Justice Roy Moore Think He’s Above the Law

Roy MooreOne thing that most people don’t understand because they have spent little or no time in actual courts in the the United States, is that judges are often incredibly ignorant and often even more bigoted. Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore is a perfect example of this. He is the man who was thrown off the bench in 2004 because he put a two ton granite Ten Commandments statue in the state judicial building. The “fine” people of Alabama voted him back onto the bench in 2012. And now he is back defying a federal court ruling allowing same-sex marriage in Alabama. All you really need to know about Moore is that he’s a typical judge in that he thinks he’s above the law.

He’s getting major push-back, however. Yesterday morning, he was being interviewed by Chris Wallace who was friendly enough — but clearly not too pleased that this freak of a judge is making a mockery of “reasonable” conservatism. He said, “A state ethics panel said that you had to be removed from office because you had put yourself above the law. Are you doing the same thing now, sir?” Of course, Moore doesn’t think he was wrong in the first place, so obviously he doesn’t think so now. As Walt would say in Breaking Bad, “I am the one who knocks.”

What was especially funny in the interview is how Moore tries to take the high ground. This is typical of conservatives everywhere. They just love to hearken back to slavery — as though they would have been anything but slavery apologists if they had lived at that time. Moore said, “I could recuse or dissent as a justice from Delaware did in the Dred Scott case in 1857. They ruled black people were property. Should a court today base such a ruling that is contradictory to the Constitution…?”

There are a couple of factual matters that Moore got wrong. First, slavery was hardly unconstitutional in 1857. Neither of the two justices who dissented (John McLean and Benjamin Curtis) were from Delaware. And they dissented on procedural grounds — not out of any moral reasoning against the injustice of slavery. But there is a much bigger issue here.

Moore may be talking about recusing and dissenting now. But his actions have not been done within the judicial system. The day before a federal court ruling was to take effect, Moore ordered that probate judges disregard the federal courts. So unlike McLean and Curtis, Moore is not working inside the legal system and losing. He is claiming that he knows what the law should be and that just because other judges who hold positions above him have found otherwise, he can just ignore that.

This is the thinking of a despot. And it is interesting to hear him talk circles around the issues that he’s raised. For example, his Ten Commandments statue was constitutional because he has decided that the First Amendment gave him the right to do that. So again and again we hear from Moore that he follows the law but only to the extent that he gets to say what the law means. Remember: this is a state chief supreme court justice, and he thinks the law doesn’t apply to him.

What is sad is that if he pushes this matter (I don’t think he will in this case), and he gets thrown off the bench, the people of Alabama will just re-elect him. American justice is screwed up. But people like Roy Moore make it far more dangerous. He should not be allowed any kind of power at all because he abuses whatever power he has. He’s a despot in a robe. And his position represents the darkest aspect of democracy.

Thomas Paine’s Letter to George Washington

Thomas PaineI also declare myself opposed to almost the whole of your administration; for I know it to have been deceitful, if not perfidious, as I shall show in the course of this letter…

Monopolies of every kind marked your administration almost in the moment of its commencement. The lands obtained by the Revolution were lavished upon partisans; the interest of the disbanded soldier was sold to the speculator; injustice was acted under the pretense of faith; and the chief of the army became the patron of the fraud. From such a beginning what else could be expected than what has happened? A mean and servile submission to the insults of one nation; treachery and ingratitude to another.

Some vices make their approach with such a splendid appearance that we scarcely know to what class of moral distinctions they belong. They are rather virtues corrupted than vices, originally. But meanness and ingratitude have nothing equivocal in their character. There is not a trait in them that renders them doubtful. They are so originally vice that they are generated in the dung of other vices, and crawl into existence with the filth upon their back. The fugitives have found protection in you, and the levee-room is their place of rendezvous.

—Thomas Paine
Letter to George Washington

You should read the whole thing; it gets much better!

School Board Not Open to Real Religious Debate

The Satanic Children's Big Book of ActivitiesSomehow, I managed not to write about last year’s release of The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities (pdf). It’s a great book — very well made — and filled with the good wholesome teachings that I’ve come to expect from The Satanic Temple. That’s not sarcasm. I’ve written about it before, Seven Tenets Beat Ten Commandments. Most people think of The Satanic Temple as a joke meant to poke Christians in the eye. Well, it is that. But it is also an honest effort at a religion that is far more moral than any of the Abrahamic faiths. In the teachings of The Satanic Temple, you won’t find justifications for slavery and murder.

The activity book was a response to a decision in Orange County, Florida to allow Christians to distribute religious material to students at public schools. If the schools were going to allow that, then certainly The Satanic Temple should be allowed to distribute its materials. And as one who has gone through the whole activity book, I can tell you that the Christians were going to lose. Not only are the Satanists a more playful group, but Satanic iconography is a lot more fun. Be honest: would you rather see friendly goats and pentagrams or the tired old cross and a baby in a food trough?

