Cover Story

Alabama Governor Fob James: leader of the resistance

"Alabama Governor Fob James: leader of the resistance" Continued...

Issue: "Drawing the Line," Feb. 22, 1997

The governor believes that prayer--in court, in schools, in other public settings, at government functions--is legitimate and supported by history.

There may be no better pairing for this battle than Roy Moore and Fob James. Judge Moore weathered a nasty run for judge in 1982 in which his opponents took umbrage at his characterizations of the influence of money on the local judiciary. Their complaints landed him before a judicial review panel. The Alabama Supreme Court ultimately upheld his right to say what he said.

And Fob James has survived and prevailed in two campaigns for governor; he also has survived assaults from a press that is critical of his decisions and often paints him as a redneck, back-room politician who is an embarrassment to the state. The political writers and cartoonists never let him forget his evolutionary monkeyshines. But the criticism doesn't faze him, an aide says. &quotHe's a tough guy. He's not bothered at all by that."

Now Judge Moore and Gov. James are shoulder to shoulder in the courthouse door to defend the courtroom from the rulings of a judge who says that God is not to be acknowledged inside the hallowed halls.

David Smolin, a professor at Samford University's Law School, believes the judge is on firm ground, constitutionally and historically.

This case, he says, highlights an &quotapparent oddity of the [U.S. Supreme Court] justices' claiming that government had to be religiously neutral, and then participating in the inaugural ceremony, which is clearly a Christian ceremony from the point of view of a Christian Bible being used, and an oath of office.

&quotIt's pretty clear that the inauguration sends a message of religious endorsement of government and government endorsement of Christianity, because it's a Christian Bible that's used, a Trinitarian prayer. And it's rather odd that the justices then go and and claim to impose this rule that government and all its dealings shall appear neutral between religion and non-religion.

&quotMy own view," he says, &quotis that the justices would be out of line in striking down what Judge Moore is doing, but it's hard to say what they would actually do based on what they say.

&quotI imagine from Judge Moore's perspective it's a very simple matter. He envisions himself like Daniel, being ordered not to pray. Or like Peter in the book of Acts being told not to preach in the name of Christ."

With an aggressive judiciary changing the intent and meaning of the Constitution, and taking elections out of the hands of the voters, as judges in Colorado and California have done, Gov. James and Judge Moore are not alone in their fight to keep powers separate.

In the November issue of the journal First Things, Chuck Colson cautiously broached the subject of civil disobedience. Citing the judiciary's &quotsystematic usurpation of ultimate political power," he warned the church may be headed for a direct confrontation with the state. The subject was a perilous one for Mr. Colson to raise; it was so controversial that two members of the First Things editorial board resigned.

&quotA court empowered to judge a statute's constitutionality by that court's own inference of the animus of the statute's sponsors is a court set free from any limitations on its power.... The free exercise clause of the First Amendment," he wrote, &quotposes no obstacle to a judge with any creativity, and--given the demonstrated animus of the current judicial regime against believers--a showdown between church and state may be inevitable."

Mr. Colson was careful to say he neither advocates nor hopes for an open rebellion. However, he said, we should be aware we may face the same sort of decision facing Gov. James and Judge Moore. Mr. Colson thus concludes his essay: &quotWe must--slowly, prayerfully, and with great deliberation and serious debate--prepare ourselves for what the future seems likely to bring under a regime in which the courts have usurped the democratic process by reckless exercise of naked power."

From the moment that Gov. James mentioned the national guard, the comparisons to his wrongheaded political forefather, Gov. George Wallace, have been numerous. In the light of history, of course, we know that Gov. Wallace's confrontation with the feds was scripted, a cynical ploy, some say, for white votes.

The comparison of the present governor to the former is one that Gov. James rejects. &quotGov. Wallace was wrong, and he admits he was wrong," he says. Gov. James told WORLD he sees his action in the line of Abraham Lincoln: &quotPrior to the Civil War, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case that slavery was legal. President Lincoln refused to obey that order, and issued the Emancipation Proclamation.... If you just read a little history, it's as clear as the nose on your face."

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