On Tuesday, Roy Moore defeated Luther Strange in a special primary runoff, becoming the GOP’s nominee to represent Alabama in the United States Senate. The result was somewhat surprising; both Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump endorsed Strange, a more traditional conservative who had publicly (and repeatedly) lent his full-throated support to Trump’s agenda. Despite the backing of the two most powerful Republicans in Washington, Moore emerged victorious.
You may be wondering why a special primary runoff in Alabama is worthy of national attention. There are two reasons: first, given that Trump won Alabama by 28 points last November, the primary — and not the general election — has been viewed by many as the real race. The second? Roy Moore is as regressive a politician as the U.S. Senate is as likely to have seen since the days of George Wallace. (In fact, in 2016, Wallace’s own daughter penned an op-ed in which she called Moore “more dangerous than my father.”)
A common criticism of Republicans is that they’re homophobic, Islamophobic, or racist; absent any proof, however, this sort of labeling is readily dismissed by the accused as a politically-motivated attack. A politician can write legislation that is, in practice, homophobic, Islamophobic, or racist, but unless they explicitly admit to such, their supporters will ignore all the tangible evidence supporting the claim. The burden of proof is artificially elevated so as to obscure the truth.
This is not the case with Roy Moore.
Roy Moore is the physical manifestation of the attitudes and goals long suspected to be held by many congressional Republicans but to which they rarely — if ever — admit. Moore isn’t just Islamophobic and homophobic, he is proudly, unabashedly so. His one guiding principle is that the word of God (specifically, the Christian God) should play a central role in politics. In Moore’s view, removing God from government — where, it should be noted, God is not supposed to play a part — is what got our country into this mess; by restoring God, therefore, Moore believes we can restore America to its former glory, whatever that might mean.
Many Republican politicians talk about their “faith” and their “Christian values,” but for the most part (with some notable exceptions), they try to maintain some distance between their personal values and their policies. Moore, however, wants to eliminate that distance. The question is, what would that look like? Fortunately, in his previous role as a federal judge, we have some idea.
After being elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001, Moore installed a monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building, a continuation of his earlier practice of hanging a wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments behind the bench in lower courts. In the unveiling ceremony for the monument, Moore made sure to declare that “May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.” Eight months later, Moore was sued by — among others — the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The suit argued that the monument “sends a message to all who enter the State Judicial Building that the government encourages and endorses the practice of religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular.”
The monument was declared unconstitutional, but Moore refused to remove it; for his defiance, he was suspended in 2003 by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ), who stated that Moore “has violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics as alleged by the [Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission] in its complaint.” And given Moore’s public claims that he would never, under any circumstances, obey the court order to remove the monument, the COJ noted that “under these circumstances, there is no penalty short of removal from office that would resolve this issue.” Moore was out the next day.
Amazingly, Moore ran again for his old position in 2011; even more amazingly, he won. His second tenure as Chief Justice lasted a bit longer than his first, but not by much — in 2016, Moore was suspended again by the COJ, this time for publicly stating his intention to defy the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage and urging state probate judges to do the same. And why would he do such a thing?
Because Roy Moore is a Christian extremist.
He has compared homosexuality to bestiality. In 2002, Moore wrote an opinion in a child custody case that a mother was unfit to parent her child because she was in a relationship with a woman, adding that homosexuality is “an inherent evil against which children must be protected,” and that homosexuality “would render him or her unfit to be a parent.” In 2005, Moore was even more clear about his views, saying that “homosexual conduct should be illegal.”
Moore has also referred to Islam as a “false religion.” He has falsely claimed that “there are some communities under Sharia law right now in our country”; pressed for details, Moore responded “Well, there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana — up there. I don’t know.” When the interviewer expressed surprise that a Senate candidate would make such a claim, Moore replied, “Well, let me just it this way: if they are, they are; if they’re not, they’re not.”
And Moore has already started making friends in the Senate; in 2006, Moore wrote that Rep. Keith Ellison — a Muslim — shouldn’t be allowed to serve: “Islamic law is simply incompatible with our law […] in 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on Mein Kampf, or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the Communist Manifesto.”
Unsurprisingly, Moore is also a racist who believes President Obama wasn’t born in America, but that’s almost par for the course at this point. Here’s the cherry on top: Moore believes that the terrorist attacks on September 11th occurred “because we’ve distanced ourselves from the one that has it within his hands to heal this land,” and that God may have allowed the attacks to occur because “we legitimize sodomy” and “legitimize abortion.”
In a just world, Moore would never have been heard from again after his first removal from the role of Chief Justice, let alone his second. In a just world, Moore would lose his December election to Democratic challenger Doug Jones, a lawyer who successfully prosecuted the Klansmen who perpetrated the 1963 Birmingham Bombing, killing four girls (Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair) between the ages of 11 and 14. In a just world, someone who used his judicial authority as an attempt to legitimize the practice of treating anyone who isn’t a white Christian as a second-class citizen would be in jail. Naturally, nobody expects Jones to win in December.
Maybe God’s turning his back on us because we keep handing power to people like Roy Moore.