November, for instance, he told a meeting of ministers that "A good butt-whipping and then a prayer is a wonderful remedy" to the problem of juvenile crime. Standing beneath a banner which read "Righteousness Exalts a Nation," Governor Fob also told the assembled pastors that he supported "Operation Shepherd," a controversial scheme proposed by a state panel that called for church involvement in social welfare activities, including the tutoring of children. It also called for a 30-second period of "silent, voluntary prayer" in the state's public school classrooms.
"Let us have a battle cry," declared Fob as he gushed with approval of Operation Shepherd. "What should it be? How about Hallelujah?"
Moore To Resist
Meanwhile, back in Etowah County, Judge Moore has stated that he is not satisfied with the November 22 ruling from fellow-judge Charles Price, who had said that courtroom prayer must "immediately cease and desist." Price ordered distribution of copies of his rulings to all court clerks and judges throughout Alabama. Moore, however, told the Birmingham News and other media: "I consider it my duty to acknowledge God. To take down the Ten Commandments and to stop holding prayer would be a violation of that duty. I will not take down the Ten Commandments, and I will not stop holding prayer."
A Religious Confrontation With Clinton?
Alabama atheist Larry Mundinger said earlier today that he wonders if the latest move by Governor James wasn't just "a scheme to force the President to take the unpopular position of nationalizing the Guard to enforce the First Amendment." Mundinger compared this show-down with an earlier national disgrace, when former Governor George Wallace stood at the entrance to the University of Alabama to resist a desegregation order; in that case, too, the federal government intervened and nationalized the state guard.
And yesterday, Dean Young -- a close friend of Moore's, and head of the state Christian Family Association -- delivered the following address on WDJC in Birmingham.
"In the 1960's, Christians stood idly by as prayer and Bible reading were taken out of our schools. In 1980 the Ten Commandments were taken off the walls of our schools also, and we've seen the result of that. In 1997, we're having an opportunity here in Alabama to get involved in the next landmark decision involving Judge Roy Moore and the Ten Commandments and prayer in Gadsden, Alabama. How can we get involved? It's very simple. The Christian Family Association has a petition, a statewide petition. We're asking Christians to get involved by signing this petition. Dr. D. James Kennedy with the Coral Ridge Ministries believes so much in this project that he's sponsoring a full page ad in Sunday's Birmingham News with a petition in the ad. So please, get the petition and circulate the petition around your church and get these petitions signed and we'll send a message to the Supreme Court Justices of Alabama that we Christians do believe in the Ten Commandments and prayer..."
Thugs For Prayer in Alabama
James Digs In Over
Courtroom Prayer Order
Alabama Governor "Dares" President To Federalize
Guard To Remove Decalogue, End Prayer In Courts
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 8, 1997
Alabama Governor Fob James continues his defiant posture against a court order calling upon a state judge to "cease and desist" for conducting public prayer in his chambers. Last Wednesday, James caused a media feeding frenzy when it was learned he had told a legislative prayer lunch in Montgomery that he would "run over with the state troopers and the National Guard' to prevent removal of Ten Commandments plaques and prayer rituals from the courtroom of Judge Roy Moore, or other state judges. The governor followed those provocative remarks with a statement to the Mobile Register declaring that he "dared" President Clinton to federalize the National Guard; that remark raised images of former Alabama Governor George Wallace, who in September 1963 called out the Guard and state police to block school desegregation. President John Kennedy responded by nationalizing the guard -- a military body nominally under control of state governors unless federalized -- and using their presence to permit the entrance of black youngsters and college students into Alabama schools.
According to the Washington Times, James "hopes that just as national indignation over Mr. Wallace's actions strengthened integrationist efforts, Mr. James' efforts will open the door to prayer in schools and the Commandments in court."
The flap stems from the antics of Etowah County Judge Roy Moore, a fundamentalist Christian who had been locked in litigation over his policy of posting the Decalogue in his chambers and beginning judicial proceedings with prayer. Following a legal challenge, Judge Charles Price ruled that while Moore could keep the Ten Commandments plaque, he must "cease and desist" from prayer recitation. That decision, which will probably end up in front of Alabama's Supreme Court, has become a rallying-cry for religious groups throughout the state, and now the nation.
Atheists Charge James as "Prayer Bully"
Friday was a busy time for American Atheists National Media Coordinator Ron Barrier, though, who fielded questions from newspapers, radio stations and other media following a press release dispatched by the organization on Thursday evening. Barrier labeled the controversial Alabama governor a "prayer bully" who "wants to force his prayer rituals on the public and violate the rights of people who don't wish to be subjected to public conjuring."
Meanwhile, other statements by Gov. James are being discussed in the news media. For instance, while campaigning for his state's highest elected office in 1994, James made similar threats about calling out the guard to defend the courtroom prayer, but added that the efforts of guardsmen would be supplemented by the presence of the University of Alabama football team. Barry Segal, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, dismissed James's blustering as "pure, raw political demagoging." And the special projects counsel for the state ACLU noted that James's crony, Judge Roy Moore, "has made clear time and again that display of the Ten Commandments is not historical or education, but, in his words, an acknowledgement of God."
American Atheists Condemn
"Prayers at Gunpoint"
Fob James threatens to shoot American citizens
to enforce prayer in courtroom
The text of the press release issued by American Atheists
concerning the efforts of Alabama Governor Fob James
to defend courtroom prayer and Decalogue postings in public venues:
February 8, 1997
American Atheists today condemned Alabama Governor Fob James for this threat to use the national guard and state police to keep prayer and other religious rituals in the courtroom of County Judge Roy Moore. In Birmingham, news media has reported that the Governor told a Baptist prayer luncheon that he would use such force to resist any court order putting an end to prayer ritual in the courtroom. Etowah Circuit Court Judge Moore has been at the center of controversy for several months; he has opened session in his chambers with prayer, and posted the Ten Commandments. In November, another Circuit Court Judge in Alabama, Charles Price, issued a "cease and desist" ruling concerning the prayers; despite this and the clearly unconstitutional nature of these rituals, Moore and his cause have become a rallying point for religious groups who defend prayer activity in government functions, including court proceedings and school classrooms.
"The Governor wants to use not only the political power of his office, but the brute force of the police and national guard to make sure that defendents, attorneys, spectators and everyone else must submit to conjuring in a court of law," charged Ron Barrier, National Media Coordinator for American Atheists. "Fob James is a prayer bully. He's not only defying the law, but he's giving his state a bad reputation as a sinkhole of unenlightened behavior."
American Atheists President Ellen Johnson noted,
"Fob James seems to have selective standards when it comes to upholding
the law. He wants to force his prayer rituals on the public and violate
the rights of people who don't wish to be subjected to public conjuring."
Johnson noted that Governor James is a "law and order" politicians
who told an assembly of ministers in November that "A good butt-whipping
and then a prayer is a wonderful remedy" to the problem of juvenile
crime (Birmingham News/
"The butt whipping here," charged Ms. Johnson, "is directed at the First Amendment, individual rights of nonbelievers and anyone else who doesn't want to be subjected to religious proselytizing in a courtroom.
Ms. Johnson also criticized the petition drive
being conducted by religious groups in support of the courtroom prayer.
"It doesn't matter how many signatures they gather in Alabama or any
other state. The Bill of Rights shouldn't be dependent on a petition drive.
It is not a question of majority rule."