Some of those on the governing counsel want a separation of mosque and state. This is wrong and unacceptable. Iraqis do not want a secular regime. We will be questioned one day by God about all these matters of religion and politics. In Islam there is no right to separate policy from faith.

~ Sheik Mouyad Al-Adhami, moderate Imam of Abu Hanifa Mosque,
a center of support for the Baath Party in Baghdad
the last place Saddam Hussein appeared in public.


To Judge Roy Moore
Alabama Supreme Court
Office of the Chief Justice (please forward)

Re: The Ten Commandments

Dear Chief Justice Moore:

I wouldn't be surprised if today, with no work to do on account of your recent suspension, you took a prayerful stroll down to your old courtroom to ponder the sudden absence of the public monument to the Ten Commandments from that location, and to ask God to clarify for your mortal understanding how, in a nation founded on Christian principles, such a thing could have come to pass. Surely the God of Moses, whose mighty hand parted the Red Sea, whose terrible wrath destroyed the hosts of Pharaoh, could have prevented a handful of fairies from ACLU from removing the Word of God from the judicial chambers of His people. And yet there it isn’t, this fundamental Christian charter upon which our nation is founded, taken from y’all in one bodacious, apocalyptic stroke. Why? Why?

The position taken by you and your Islamic colleagues was confirmed this weekend by our guest priest Father James Bacca, visiting here for the first time from Nigeria. Declaring from the pulpit that America is losing her spiritual foundations, he denounced the federal court ruling upholding the principle of a secular state and ordering the removal of this symbol of Hebrew jurisprudence. The casting out of God from public institutions should be cause for great alarm for Americans, he said. In support of this he cited the Preamble to the Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance, which both affirm the key role of God in our defining articles. Those doubting Thomases among us were challenged to produce currency from our own pockets and to read the inscription grandfathered into the very stuff of our capitalistic system: In God We Trust.

In Nigeria, explained Fr. James, the remembrance of God is everywhere. In spite of the tenuous coexistence of Christianity and Islam, prayer is permitted in public buildings, and both chapels and mosques are provided for this purpose in the halls of government throughout the country.

Okay let's clarify three points here. The Ten Commandments aren't God. They are rules, purported to have been given by God back when He used to talk to us. I would say that God, if He is a proper God, is unevictable from life, private or public. I mean, He's the Creator, you know? He can't be booted out of courthouses.

The second thing is that nobody who advocates the removal of your two and a half ton tchotchke takes exception to the Commandments themselves. Please understand that everybody, including the evildoers that our President can not locate, admires the Ten Commandments. Once you get past the items dealing with God’s personal insecurities, they are a good set of rules for individuals and societies. Granted that we have invented many hundreds of new sins since the Decalogue was written, and considering its age, it still covers most human misdemeanor. Subtleties of love, charity and wisdom have been omitted, to focus on purely behavioral directives. No postgraduate exegesis of substantive ethics or higher spirituality, no revelation of divine sublimity, is included in the teaching. Just how to stop being a lying, thieving, murderous, buggering yokel; how to set aside your unhappy, paranoid, appetitive, needful, obtuse, sadistic, avaricious agenda long enough to consider that there could be another way to go. The Tencoms are a Pentateuchal crib sheet, a straightforward list of dos and don’ts, a twenty minute course in virtue for dummies. From the darkness of our flawed world we despair that for their apparent simplicity they are so far beyond our powers. If we could find a religion or a society that actually believed and practiced those things we'd all join up in a minute. Even if they are nothing more than utopian fantasy, nobody seriously objects to holding them up as an example of how higher beings than ourselves might behave on some ideal planet. So that isn’t the point. The reason we can’t exhibit them in a public courthouse is because they have a Jewish copyright. If you want to use them, do this: Drop the first four*, and rewrite the rest, changing them slightly and renaming them Judge Moore’s Suggested Guidelines.

