According to the National Archives website the U.S. Constitution is written on animal skin.
In describing the process of creating parchment (scraping, stretching and drying the dead flesh of farm animals), the conservators of our nation’s foremost document fail to mention its most compelling attribute: It is elastic.
How else would one describe these five pages which together create the framework for a legal system that has withstood a savage tug of war for more than two centuries?
An example of the Constitution’s elasticity played out in Tacoma last week when Roy Moore, the controversial chief justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court, was scheduled to speak at the Pierce County Prayer Breakfast held at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall this past Friday (TNT 5/2). Moore is famous (or infamous, depending upon one’s view) for refusing a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state building in 2000, a decision which prompted his removal from the bench (he was reelected in 2012 and continues to serve).
Aside from this incident of civil disobedience, the prelate’s harsh comments about homosexuality in general and his staunch belief that God should play a central role in the legal system are out of step with contemporary thinking. It is the former viewpoint which prompted Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and at least a few other members of the city council to boycott the prayer breakfast.
As a Catholic, I have been inspired by many individuals whose words and actions call us to better ourselves and our world. Yet Judge Moore’s stance is not an inclusive one. Unlike Pope Francis, whose experiences have made him uniquely suited to lead a church made up of some of the world’s poorest people, Moore’s traditional upbringing seems to have diminished his capacity for grasping the realities of life outside the straight and narrow. (And who wants to follow a speaker whose #fire/brimstone hashtag is such an unrelenting drumbeat of condemnation?)
To be fair, I can appreciate Moore’s chutzpah in refusing the court order to remove the biblical symbol from state property. However, his actions and subsequent comments speak to a bias wholly inconsistent with the objectivity so essential to the justice system and the bench.
Moore’s removal from office in 2000 was justified – were he a cop or prosecutor, he would likewise have been canned. Yet he is back in the black robes of a jurist again, despite a stance so rigid that any homosexual, Muslim or – God help us! – atheist might rightly wonder if he or she will be getting short shrift from Alabama’s highest court.
While Moore is arguing that the very rights he would deny others would erode the Constitution, Alabama’s attorney general has refused to defend the state’s prohibition against gay marriage because it violates the 14th Amendment. More to the ironic point, Moore’s desire to paint society and the legal system a Christian-centric color is an archaic step into the past worthy of Islamic extremists.
What American would prefer to seek justice in a Christianized version of shariah law?
If too many listen to his false words of freedom, that may well be our ironic future.