Banks County Opinions...

AUGUST 27, 2003


Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
August 27, 2003

Justice must be blind
Is it any wonder that the “Ten Commandments Judge” ignored a federal order to remove the two-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court Building in Montgomery?
Perhaps seeing as how Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is the highest ranking judge in the judicial system of Alabama, someone might think he would have respected said system, but he did not. And he now faces suspension by a state judicial ethics panel and the possible loss of his job. Not that I think he’s crying; he’s got another, bigger, job in mind. He plans to ride the tide of religious fervor all the way to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, election date TBA.
I think he’s the biggest scam artist to come along since Mr. Baker with his televised promises of salvation should you send him a check.
He is creating controversy for his own profit. He can be a fervent Christian, he can speak out about his beliefs and talk about the love and salvation of God, but he deliberately chose to do something he knew would bring about a confrontation with federal courts so as to bring it into the federal arena.
Moore’s been compared by numerous journalists to former Alabama governor George Wallace who literally stood in the way of desegregation 40 years ago. As a four-term governor and a staunch segregationist, Wallace used his national notoriety from the University of Alabama incident for a run at the White House that ended with an assassination attempt and Wallace paralyzed until his death.
But Moore’s political career thrives not on the anger of segregationists but on denying citizens’ religious freedom, which is perhaps more hurtful. He is using religion to turn Americans against each other. And the slogan seems to be if you’re not for Roy Moore, you’re against God.
Before Roy latched onto the Ten Commandments as his rallying force, he was an unsuccessful circuit court judge who moved to Australia and dabbled in professional kickboxing. When he returned to Alabama and became a judge in 1992, colleagues said he “seemed to relish blending his religious convictions with his jurisprudence” (Campo-Flores, Arian. “Roy Moore’s Holy War.” Newsweek. September 1, 2003.). Elaine Witt of the Birmingham Post-Herald takes it a step further in her column “Moore wins no matter what” saying “Moore believed the U.S. Constitution dictated adherence to the Bible and that he as a judge would be handing down the priestly judgments.” Witt says Moore opened court with a Protestant prayer and if you didn’t pray with him, you would have cause to wonder if the lapse caused him to rule against you.
He won the 2000 election for state supreme justice on notoriety he received in the late 90’s when he placed a pair of rosewood tablets of the 10 Commandments he himself had carved in his courtroom. Then, as now, he refused a court order to remove them. A few newspaper articles and the rallying of Protestant Christians and a chief justice was born.
He sneaked the monument, which he had designed, into the Alabama judicial building in August of 2001 at night with only a Florida-based Coral Gable Ministries’ film crew on hand to tape it. The organization immediately began selling the tapes to pay for Moore’s legal fund. Very forward thinking. Suits were filed immediately and the case went to trial two months later. Moore explained in the press conference revealing the monument that the granite block was meant to remind people doing business in the court that in the pursuit of justice, they were obliged to seek “the favor and guidance of God” (Witt). And that is where he stepped over the line. It wasn’t with posting the Ten Commandments or even from profiting from posting them (though I think that is an issue people need to reflect on), it was irrefutably when he said people coming to do business in his court had to ask for the favor of God.
Justice must be blind.
Although Moore is right and our Constitution is loosely based on God’s Commandments, our Constitution also irrequivically states that government cannot establish a state religion, yet in Moore’s court the only religion was his.
He took an oath to serve the people of Alabama, not only the Christian people of Alabama, but every single one of them. Muslim, Jew or Atheist. He broke his word and he should be disbarred. It is his job to mete out justice without prejudice. He has failed.
Witt says “If Moore wants people to pray more, that’s great. But when that imperative comes from the state’s top judge and when it’s physically anchored in the state’s highest court, prayer no longer feels voluntary.” Amen. The Romans persecuted early Christians, let us not innocently or purposely deny anyone their religious freedom in the United States.
The Supreme Court Justice’s two-year legal battle has cost the state of Alabama one million dollars in legal fees because they had to defend him. Meanwhile, the state’s budget deficit is serious enough that schools may be forced to close. And the courthouse superintendent is reportedly pouring over the building’s engineering plans to figure out how to move the monument without rupturing the floor. In a fight that has already cost Alabama so much, why spend the money to remove the monument?
Seventy-seven percent of Alabamans believe the monument should stay. In an online MSNBC poll of 173,261 responses on Monday at 11:40 a.m. 63 percent felt the same, versus 35 percent who said it should go. Without the man behind the monument, it is not a reflection of the court’s prejudice, merely an acknowledgment of the law’s base. And I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think the site should become a site for acknowledging the religious freedom granted to us by our forefathers. Adherents.com claims there are 137 separate religious entities operating within Alabama, many of which are Protestant Christian, but there are others not represented by the 10 Commandments. Acknowledge them. Allow the Hindus and the Buddhists and the followers of Islam to place symbols of their religion in the rotunda. Acknowledge that God is hand in hand with our lives, but make it clear that our God is their God, no matter what their belief structure. Heck, let the agnostics decide on a symbol of
their own, perhaps a fish with feet or something. Make it a state contest where everyone sends suggestions and the entire state votes. I guarantee if that happened, tourism in Birmingham would go up. Perhaps they could recoup the money spent defending old Roy. People from the U.S. and beyond would come to see the triumph of religious freedom in the way our forefathers intended. All citizens living under one God.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column

By: Angela Gary
The Banks County News
August 27, 2003

Internet hoaxes are annoying
Have you heard the story about the boy who was stuck by a heroin-filled needle while playing in one of those ball pits at a fast food restaurant?
If you have, you’re one of the many people pulled into this lie that has been passed over the Internet. I have a relative who is easily fooled by these stupid hoaxes and she is always warning me about them. The pit ball hoax is one of many Internet hoaxes I have received.
With the World Wide Web, it was easy to do a little research and find out that there was nothing to the story. Someone just made it up entirely and passed it on as the truth. Before long, people across the United States were quoting the hoax as if it really happened.
This one was easy to follow up on. The e-mail stated that the story about the incident originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle. The paper received so many questions, as many as 153 a month, about this incident that they had a story on the website stating that it never occurred. A reporter said he had been flooded with calls from concerned people who wanted to know about the incident.
The reporter wrote: “That’s one of the favorite techniques of hoax writers. They attach the name of a real publication and a specific date (far enough in the past to make verification difficult) and it makes their garbage seem much more authentic. But some smart people know that just because a warning on the Internet cites a reputable source, that doesn’t mean the reputable source ever reported what’s being claimed. No, we never reported on needles in the playground. It didn’t happen.”
One of the main clues that a Internet story is a hoax is some dire warning and the encouragement that you send the notice on to all of your family and friends. Apparently, the sick people who sit around and think up these lies enjoy knowing that their garbage is spreading across the country.
Other sure signs of a hoax are e-mails that are marked “urgent” and those that proudly declare “This isn’t a hoax.” Also, be wary of those that tell you that horrible things will happen if you don’t act quickly. Your computer will get a virus, your pet will die, you will never find love or will lose all your money.
Something just as annoying as hoaxes are these “ads” that flood my e-mail at home and at the office. No, I don’t want to “meet someone special” or enlarge body parts by inches or get rid of all of my debt. I just trash these without opening them. Go out of town for a few days and you will face more than 100 of these junk notices.
E-mail is wonderful for both personal and business reasons. It has enabled me to keep in touch with friends that I surely would have lost touch with otherwise. It has made work easier as I fire off e-mails much quicker than I could make phone calls. Unfortunately, unbalanced people have given this bit of technology a dark side.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com (that is unless you have a “hoax” to share or something to sell).


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