Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Russell Moore vs. Roy Moore: Whose law?

"For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; he will save us."
- Isaiah 33:22

Ours is no longer a nation of laws. Individual judges long ago assumed the power to impose their will on the public, and that is exactly what Judge Ginny Granade of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama did last month. On January 23, Granade ruled that the Alabama
Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act are "unconstitutional on Equal Protection and Due Process Grounds." She further ordered Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange not to enforce those laws, which simply asserted that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in turn ordered probate judges in the state to ignore Granade's ruling. His reasoning was grounded in the fact that the ruling only applied to Attorney General Strange, and since probate judges are the ones charged with issuing marriage licences, the constitutional ban on same-sex "marriage" remained intact. Besides, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that marriage is a state issue, and since the people of Alabama had already spoken, the issue was settled.

Russell D. Moore disagrees. He thinks Chief Justice Moore should either comply with Judge Granade or resign. In a written statement released to Baptist Press, he said:
As citizens and as Christians, our response should be one of both conviction and of respect for the rule of law (1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13). Our system of government does not allow a state to defy the law of the land.

In a Christian ethic, there is a time for civil disobedience in cases of unjust laws. That's why, for instance, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail. In the case of judges and state Supreme Court justices, though, civil disobedience, even when necessary, cannot happen in their roles as agents of the state. Religious freedom and conscience objections must be balanced with a state's obligation to discharge the law. We shouldn't have officials breaking the law, but civil servants don't surrender their conscience simply by serving in government. While these details are being worked out, in the absence of any conscience protections, a government employee faced with a decision of violating his conscience or upholding the law, would need to resign and protest against it as a citizen if he could not discharge the duties of his office required by law in good conscience.
While Russell Moore would argue Romans 13 dictates that the chief justice should submit to the governing authority, Roy Moore, as a sitting judge, is also a governing authority. The question then arises: which "law of the land" is to be obeyed?

On one hand, a federal judge has single-handedly nullified Alabama's state constitution on a whim. On the other hand, a State Supreme Court justice has sworn to uphold that same constitution. In addition, nothing in the U.S. Constitution grants federal judges the power to strike down state laws. (I know that kind of talk is considered heresy today, but these United States were once considered "free and independent.") So, which is the more legitimate law?

In regard to Judge Granade's ruling, Russell Moore would like to see Roy Moore "resign and protest against it as a citizen." Well, Judge Moore is already a citizen. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he is in a much better position to protest against unlawful judicial decisions, protecting those within his jurisdiction against an overreaching authority who would order others to do what God forbids.

God's law remains in effect. It would seem to me that the more legitimate law in the civil realm, the law to be obeyed, is the one under which "rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad" (Romans 13:3).


Stan said...

I would think that Judge Moore was adhering to the 10th Amendment by following State law rather than a non-existent Federal law that requires a particular definition of marriage.

By the way, you mentioned "the constitutional ban on same-sex 'marriage' remained intact." It is incorrect to classify a definition of marriage as a ban on one false version of marriage. A definition excludes everything outside the definition. If the definition of marriage is a "ban" on anything, it is a ban on everything not covered by the definition. It is a ban on marrying yourself, cats, roller coasters, or multiple partners as well. (By the way, the "self", "cats", and "roller coasters" thing isn't made up. It has been tried.) I'm tired of people telling me that "'3+1=4' is a ban on 5!" No, if it's a ban, it's a ban on every other number but 4.

Lee Shelton said...

I agree with what you said about the word "ban." I only used it because that's the word Judge Granade used in her ruling.

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