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

While many have come to the side of Gov. James and Judge Moore, neither needs help talking. In his own way, each is articulate, Judge Moore in a scholarly fashion, Gov. James in a more colorful way.

And neither harbors doubt about his positions. Judge Price's rulings are &quotclearly unconstitutional, clearly illegal," Gov. James says. &quotIf we accept all such court orders as being law, we no longer have a government of law, we have a government of men, namely a few judges. Most of the time judges and courts respect separation of powers, and leave the lawmaking to the legislature and the administration to the executive. When you have an abuse of this power, the legislative and the executive should respond to protect the Constitution and protect the rights of the people. And I believe it is the Constitution that I am sworn to uphold, and I will uphold it to the best of my ability."

The governor doesn't want an armed confrontation, and he doesn't believe this will go that far. But he's bound to take whatever precaution is necessary to protect the principle.

&quotWhat we're concerned about is unless this case at the state level is fully understood, it'll get in the federal courts, and we'll have a repeat performance of the 1962 prayer decision. We don't need that," he says. &quotI think Judge Price was acting totally outside of the law and the constitution. We will certainly resist that within the full legal framework.

&quotIf the Supreme Court issued an order to me to strip the court of the Ten Commandments, I would refuse to do it. And then at that point, the president--and this is way down the line--could force that by nationalizing the national guard. So you'd have an American president taking an executive action to strip the Ten Commandments from the court. I don't think an American president would do it, nor do I think Congress would allow that.

&quotI have been wrong before. I never thought we would see a Supreme Court decision like the one in 1962.... It just seems like there is an insidious effort judicially to strip any vestige of religion or recognition or acknowledgment of God from every aspect of American life. We think that is categorically unconstitutional. That is why we've decided to resist it."

When Judge Price issued his ruling on Feb. 10, he gave Judge Moore 10 days to remove the Ten Commandments. Bill Pryor, Alabama's attorney general, has asked for a stay. So in the next weeks, both the question of prayer and the Ten Commandments will be before the Alabama Supreme Court. And people on both sides have said they will appeal this to the highest level.

In the end, it's not just about the right to acknowledge God in public. Judge Moore and Gov. James are fighting for the very principle of self-rule and freedom for religion established by the Constitution, trying to turn aright a document dumped upside down by American judges.

&quotIf we accept on blind faith that 100 percent of the time every court order had to be obeyed," Gov. James says, &quotthen you have absolutely given up your democracy, you have become subservient to one judge, or at the most, five of nine judges sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, and that is not what our Constitution is about."

And the governor reminds us once again that this fight is not original with him and Judge Moore. &quotThroughout our history--George Washington, John Adams, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Lincoln--absolutely, on occasion, refused to obey court orders," he says. &quotSo don't argue with me. Argue with Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Jackson. That's kind of the way we are."

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