Republicans have a point when they cry “foul” at Democrats’ late substitution of a candidate for chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
The state Democratic Executive Committee unanimously voted to remove Harry Lyon from the ticket for violating ethical rules. Lyon, who over the years has had frequent brushes with the law and ethical rules applicable to lawyers, criticized homosexuals and supporters of gay marriage. He claimed his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, was a “devil worshipper.”
The Democratic committee replaced Lyon with a respected Jefferson County Circuit Court judge, Robert Vance.
If it was a game, the 11th-hour substitution would feel suspiciously like cheating.
Much more is at stake, however, than the success rates of the two parties.
Three Republican candidates campaigned for the chief justice spot in the primaries. Two of them would have placed their respect for the law above personal beliefs. Two recognized their religious beliefs did not trump the U.S. Constitution.
The third was former Chief Justice Roy Moore. He won the nomination.
Moore, determined to place his personal religious beliefs above his oath of office, became a national symbol of intolerance after his election as chief justice in 2000.
Writing in 2001, a federal district judge described Moore’s actions:
“He installed a two-and-a-half ton monument in the most prominent place in a government building, managed with dollars from all state taxpayers, with the specific purpose and effect of establishing a permanent recognition of the ‘sovereignty of God,’ the Judeo-Christian God, over all citizens in this country, regardless of each taxpaying citizen’s individual personal beliefs or lack thereof.”
The district judge and a federal appellate court ordered Moore to remove the Ten Commandments monument because it violated the U.S. Constitution. Moore refused. The other state Supreme Court justices had to overrule him. Moore remained defiant, and finally was removed from office by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.
The message Moore sent to Alabamians and the world was that in this state, legal protections exist only for those who subscribe to Judeo-Christian beliefs. He merged church and state in Taliban fashion.
If this were a game, the Democratic Party’s substitution of candidates would have been perilously close to cheating.
It is not a game. At stake is not just Alabama’s reputation, but the sanctity of a system of justice that should view all people as equal before the law.
Moore proved himself unworthy of office. Alabamians of both parties needed another choice.
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