The third thing is that there is nothing pluralistic about American society as it is understood in the sovereign state of Alabama. You will recall your apoplectic response when someone suggested leaving the Tencoms alone and adding a monument to the Koran to sort of balance things out. If you're going to throw the chambers of justice open to God, and simultaneously maintain that religious pluralism is the law of the land, then you really do have to let them all in - the entire menagerie of mosques, synagogues and Shinto shrines, stone altars for fruit offerings to Ganesha and Voodoo chicken sacrifices, accommodations for animists, atheists, stylites, Rastafarian ganja communion and Native American peyote ceremonies, places for Shakers to shake, Pentecostals to blither in tongues and Papists to burn incense and chant in Latin. I believe that the God y’all want in the skyewels and courthouses down Dixie way is pretty much a Southern Baptist type of God. So unless you want to demote yourself to Chief Justice of the Alabama Southern Baptist community, or better yet hang up your robes and pursue your obvious vocation as an evangelical minister, you have no mandate to bring your personal religious beliefs to bear on American citizens who do not share them. And I should add that it is a little frightening to many of us that you made it all the way through judge school without learning that.

Well, Father James has only been in our country a short time, and doesn't understand the separation of church and state any better than you or your fundamentalist cronies around the world.

Fresh from the horrors of the Reformation and Counter-reformation, the Founding Fathers wisely opted to make religion a private and not a public affair. God, as revealed by His sundry prophets, does on rare occasions acknowledge a kind of equality among men, but at street level this seems to get lost in favor of identifying and exterminating infidels, and casting them out along with their abominations. People are by nature exclusionary and intolerant, and have historically expressed this in very cruel ways. Churches themselves, their founders and written tenets, seem to teach tolerance, but their zealots, their defenders, soldiers and crusaders, are more prone to seize upon religion as another way to anathematize and dehumanize their enemies. Women, foreigners and other deviants have a tough time in theocracies. Saudi Arabia and Israel and Iran are terrible places for those who do not share the prevailing faith. Only when the turf is controlled by secular humanists does equal justice have any real meaning. Common decency, is just that, common to all. If a fair shake is going to enter the picture it will come from the human heart, not from a jealous god or a church council or a sentencing mandate handed down by the likes of John Ashcroft.

Separation of church and state, if only we can hang onto it, is one thing that is positively brilliant about the American way of life. It is good for the state, which would otherwise devolve into a religious tyranny. And it is great for religion which, denied any political, worldly aspirations, is forced to seek its proper purpose in the transformation of the human soul and its jihad in the extra-political brotherhood of man. Clerics and guns don’t mix.

It was, I think, the opinion of the Founder of Christianity that the Pharisaic hypocrites who made symbolic displays of those commandments were missing the point. We weren’t supposed to make them into big granite statues and stick them up in public buildings to show everybody how goddamn religious we were. We were supposed to live by them, in the spirit of fairness and decency and forbearance. All of us - cops, crooks and judges. So whenever somebody in the judicial chamber behind that graven image (#2)* of Mosaic law facilitates a piece of real estate fraud (#8), admits bogus police testimony to railroad a destitute bum into jail or bullies somebody into signing a plea agreement (#9), assists somebody in acquiring somebody else’s property (#10), hands down a death penalty or denies a death penalty appeal (#6), it can only mean that he forgot to read the Word of the Lord on the way in, or that his retention skills are terrible, or that the words weren’t carved on there big enough. If putting His commandments on public display is what God wants (though He has not said so), it must just drive Him nuts that nobody pays any attention to them. Even when “Thou shalt not kill” is posted in plain English where your prosecutors have to walk right past it on their way to ply their trade does not mean that later that same day some poor hillbilly is not going to be dragged out the back door to be murdered by the state. Because that stuff is supposed to be written in your heart, Judge Moore, and not out there on a stone idol or up on the wall in flashing yellow lights.

So there's your answer, Roy, the mystical reason why God permitted those Commandments to just vanish overnight. I’ll bet they were repossessed because you weren't using them.

Michael Moore


* Proddie version