Written by Don Byrd
Earlier tonight, controversial Alabama Judge Roy Moore won the GOP primary in the race to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. Judge Moore made a name for himself on the Alabama Supreme Court as Chief Justice when he was ousted in 2003 after refusing to follow a federal court order to remove a granite Ten Commandments monument he had installed at the courthouse.
In an interview earlier this year with vox.com, Moore was asked about where the limits should be between religion and public life. In response he quoted an 1833 commentary on the Constitution, written by Joseph Story.
This is Joseph Story … on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution right here. He said, “At the time of the adoption of the US Constitution and the amendment to it now it was the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as it was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.”
The question you asked, “What are the limits?” The answer is right here. But the duty of encouraging religion, especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the conscience of other men or to punish them from worshipping God in the manner which they believe they are accountable to him requires. That’s the difference; that’s where it stops — you can’t force the conscience of other men.
Moore went on to warn “that American communities live under Shariah law,” a claim that has been rated a falsehood by Politifact. At the same time, he assured the interviewer Jeff Stein:
It’s been improperly reported that I said that Muslims don’t have rights under the First Amendment…. That’s not what I believe.
The NYTimes reports on Moore’s win here. He will face former prosecutor Doug Jones in the general election in December.