I learned from Steve Benen over the weekend that the school board decided that they wouldn’t let any religious material be distributed to the kids. This was a foregone conclusion as soon as The Satanic Temple muddied the waters. But I think the whole thing is pathetic. It shows that people don’t respect Christianity in this country out of any regard for its teaching. It is all about how popular Christianity is in this country. If I had young children, I certainly wouldn’t want them exposed to the truly terrifying images found in the Book of Revelation. And that’s to say nothing of the truly vile and immoral content that makes up much of the Old Testament.

There is absolutely nothing offensive in The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities. The problem that the school board has is that Christians don’t like the idea and the name Satan. The truth is that Satan really isn’t that bad a guy in the Bible. Mostly, he’s just there to keep humanity honest. He certainly isn’t what most modern Christians make him out to be. In discussing Satan with Christians, I get the idea that many of them are not monotheists. They believe in a limited form of polytheism where God represents “good” and Satan represents “evil.” In my estimation, 90% of all American Christians would have been burned alive in the middle ages because their many heresies.

The school district showed its true colors on this most recent debacle. What they’ve demonstrated is that they believe that some religions are fine while others are not. There is no difference between these school board members and those Romans of the early days of Christianity who didn’t accept that the new cult was valid. They don’t want an honest debate between religions. So it is fine to indoctrinate the kids into the teachings of Christianity, as long as they hear nothing else. And once they get a little push-back from The Satanic Temple, they fold up shop. And why not? The United States is already almost 80% Christian. They don’t need to have an honest fight for the hearts and souls of the people; they can just depend upon tradition to keep their iron age folderol going.

But let me just remind you of what The Satanic Temple stands for, because it is an unquestionable good. Compare it to the idea that you should murder your son if God tells you to. And then ask who exactly is preaching evil.

  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forego your own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

The cowardly bigots at the Orange County school board had better hope that there is not a just Abrahamic God, because there will be hell to pay — literally.

Happy Oligarchs’ Day!

George WashingtonAccording to the federal government, today is Washington’s Birthday. Forgive me for not being pleased about this. I do not think of Washington as a great man and I certainly don’t see him as the father of our country. He is the greatest symbol of the Federalist Party — an oligarchic group so repugnant to the wishes of the American people that it was effectively destroyed within a decade. Basically, he was a royalist. But we Americans love us some military heroes. We also love us some rich men. I question Washington’s position as a war hero, but there is no doubt that he was a rich man.

He was a rich man because he owned slaves — a lot of slaves. But I suppose I could live with him being simply a vile slave owner. I could even live with his hypocrisy. The man decided that slavery was wrong before the start of the Revolutionary War. But just a few years later, he was looking to sell his slaves. Not to be too explicit about it, but if you believe slavery is wrong, you don’t sell your slaves; you free them. But what really bothers me is the two centuries of apologetics for Washington’s support of slavery.

It isn’t hard to find slave owners who said privately that slavery was wrong. They all knew it was wrong. But they didn’t do anything about it. As a hugely popular president, good ol’ George kept true to the myth that he never told a lie: he never said a thing against slavery, because he didn’t care. It was all about commerce.

Clearly, we celebrate Washington’s Birthday because it is something we can all agree on. (Not me, obviously.) We can’t celebrate Lincoln’s birthday anymore, given how many Americans think he was evil for taking away the South’s God given right to enslave people and beat them almost to death. That’s almost to death, people! Remember Exodus 21:20, “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished.” I’m sure if you ask Justice Roy Moore, he’ll tell you that the Civil War would have been acceptable if it had been regarding God’s “slave death by rod” law. Otherwise, Lincoln is controversial 150 years after his death.

But maybe it is right that that we celebrate Washington’s Birthday. I mean, we could celebrate Thomas Paine’s birthday, but that would be a sham. The ideals that Paine stood for — freedom, individual rights, human dignity — are not things that the United States stands for. Slavery, human oppression, and the rights of rich — these are what the modern United States stands for. But I think we could use a better name for the holiday. For one thing, Washington was born on 22 February 1732. So it isn’t actually his birthday. A much better name for the holiday would Oligarchs’ Day. That was what Washington stood for. I’m sure he would be in favor of it.

See Also

Washington’s Birthday
Happy Oney Judge Day!

Pamela Colman Smith

Pamela Colman SmithOn this day in 1878, the great illustrator Pamela Colman Smith was born. She was closely associated with photographer Alfred Stieglitz who felt her work had a synaesthetic (multi-sensory) sensibility. She was also friends with poet William Butler Yeats, for whom she illustrated some books. But she is best know for the Waite-Smith tarot cards. Arthur Edward Waite wrote the booklet that went along with the cards, but the cards themselves are all Smith’s. You have doubtless seen them. Pretty much all tarot cards either use her designs, or are recreations of her designs. I remember them from my childhood. (Because I was raised by Satanists!) They are wonderful. Here are some samples:

Tarot Cards

Happy birthday Pamela Colman Smith!

I’m feeling very tired, so I’ve just recycled this text from last year’s birthday post.