Roy Moore's Ten Commandments battle gets personal and ugly
Regular Weblog and Christianity Today readers will be familiar with the case of Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is probably best known for his postings of the Ten Commandments around his workplaces, and one display — a 5,300-pound granite version in the Judicial Building — is the subject of a trial in U.S. District Court.
Moore's lawyers are understandably upset about a letter by the justice's opponents that they mistakenly received. "You might remember that, from the start, I was laying our trial theme, i.e., how this was the act of a lone religious nut in partnership with a fanatical church," Morris Dees, a lawyer challenging the monument, wrote to Ayesha Khan, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "This is the story that will make this case so dirty that no appeals court will reverse [the district court judge] to make new law."
Moore's lawyers first filed the letter with the court in opposing Dees's motion to order removal the monument without a trial. The letter, Moore's lawyers say, shows the plaintiffs are playing "hard, loose and dirty with the facts in this case to fit their contrived theme."
Now Moore's lawyers are going further, using the letter in their own motion to have the district court judge removed from the case. They say the letter suggests that Dees knows how Judge Myron Thompson is going to rule.
"I am convinced that Judge Thompson has a pervasive and personal bias and prejudice against me in favor of plaintiffs, that Judge Thompson's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, and that there exists an appearance of impropriety in these cases warranting Judge Thompson's recusal," Moore wrote in a statement filed with the motion.
And the trial doesn't even start for another two weeks. This could get ugly.
Meanwhile, Thompson went to the Judicial Building Tuesday to look at the monument. Asked if he had any comment, he replied, "Nope, definitely not."
Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act fails mightily in House
As Weblog noted earlier this week, a bill allowing churches to endorse and oppose candidates and to donate to political campaigns needed a two-thirds majority vote to go to the Senate (where it was doomed to failure). It couldn't even muster half. The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act was voted down by a 178-239 vote, with 10 Democrats voting for the bill and 46 Republicans voting against it. An initial vote happened at 11:15 or so Tuesday night, but a tally wasn't taken until Wednesday. (A sidenote for vote counters: Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) initially voted for the bill, then changed their votes. George Gekas (R-Penn.) voted against it but later said he meant to vote for it.)
Debate late Tuesday night was vigorous. "Americans who believe in God ought not to have their freedom of speech muzzled in the name of the law," said J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).
"This bill is an assault on the Constitution's fundamental separation between church and state. It was crafted with the single purpose of giving right-wing religious groups — like the Christian Coalition —a special advantage in the political process," said Pete Stark (D-Calif.). "Supporters of H.R. 2357 have cloaked the real intent of the bill in the blatant falsehood that religious leaders cannot speak on moral and political issues. This right is freely exercised and clearly protected by the Constitution."
Despite the defeat, the bill's chief sponsor, Walter Jones, (R-N.C.), says he'll try again. "Today we took a very important step toward bringing freedom of speech back to our pulpits," he told the Associated Press. "From the first day of the 108th Congress, I will continue this fight because I believe this battle can be won and will be won. Congress must return First Amendment rights to our houses of worship."
If you were really hoping the bill would pass, you can take heart in other news: the Federal Election Commission just changed campaign finance rules, giving big exemptions to religious and charitable groups.
- Protestants flex political muscle in Brazil's presidential election | Jesse Jackson called in to attract evangelicals (Associated Press)
- Focus on the Family celebrates victory in California | Responding to opposition from concerned citizens, Governor Gray Davis quietly vetoed AB 2651, a bill that would have forced radical pro-gay policies upon California's foster care system (Press release)
- The right judge? | Whoever controls the appeals courts has tremendous say over whose values will prevail in the United States (Bob Herbert, The New York Times)
- Robertson charity wins 'faith-based' grant | Operation Blessing International is to get $500,000 in the first wave of grants (The Washington Post)
- Ken dolls in paradise | The future of God in Ashcroft's America (Jerry Stahl, LA Weekly)
- Mormonism doesn't deserve backlash | Mitt Romney's campaign refuses to discuss the gubernatorial candidate's religion, simply saying such matters should have no place in the election (Tom Keane, Boston Herald)
- Democracy & religion in America | Tocqueville's surprising linkage (Michael Novak, National Review Online)
- No faith in Bush's war on Iraq | Invading Iraq is not a faith-based initiative. This is shocking, considering the self-proclaimed piety of President Bush (Derrick Z. Jackson, The Boston Globe)
- Wet Hartselle: Power to churches | City alcohol ordinance opens door for religious groups to limit places where booze is sold (The Decatur [Tenn.] Daily)
- If only unborn children could vote | By identifying fetuses as "unborn children," Bush effectively has managed to establish personhood for fetuses while appearing to care deeply for the huddled masses (Kathleen Parker, The Orlando Sentinel)
