Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s lawyer: “Public officials are ministers of God”

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore isn’t one for man’s law, which is odd given that man’s law is literally his job. No, as we learned back in February, when he tried his damndest to violate Article Six of the Constitution by ignoring an order from the Supreme Court to let same-sex marriages commence in Alabama, he’s more about God’s law. Even if he’s wrong about it.

Which is why it wasn’t exactly surprising when, earlier this week, Moore toyed with the idea of staying the Supreme Court’s ruling against bans on same-sex marriage for 25 days before acknowledging that he isn’t allowed to do that. It was also unsurprising — albeit absurd and awful — that in a subsequent interview with Moore compared the Court’s decision to Dred Scott and marriage equality itself to the Holocaust. From the interview:

Asked if as the state’s chief justice he would follow and enforce the law, Moore snapped that judges do not enforce the law. Asked if he expected probate judges and other judges and state officials to obey the law, Moore used examples of men who were judged to have followed wrong and immoral laws and orders in Germany during World War II.

“Could I do this if I were in Nuremberg (war crimes trials after WW II) say that I was following the orders of the highest authority to kill Jews?… Could I say I was ordered to do so?

Told that trial was about killing human beings, not gay marriage, Moore asked: “Is there a difference?”

We shouldn’t have to take Roy Moore’s old-man-yells-at-cloud burblings seriously. We should be able invoke Godwin’s Law and move on. But we can’t. Moore may not enforce the law, but he presides over people who do. And Alabama’s court system is doing everything it can to massively resist Friday’s ruling.

Yesterday, Win Johnson, a lawyer working directly under Moore, wrote a letter to public officials in the state calling them to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling. As Johnson wrote, in part:

Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous. If the public officials decide to officially approve of the acts of the wicked, they must logically not protect the righteous from the wicked. In fact, they must become protectors of the wicked. You cannot serve two masters; you must pick – God or Satan.

The criminal laws against homosexual sodomy are for the protection of the righteous, particularly the young, the weak, the vulnerable, who need the law to teach them right from wrong when in a vulnerable state. The U.S. Supreme Court, although it claims to have done so in 2003, cannot take something that God calls a crime and declare it not a crime…

…Public official, what will you do? Will you stand up for the law of Alabama, for the people, for the weak and vulnerable, for the law of God? Or will you capitulate? Will you become complicit in the takeover by the wicked?

“I must follow the law,” you say. Law? What law? There is no law anymore, there’s just opinion. One day this, one day that. When the law becomes merely the opinion of a handful of people on the courts, there is no longer any law. There is tyranny. There is chaos. But there is no law.

Church and State, via Shutterstock

Church and State, via Shutterstock

Johnson is the director of legal staff for Alabama’s Administrative Office of Courts, which runs the state’s court system. While the letter was addressed to all public officials in the state, a spokesperson for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said that it was directed at him. Bentley said earlier in the week that he disagrees with the ruling personally, but that the state will comply with the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court.

Roy Moore is an elected judge who at least has some sort of incentive to say awful things about gay people. Win Johnson is not. Win Johnson seems to genuinely believe that Alabama is a theocracy, with bureaucrats assigned to dutifully interpret the word of the Lord and enact it in public policy. Like Rawls, but with Inquisitors.

Shortly following the release of Johnson’s letter, the Southern Poverty Law Center called for him to either resign or be fired by Moore to “maintain the integrity of the Alabama judicial system.”

As well they should have. Public officials are not ministers of God. They are agents of the state. Public officials unwilling to carry out the laws of the state are unfit to serve.

The Constitution is remarkably clear on this point.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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