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Wednesday, 14 December 2011 03:45

The Martyr and the Megalomaniac: Judge Roy Moore and Gingrich

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Judge Roy Moore is most famous for refusing to remove a massive Ten Commandments installation from an Alabama courthouse, a refusal that got him - as the Donald might say - fired. Newt Gingrich is renowned for breaking who knows how many of the Ten Commandments. This year, Moore is running to regain his spot on the Alabama Supreme Court, while Newt is running to run the entire country.

As Gingrich, the disgraced former Speaker of the House and now the current frontrunner for the GOP's presidential nomination, courts conservative evangelical voters in the early primary states seeking redemption and forgiveness, he just might consider reminding them that when former Alabama Supreme Court justice Roy Moore, commonly called "The Ten Commandments Judge," was under fire, he came to his defense ... well, in a Gingrichian sort of way.

In 2003, as Religion Dispatches' Sarah Posner recently pointed out, Judge Moore was removed from his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court "for defying a federal court order to remove a 2.6-ton monument of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse," that he had installed there in 2001.

While Gingrich didn't exactly rush to the barricades in defense of Moore, he did eventually speak out on his behalf.

It did Moore little good as Gingrich's support came two years after Moore had already been dumped from the court.

In 2005, Gingrich, then in private life and not actively seeking public office, told John Lofton, a right-wing radio talk show host, that he "would have sided with Judge Roy Moore."

I'm not sure what "would have sided" meant to Gingrich; perhaps he would have authored legislation had he still been in Congress. In or out of Congress, he could have offered Moore a handsome donation. I'm not sure he put his money where his mouth is.

"The elites in Washington find it extremely difficult, at least between New York and Los Angeles, to talk about the role of our Creator in defining America," Gingrich told Lofton in 2005. "And I think all of the secondary arguments - Judge Moore's arguments, for example - come from winning this argument: That is historically false, to suggest that you can describe America as a society whose rights come from any place other than God. Now, as an atheist, you can make that argument but you cannot make it historically. "

Well, if as Sammy Cahn wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, "Love is lovelier the second time around," Gingrich may have a royal opportunity to show some 2011/2012 love for Moore.

While the fight over Moore's Ten Commandments installation wasn't as buzz-worthy as, say, the Terry Schiavo case, it did bring the national news media, as well as a number of right wing activists to Montgomery.

After his expulsion from the Court, Moore reveled in his self-imposed martyrdom.

Now, six years later, both Gingrich and Moore are once again running for elective office. Gingrich is vying for the GOP's presidential nomination, while Moore, after briefly flirting with a run for the GOP's presidential nomination, has settled on seeking to return to the Alabama Supreme Court. While Gingrich is shooting for redemption, Moore might be hoping to extract a measure of revenge.

Both Gingrich and Moore have been quite busy in the intervening years. Gingrich was metastasizing projects: piling up wheelbarrows of dough with his various media efforts, launching a number of money-making enterprises, cavorting with gambling titans, switching his religion, publicly confessing to his marital infidelities on Dr. James Dobson's radio program, blowing up at Tiffany's, and oozing his way back onto the political landscape.

Moore was slogging away in the outposts of far-right Christianity. He wrote a book titled So Help Me God, and penned numerous articles for conservative publications; he received several awards, including the 2011 Great American Award by the Central Texas Tea Party and Republican Freedom Coalition; and he become president of an organization called the Foundation for Moral Law.

Just before Thanksgiving, Moore, who had staged two failed runs for governor (badly beaten in Republican primaries), announced that he would be seeking to get his old job back as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

"There is no question that I know this job and I believe the people of Alabama know exactly what I stand for," Moore said. "During my term of office as Chief Justice, I wrote major opinions affecting our state, one of which was Advisory Opinion 373 regarding the prohibition of gambling devices in Alabama. That opinion has guided both state and federal courts during the last decade to stop unlawful gambling in Alabama."

Moore added: "Under my leadership and working with the other justices we put a stop to the Equity Funding Lawsuit which had plagued our State and the Appellate Courts of Alabama for nearly 12 years," Moore said. "Not only did we save taxpayers over $1 billion in taxes, but we preserved the right of parents to control the education of their children under the Alabama Constitution."

Moore had the monument. Gingrich has the momentum.

While Moore points out that he has "no plans to move the [Ten Commandments] monument to Montgomery," might a statue to President Gingrich be on order?