Alabama Southern Baptists’ public policy spokesman criticized the Sept. 30 suspension of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore for defying federal court orders on same-sex marriage, calling it part of a larger effort to silence Christian voices in the public square.
Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, told Baptist Press the suspension issued by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary appeared to reflect “forces at work that seek to silence freedom of speech and religious liberties.”
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, assigned to try judicial officers in other state courts for violation of ethics, misconduct or dereliction of duty, suspended Moore without pay for the remaining 26 months of his term, saying Moore’s Jan. 6 order telling the state’s 68 probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states violated his judicial duties.
It is the second time Moore has been removed from his position on the state’s highest court. In 2003 he lost his job for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.
The standoff earned Moore a national reputation as the “Ten Commandments” judge. The 2 ½-ton monument nicknamed “Roy’s Rock” became a symbol of America’s culture wars and was carried on a flatbed truck on a city-to-city tour that included a stop in the exhibit hall at the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
After two failed efforts to win the Republican nomination for governor, Moore was re-elected to the Supreme Court post in 2012. His age will disqualify him for Alabama’s next election for chief justice in 2018.
The Alabama Citizens Action Program, public-policy representative for groups including the Alabama Baptist Convention state board of missions, was a party in one of the lawsuits that Moore cited in his order advising probate judges that Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage remained intact despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry handed down June 26, 2015.
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary said Moore’s order violated Canons of Judicial Ethics requiring that judges be impartial, uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary and observe high standards of conduct.
Godfrey, head of the organization started by Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians as a temperance union in 1937, said Moore “represents a lot more people than just himself” in his views on marriage and sexuality.
Godfrey attributed opposition to the chief justice to a larger effort “to intimidate and silence Christians in the long run.”
Before taking over the ACPC in 2008, Godfrey was a pastor in Alabama churches for more than 26 years, serving as president of the Alabama Baptist Convention in 2003 and 2004. He is a graduate of Samford University with a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and doctor of ministry degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tenn. Judson College in Marion, Ala., gave Godfrey an honorary doctorate in 2005.
One of Moore’s attorneys, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mathew Staver, is a member of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., and served at the 2016 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo., as a member of the resolutions committee.
Staver, former dean of the Liberty University School of Law, said Friday’s order by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary violated rules of law.
“Justice has left Montgomery,” Staver said, adding that certain members of the judiciary court apparently had already made up their minds and weren’t going to be swayed by a presentation of the facts.
Staver said violations by the court were “obvious and disappointing.”