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

  1. EJ says:

    “Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous.” WTF? Is Win Johnson referring to government appointed or elected officials? If so, when did Alabama become a theocracy? This would be the antithesis of separation of church and state. What a shithead!

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    That’s ok. Not everyone’s cut out to be a leftist.

  3. Jack C. Hall Jr. says:

    Alabama is a Joke….the only thing they do right is football.

  4. wmforr says:

    I gave you a +, Bill. Never done that before.

  5. DoverBill says:

    I wouldn’t bet on it.

    After all, this is Alabama.

  6. DoverBill says:

    … it’s even worse?

  7. DoverBill says:


    If ya agree with a court’s decision, it was reached after serious deliberations of learned men and women and is the law of the land.

    If ya don’t agree, then they automatically become unelected ass holes – obviously under the influence of Satan – leading to the destruction of mankind as we know it.

    What could be simpler?

  8. LasloPratt says:

    So when do the rest of us get to decide which laws are “just opinion”?

  9. Tom Chicago says:

    I believe the enforcement of Godwin’s Law is a useful tool for deflating those who would stupidly invoke the factual atrocity of the Holocaust as a means of adding grandiosity to their own foolish analyses. Judge Moore should be tried under Godwin’s Law and will be found guilty of judicial dumbness. He has also served to enable those who unjustly bash the southern states as being a headquarters for the Troglodyte Realm.

  10. Jon Green says:

    If there’s a case in which a country/corporation, etc. is doing something that *actually* rivals the Holocaust, then invoking the Holocaust is fair game. I still think it’s useful to use Godwin’s Law when someone makes an absurd comparison that both trivializes the Holocaust and demeans the group in question, as Roy Moore did when comparing public officials issuing marriage licenses to Nazi officers following orders.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:


  12. 2karmanot says:

    Well done Bill!

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    Not really. The leaders of the first American Revolution were the opposite of cult fundamentalists. Now, because of the influence of pandering politicians like Obama, the Bushes, the Clintons and Reagan the cults have grown quite powerful. It wasn’t always like that.

    “I have examined all the known superstitions of the Word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world …” Thomas Jefferson

    “The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind … to filch wealth and power to themselves. [They], in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ” Thomas Jefferson

    “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Benjamin Franklin

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac

    “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.” Thomas Paine

    “The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.” John Adams

    “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and

    distressing, and ought most to be deprecated.” George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792

    “…I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” George Washington, to United Baptist Churches of Virginia, May, 1789

    “What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy.” James Madison

  14. BeccaM says:

    Agreed. The only just consequence would indeed be for Moore to be impeached (again) and both he and his staffers to be disbarred. Maybe then Alabama’s wingnuts would stop voting him back into office.

  15. BeccaM says:

    In a way, I can understand and almost respect someone who just can’t get behind marriage equality because it’s too different and too scary to contemplate. It is an undeniably new concept.

    But this nonsense of directly equating the extension of certain civil rights to a very small minority group with slavery and genocide is simply fucking monstrous. It is also the grossest possible insult to the actual victims of slavery and genocide.

    It might be dismissible if these were merely the god-bothering rants of some fringe figure, some unhinged hate-radio guy on a 100w station in southern Bumfuckistan, but this incendiary incitement-to-violence language is coming from the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court — as well as from most of the currently declared Republican candidates for president. Their calls for a white fundamentalist Christian regime aren’t even dog whistles anymore.

  16. Hue-Man says:

    Moore didn’t clarify which Nuremberg tribunal he would have been tried at. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been defending himself at this one.

    With that job description for “Public Officials”, does that mean Muslims, Sikhs, atheists, etc. need not apply? He doesn’t leave room for multi-theists – Hindus can’t even be considered!

  17. 2karmanot says:

    Excellent article Jon! One note: It’s time to jettison ‘Godwin’s Law, once and for all. It is nothing more than a propaganda tool to quiet and quell dissent regarding neo-fascism and it’s corporate manipulators.

  18. dcinsider says:

    If you live in Saudi Arabia, you accept Sharia law. If you live in Alabama . . .

  19. The_Fixer says:

    I would say that this is astonishing, but lately it seems that this behavior is par for the course when it comes to Republicans.

    Any junior high student of history would know that this is, quite plainly stated, a crock of shit.

    I’m all for throwing these idiots out of office, never allowing them to run again, and disbarring both the Judge and any of his legal staff who have been perpetuating this nonsense.

  20. bkmn says:

    Calling the Alabama Bar Association – disbarment division.

  21. Butch1 says:

    They need to have Michigan’s governor Snyder install one of his “Emergency Managers” so he can step in and “Thank the judge for the fine job he’s been doing, but now he’s down and the E.M. WILL be taking over his responsibilities and managing the government’s affairs from this point on until everything is under control.” Of course, that could take a very long time just like it has in Michigan where the “emergency” has been never ending. ;- Perhaps once Gov. Snyder is out of office it will magically end.

    Judge Moore needs a “vacation” from his duties. He needs to decide whether he wants to be a judge or a minister; he cannot be both.

  22. Butch1 says:

    Well, in a Theocracy I guess that settles that. ;-)

    So, when will they be throwing this charlatan out for the second time?

  23. uzza says:

    Must be nice; when I refuse to obey the law, I go to jail. At the very least, isn’t a person who explicitly refuses to follow the laws of the United States renouncing his United States citizenship?

  24. nicho says:

    And we thought the movie “Idiocracy” was fiction. It was a prophecy.

  25. iamlegion says:

    At what point can an entire state’s government be impeached? Or disestablished and taken over the way a state takes over a failing school district from the local bumblefucks? Because Moore and his Traitor Squad are verging on being an actual threat to the continuing safety of LGBT folk in that horrible place.

  26. cambridgemac says:

    Outstanding article. Should be widely shared. Deeply disturbing that Xian theocrats can operate in plain view with heavy cover from the lame-stream media.

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