by Jay Johansen | Oct 23, 2003
As I write this, a Federal judge has ordered the Alabama Supreme Court to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from its court house. The chief justice of Alabama, Judge Roy Moore, refused. The other judges on the state court sided against him, he was suspended from office, and the monument was removed.
I have heard many Christian leaders say that they are sympathetic to Judge Moore, but he went about this the wrong way. By challenging a federal judge's order to remove the Ten Commandments monument from his courthouse, Judge Moore is violating Biblical commands to obey the law, and indeed he is threatening the very concept of the rule of law.
But one of Judge Moore's key points in this debate is that the federal judge's order is not only immoral, but indeed he has no constitutional authority to give such an order. A plain reading of the Constitution shows this is true. What these leaders are saying, then, is that "respect for the rule of law" means that a citizen -- especially a Christian -- must obey the orders of any government official, even if those orders are themselves illegal. So if, say, a policeman came to your house and threatened to arrest you on trumped up charges unless you pay him a bribe, or give him sexual favors, as a good Christian citizen you would be morally obligated to obey. He is a government official, and Christians are supposed to obey the government.
© 2003 by Jay Johansen