- School offers morning-after pill to 11-year-olds | Under-16s can already obtain the pill without their parents' consent from hospital accident and emergency units and pharmacies (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Supreme Court won't stay ruling on Louisiana 'Choose Life' plates | Opponents promptly file second request asking justices to block any sales of plates until case is argued on its merits (Associated Press)
- Bush's silence is golden in stem-cell debate | From all this quiet and looking the other way, it seems obvious that neither Bush worries much about the fate of blastocysts and fetuses (James P. Pinkerton, Newsday)
- Nancy Reagan fights Bush over stem cells | She believes that the research could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease (The New York Times)
- Also: Nancy Reagan lobbies for stem cell research (BBC)
- Also: Slow going on stem cells | When Nancy Reagan, the State of California and leading medical scientists all express frustration within days of each other over the slow pace of stem cell research, it seems clear that the compromise approach toward this controversial research fashioned by President Bush is not working (Editorial, The New York Times)
- Latest front for fight on choice: Washington state | Two college students seeking education credentials sued the state for the right to complete their student-teaching requirements at private religious schools (Education Week)
- Home schooling is gaining respect (Knight Ridder)
- Course tackles ethical issues | Learning about society's ills and the ways Christians are called to respond is the focus of a class at Holy Ghost Preparatory School. (Bucks County [Penn.] Courier Times)
- Erin's switch of faith | Religious differences lead her to transfer from Lutheran college to BYU (The Denver Post)
- Catholic students 'unchristian' | Catholic students are leaving school with unchristian values, reflecting the growing trend of Australians to preach tolerance but not practice it, says a former chief justice of Australia's High Court (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Rift within Church of England over gays deepens | The Church of England Evangelical Council and the Anglican Evangelical Assembly backed the move by the conservative evangelical network Reform to urge Dr Williams to renounce his liberal views or resign (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Reform group challenges sexual freedoms | The Anglican organization demanding the resignation of the future Archbishop of Canterbury is the most influential evangelical lobby within the Church of England (The Times, London)
- Archbishop fails to condemn unmarried sex | Although his comments were made in the context of the debate about homosexuality — on which his views are known — his failure to condemn adultery and pre-marital sex will dismay evangelicals and traditionalists (The Times, London)
- Church rift over homosexuality set to resurface | Archbishop Rowan Williams's candid refusal to affirm the Church of England's traditional teaching against sex outside marriage will arouse new fears of a schism over homosexuality (The Times, London)
- Archbishop-in-waiting rejects resignation call (The Guardian, London)
- God via satellite | Germany's first solely Christian television channel goes on air on October 1 (Deutsche Welle, Germany)
- Also: Bibel.TV's official site
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds sole newsmagazine on religion | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly receives $300,000 to augment its primary annual funding from the Lilly Endowment (The Washington Times)
- Church rediscovers sin in cinema | After Magdalene Sisters row, furor over Mexican movie (The Guardian, London)
- Religion plugs into TV | Writers reach into popular culture to illustrate lessons in spirituality (Detroit Free Press)
- Seminar reveals spiritual messages to Hollywood films | Before they realized it, the unsuspecting audience was engaged in a Christian film version of Where's Waldo (Bridgeville Star, Penn.)
- Applebee's: 'gay weddings' ad error | Restaurant chain says ad ran by mistake, but Christian orgs target company anyway (Associated Press)
- Church posters in line for award | Controversial but successful (BBC)
- Earlier: Commercial Brake | Advertising for a Church of England diocese equates Jesus' crucifixion to body piercing (Christianity Today, Feb. 14, 2002)
- Cleaning up Hollywood | Sanitized tapes, DVDs have directors crying foul (Chicago Tribune)
- Vegetables seek to provide healthier Hollywood diet | VeggieTales movie opens tomorrow (Reuters)
- Artist defends Bush mosaic made using Jesus images | Frank Bear, owner of JesusMosaics.com, used a computer program to take "hundreds and hundreds" of sacred images from Renaissance artists to form the colorful mosaic of Bush (Religion News Service)
- Using the Lord's name common now | The naming of God, Lord and Jesus in expletives has become so common that it has almost lost its shock value (Carole Currie, Ashville Citizen-Times, N.C.)
- Robert Wilson gives 'Stations' disturbing power | In place of traditional iconography depicting Christ's Passion and death, he has substituted dream, fantasy and nightmare, creating a spiritual world that is closer to Magritte than Michelangelo (The Dallas Morning News)
- Stop the holy showboating | Listen up, jocks: God doesn't care if you score a touchdown. So do your praying in private, not in the end zone (Dan McGraw, Salon.com)
- In league, God takes sides | New Zealand's Rugby League team, the Warriors, is dominated by Christians (The Sydney Morning Herald)
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