The organizers of this morning’s Pierce County Prayer Breakfast invited Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to be the keynote speaker.
Moore has held himself as being above the law and has espoused discrimination. To those who attended, if you hold Moore’s views, then you were right to attend. But if you attended and hold contrary views, especially if you are an elected official, then shame on you for providing validation to Moore’s beliefs.
We are a country where everyone must obey the laws. There are no exceptions. I, as a citizen, and especially as an attorney, not only know this but indeed am under a duty to uphold the rule of law as part of my profession. All elected officials, and especially those who serve on the bench, have the highest duty to uphold the rule of law.
In 2003, as Alabama’s chief justice, Moore placed himself above the law. Without consulting his fellow justices, he had a monument that included the Ten Commandments installed in the Alabama Judicial Building in the middle of the night. Federal District Court Judge Myron Thompson ordered the monument’s removal.
Thompson wrote that Moore “installed a 21/2-ton monument in the most prominent place in a government building, managed with dollars from all state taxpayers, with the specific purpose and effect of establishing a permanent recognition of the ‘sovereignty of God,’ the Judeo-Christian God, over all citizens in this country, regardless of each taxpaying citizen’s individual beliefs or lack thereof. To this, the Establishment Clause says no.”
Moore appealed the ruling. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Moore had violated the Constitution.
As a citizen, Moore had a duty to comply with the law. As a judge, he had the highest duty to obey the law. Moore could have, and should have, said that while he personally disagreed with the court’s ruling, he must obey the ruling.
Moore failed to act as a good citizen and miserably failed to act as a good judge. He refused to comply with the court order. The other eight Alabama Supreme Court justices, recognizing their duty to uphold the rule of law, unanimously ordered the monument’s removal. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from the bench, but he has since been re-elected.
Those who believe elected officials can decide that they are above the law were right in attending today’s breakfast. Those who believe that no person is above the law were so wrong in attending.
Washington state has (belatedly) acknowledged that our lesbian sisters and gay brothers should have the same right to marry their same-sex partner as we have the right to marry our opposite-sex partner. Moore has not only advocated the opposite but has used his position to vilify gays and lesbians.
In a court opinion, Moore wrote: “Homosexual behavior is . . . a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”
In 2012 he said: “Same-sex marriage will be the ultimate destruction of our country because it destroys the very foundation upon which this nation is based.”
This past February, Moore wrote to all state governors urging them to support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Again, if you believe as Moore does that lesbians and gays should be subject to discrimination, then you were right to attend today’s event. However, if you attended and believe that lesbians and gays should have the same opportunity as heterosexuals to marry, then shame on you because by doing so, you validated his message. And if you are an elected official and attended while believing that lesbians and gays should have the same rights as heterosexuals then even more shame on you; you should know that as elected officials your attendance provided legitimacy to Moore’s views.
To those officials who refused to attend because of Moore’s statements and actions, thank you. Those officials who attended — who did not take this opportunity to disavow the belief that some are above the law and that discrimination is proper — have done a disservice to the public and, more importantly, a disservice to themselves.
Attorney Salvador A. Mungia is a past president of the Washington State Bar Association, a past president of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association and a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.