Rosa Parks and Roy Moore: A Case Study In Hypocrisy
About Two People In Alabama Who Broke “The Law”
By James Burkhamer, Chairman, Constitution Party Of Ohio
As an opening disclaimer, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama was not guilty of civil disobedience by refusing to obey an order from a Federal judge to remove the Ten Commandments display at the Alabama state judicial building (more on this later). However for the sake of contrast and discussion — and to appease the Roy Moore detractors — we will assume that he was for the time being.
Riddle: Why in Montgomery, Alabama, does civil disobedience earn one citizen accolades and a state funeral, and the other a public flogging and job dismissal? In 2003, I actually had a Christian radio host running around in illogical circles trying to come up with a politically correct answer to this one. (He couldn’t). Now that Mrs. Parks has departed us, received a state funeral, and earned Presidential/Gubernatorial proclamations ordering flags at half-staff, the time seems appropriate to revisit this question.
A brief sampling of remarks made regarding Rosa Parks:
Southern Baptist “leader” Richard Land: “Rosa Parks was a great woman who was committed to uncovering wrong and doing right (emphasis mine). She said her act of civil disobedience was simply a result of being tired of the unfair treatment of black Americans. Rosa Parks stated it was her faith in God that gave her the strength and courage to persevere in a culture that denied basic human rights to African Americans.”
And not to be outdone, Alabama governor Bob Riley (R): ‘I firmly believe God puts different people in different parts of history so great things can happen,’ Riley said. ‘I think Rosa Parks is one of those people’ (emphasis mine).
A sampling of remarks made regarding Chief Justice Roy Moore: President Bush: According to the Associated Press, the president’s Deputy Press Secretary, Claire Buchan, said that it is important that laws and court rulings be respected”(emphasis mine).
William Pryor: “As Attorney General (Ala.), I have a duty to obey all orders of courts even when I disagree with those orders….We have a government of laws, not of men” (emphasis mine).
Richard Land: …”we are a government committed to the rule of law….Do evangelical Christians really want to say that this United States government is no longer a legitimate government and that we are no longer obligated to obey its courts when we disagree with their rulings? If so, let us understand it for what it is. It is insurrection’ (emphasis mine).
Right or wrong, Alabama passed “Jim Crow” segregation laws for 100 years since end of the civil war. Right or wrong, there was a “law” law segregating public transportation that was passed in 1955 by the Alabama legislature and signed into law by the Alabama governor. Imagine the outcry if Bob Riley’s remarks regarding the passing of Rosa Parks had sounded something like this:
“We emphatically decry the sordid past of Alabama’s unjust and dehumanizing Jim Crow laws. While Mrs. Parks stand in 1955 may have been courageous and even monumental, we must emphasize the importance of respecting the laws of the land and the workings of the legal system. Citizens must obey the laws of the land, plain and simple. There are proper legal remedies for addressing unjust laws and statutes, however defiance of the law lies outside the constraints of the American legal system. Rampant civil disobedience can easily lead to insurrection which leads to anarchy. With all due respect, we should not follow Mrs. Parks’ example of flippantly disobeying the laws of the land — we must trust that our legal system remains the best in the world. May God bless her soul.”
Sufficient to say that the Alabama Governor would be vigorously filleted by the pundits, liberal and conservative, and even by the evangelical community. There would be calls for impeachment! There would be a Congressional investigation! Possibly even a “hate crimes” charge against the Governor, or at best sensitivity and diversity training! He would be ousted in disgrace never to serve in public office again, simply for applying the same standard to Rosa Parks as he applied to Chief Justice Moore.
For those who would attach the civil disobedience label to Chief Moore’s action, one question must be answered. Exactly what state or federal law did Roy Moore disobey? Can anyone cite the reference in the U.S. Federal code or Alabama State code prohibiting the public display of the Decalogue? It’s certainly easy to cite the reference in Alabama state law regarding segregation of public transportation in 1955. The fact is that Chief Moore did not violate any law on the books; he merely refused to obey an unlawful order from federal judge Myron Thompson. In fact it can be easily demonstrated that it was federal judge Myron Thompson who was guilty of acting outside of the law, not Roy Moore.
