U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has approached his work over the decades as he once approached mastering kickboxing and building a house with own hands: with laser focus and a fervent belief that he has God on his side.
Moore, 70, is vying to become the next U.S. senator for Alabama, and his chances are looking good. A poll released Monday by Louisiana-based JMC Analytics and Polling found that the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court holds an eight-point lead in the Republican primary run-off over his opponent, U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed by Alabama’s governor in February to temporarily fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Donald Trump back Strange. But Moore’s unabashed religious views and apparent disregard for the legal establishment have won hearts in the overwhelmingly Christian state.
In February, several months after being suspended from court for defying federal orders on same-sex marriage, Moore appeared on the radio show of a pastor who has claimed the Bible calls for the death penalty for gay people.
He’d appeared on pastor Kevin Swanson’s program several times over the years, and there was a clear affinity between the men who believe they are two lone crusaders for Christ. Moore lamented to Swanson: “Our problem today is we’re denying that there is even a God or that he has sovereignty over our country.”
When the pastor asked him: “What does one do when God’s laws conflict with man’s laws?” Moore responded, “God’s laws are always superior to man’s laws.”
It’s an extreme view that would put an elected judge far outside the bounds of the legal mainstream: The U.S. government relies on its judicial branch to maintain checks and balances and uphold the law of the land.
But, for Moore, there’s no contradiction. The Vietnam veteran and lifelong Christian holds the view that the U.S. Constitution is a kind of extension of the Bible, and that the Founding Fathers intended their America to be a Christian nation.
In 2014, he went so far as to suggest that the First Amendment applies only to Christians. Speaking at an anti-abortion luncheon, Moore said: “Everybody, to include the U.S. Supreme Court, has been deceived as to one little word in the First Amendment called ‘religion.’”
He claimed that the country’s leaders don’t want to acknowledge “the duties we owe to the creator and the manner of discharging it,” paraphrasing from the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
“They don’t want to do that, because that acknowledges a creator God,” Moore argued. “Buddha didn’t create us. Mohammed didn’t create us. It’s the God of the Holy Scriptures. They didn’t bring a Quran over on the pilgrim ship, Mayflower. Let’s get real. Let’s go back and learn our history.”
Moore, who counts former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson among his supporters, has a long history of flouting U.S. law in favor of his own religious beliefs.
In 1997, Moore defied a federal court order to halt Christian prayers before sessions and remove a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments he kept in his courtroom. He counter-sued the ACLU for allegedly infringing upon his freedom of speech and declared that the Constitution is “founded upon a fundamental belief in God.”
Four years later, he erected a massive granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery. When a federal judge ordered Moore to remove the monument, he refused. As a result, Alabama’s judicial ethics panel removed Moore from office ― his first tenure as chief justice.
The trial seemed to further convince him of his divine charge. After the verdict was read out in court, Moore told reporters: “I have absolutely no regrets. We fought a good fight. We kept the faith. But the battle is not over. The battle to acknowledge God is about to rage across the country.”
Over the ensuing years, Moore twice sought the Republican nomination for Alabama governor ― in 2006 and 2010. And in 2012, he launched a campaign to reclaim his old post as the state’s chief justice.
Moore toured anti-abortion rallies during his campaign, telling crowds: “This is not just about religion, this is about law; the organic law of our country.”
For Moore, issues like abortion and same-sex relationships are part of this “organic law” and are as clearly defined as the law of gravity.
“Sodomy is against the laws of nature,” he told The Washington Post in a recent interview. “Let’s say the court decides to get rid of the law of gravity and says you can jump off the Empire State Building. Can they do that? No, they certainly can’t do that.”
In a 2002 child custody case during his first term as Alabama chief justice, Moore called being gay “an inherent evil” and “abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Moore has said he believes “homosexual conduct should be illegal” and that same-sex relations are akin to bestiality. After the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, Moore, who’d been reelected as chief justice of Alabama, instructed state judges to flout the order. In September 2016, he was once again removed from court for the remainder of his term.
But he wasn’t deterred. Moore announced his run for U.S. Senate several months later and continues to share his extreme views on the campaign trail.
“There is no such thing as evolution,” he recently told a Washington Post reporter. “That we came from a snake? No, I don’t believe that.”
Equally ludicrous to Moore is the idea that non-Christian faiths have the same religious legitimacy as his own. During a campaign stop this summer the candidate called Islam a “false religion” that’s “completely opposite with what our First Amendment stands for.”
Moore has also suggested that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happened because the U.S. has “distanced” itself from God. He claimed God was angry at Americans who “legitimize sodomy” and “legitimize abortion.”
He used the same logic in August to say that “shootings” are also a result of rulings against prayer in public schools and council meetings. “We’ve asked for it,” Moore said at an event on defending religious liberties. “We’ve taken God out of everything.”
The former judge views everything from child abuse to rape to the high murder rate in Chicago as symptoms of America’s moral decline. And he continues to use apocalyptic religiosity in his campaign, recently telling worshippers at a church in Decatur, Ala.: “You think that God’s not angry that this land is a moral slum? How much longer will it be before his judgment comes?”
Moore’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for clarification of the former judge’s comments.