Moore’s detractors would say that a Federal court ruling must be obeyed, else one is acting outside of the law. However what happens when the judge has no authority to make the ruling in the first place? What happens when the recipient of the ruling is himself a high-ranking authority, not just a private citizen, and that ruling would cause the recipient to violate his oath of office? Where is it written that state officials must obey Federal court rulings without question? I have found that the vast majority of people do not want to contemplate such questions because that would cause synapses to fire in the brain which haven’t been used in years, or if it all. This causes extreme personal discomfort.
The complex topics of the proper role of the judiciary, the interposition of lesser magistrates, and traditional Federalism have received thorough treatments by other writers. This article will not address this in detail. The basic summary of the situation is that Federal judges do not write laws. This power is not granted to the Federal judiciary anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, only to the legislative branch. Therefore, Myron Thompson was guilty of inventing a law that forbade the Chief Justice of the state of Alabama from acknowledging God.
Secondly, Roy Moore’s oath of office was to support and defend the Constitutions of the U.S. and Alabama, not to abide by illegitimate Federal court rulings. There is a high degree of certainty that if the city of Montgomery allowed mob lynchings, and the Federal judiciary condoned those lynchings, that nobody in their right mind would demand that the state officials of Alabama allow the lynchings to continue unimpeded!
So where does this leave us? We have a private citizen in Alabama who disobeyed a “law” (albeit a morally reprehensible one), and fifty years later the highest judicial officer in Alabama who disobeyed an illegitimate Federal court order to violate his oath of office. Rosa Parks’ reasoning was that she was “tired of giving up her seat”. Chief Moore’s reasoning was that he could not violate his oath of office and he had a duty as an elected official of acknowledging God in the judicial process. Who really had the higher calling here for disobedience here — a private citizen breaking the law or the Chief Justice of the state refusing to recognize a bogus court order?
The answer to the riddle: to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it’s about worldview stupid! The vast majority of Americans do not have a proper understanding of law and government in our Constitutional Republic. Christians are especially apathetic in civics, history, and the Bible itself. So where is the disconnect? How have we come to the point where we will cheer and reward civil disobedience (in select cases) and jeer and punish it in others? Is it fear of political correctness, lack of education, or just plain follow-the-mob mentality? Or maybe it is the fear of man instead of a fear of God.
Unfortunately, it is a frightening combination of all these. Yes segregation is wrong, but why is it wrong? Because the government schools and political pundits say it’s wrong? Judicial tyranny is also wrong, but the government schools and liberal media don’t seem to want to touch this one with a ten foot pole.
This kind of moral relativism stems from a secular/humanist worldview instead of an absolute Biblical worldview, and fills the spiritual stomach of the fallen nature of man. People will accept “right and wrong” when it is convenient to do so and everyone can come to consensus. However when you start suggesting that there is a higher moral law that we are all accountable to regardless of man’s laws, well then the fangs come out and the benign smiles of relativistic righteousness turn into snarls.
Would George Bush, Richard Land, and other Christians still laud praises over Rosa Parks when confronted with her involvement in Planned Parenthood? Would most Christians support Roy Moore’s decision when confronted with the proper view of law and government in a constitutional republic? Well, that would require logical thought instead of knee-jerk emotional platitudes.
Since most Americans have been raised on a steady diet of short-attention span activities, don’t hold your breath. The scope of the issues at the core of this debate reaches well beyond bus seats, monuments, state funerals and job dismissals. At the heart of these issues is nothing less than the basic tenets of western civilization, law and government and the basis for our entire way of life! If God’s people do not wake up and start thinking these things through, we will quickly lose whatever vestige of justice and liberty are left in America. Indeed, ignorance is not bliss — it is destructive to the bitter end.