The Tale of Two Men
Paul R. Vaughn
Originally Published September 2nd, 2003
There are many lessons to share with you after returning from Montgomery Alabama during the Ten Commandment rallies. There are enumerable stories, testimonies, and ideas that would encourage and strengthen you in your walk with God. However, today I would like to share with you one concept: Obeying Your Conscience. In reading Plutarch’s Lives, one finds a comparison of men from the Greek and Roman nations. In like manner, the Ten Commandments battle has produced a great contrast in the character of two men.
The first, Justice Gorman Houston, is the senior Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court. He believes the law is whatever a court says that it is. Although a professing Christian he is a functional humanist. The idea that man is the lawgiver and that whatever a court decrees is law is a cowardly and treacherous notion. It was a lie when the King of England passed unjust laws to oppress the Colonies. It was a lie in 1857 when the US Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property. It was a lie in 1973 when the US Supreme Court said that a woman had a right to kill her unborn child, and it is a lie today. Justice Houston’s confession of this is meant to appease the god of political correctness and to avoid any undo stress and anxiety in his own life. To quote from Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail, Justice Houston is one
who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension
to a positive peace which is the presence of justice”.
In sharp contrast to Justice Houston we have The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy S. Moore. Chief Justice Moore has made a stand for what he believes is the basic precept in judicial authority. Namely, that it comes from the Creator of Heaven and Earth and it can come from no other. When the Federal Court ruled that the 10 Commandment Monument in the Alabama Supreme Court building was an “acknowledgment of God” and that it had to be removed, the Chief Justice stood on principle and the law and defied the unjust court order.
Chief Justice Moore took an oath to uphold the constitution of Alabama, which states, 2”…invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution and form of government for the State of Alabama”. As The Chief Justice, he must uphold the law he was elected and sworn to uphold. Because Judge Thompson declared 3“the state may not acknowledge the sovereignty of the Judeo-Christian God and attribute to that God our religious freedom.” Chief Justice Moore’s duty to the State of Alabama is at odds with the order of Judge Thompson and the Middle District Court of the United States. Because of this conflict Chief Justice Moore has declined the request to remove the Monument.
In response to this courageous stand, Justice Houston promptly went to the other members of the Alabama Supreme Court and filed an ethics complaint to have The Chief Justice temporarily suspended until a Court of the Judiciary could hear the charges against him. Not only did Justice Houston break his oath to the State of Alabama by not defending her constitution against the overbearing Federal Court, he began to attack the only person who would not bow down his knee and capitulate to the unjust ruling.
What does one do when they are under conflicting orders? When the Governor, the Alabama Attorney General, the Federal Court, and the entire Supreme Court of Alabama are against you what does one do? They stand. They stand with honor. They stand with humility. They stand with integrity. They may stand alone, but they stand. To do less would be to dishonor and deny the one by whom they were created. Like Martin Luther, standing before all the Church authority of his day, they say, “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”
If one were to take a brief look into our past as a nation and even specifically into Montgomery Alabama, one would quickly find that our history is replete with men of honor, men who today are called hero’s of the faith and great leaders of our nation, because they recognized and honored the Law of God above the law of man. They held their conscience in high esteem, and they stood.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached just one block from the current site of the 10 Commandments statue that is at issue in this case. From the pulpit of the Dexter Avenue Baptist church, he launched a life of activism and faithful duty to God that led thousands in compassionate acts of civil disobedience. This should more appropriately be called Biblical Obedience. Because God is no respecter of persons and he created all men equal regardless of race, our laws during Dr. King’s time were invalid. They violated the Law of God and any law that attempts to supersede God’s Law is not a law, but tyranny. In this case the Supreme Court was found not to be supreme. The Supreme Court was in violation of God’s Law. In order for this tyranny to be corrected, the people of God must have the moral strength to stand up and obey God rather than man.
One should understand this is not an act of arrogance, disrespect, or lawlessness. This is in direct obedience to Roman’s 13. They respectfully and peacefully submitted to the Law of God and the law of man. They understood the penalties that awaited them and the abuse they would suffer. They said, if man’s law says we must be arrested for refusing to eat at a separate restaurant, drink from a separate water fountain, or sit in the back of the bus; then we must be arrested. We will submit to the punishment the court deems appropriate. However, we cannot abide by these unjust laws, as that would continue to betray the God who created us. We trust, as did Paul the Apostle, that when man’s law is in opposition to God’s Law that we can become a living parable for all the world to see the error of man’s attempt at justice apart from the wisdom of the Creator.
There are times in each person’s life where they are faced with a choice that determines their destiny, the direction their life is headed. During these times many do not see the course as it changes in front of them until the decision is past. This issue is one of those choices for everyone who hears about it.
There are those, like Justice Houston, who hang a plaque on the wall, displaying Micah 6:8.
what does the Lord require of you;
To do Justly, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
They believe that somehow justice is ascribed to their life because the word is hung on their wall. They point to it as a banner whenever they are under stress, failing to recognize that justice is a word of action. It requires a response, one must, “Do Justly”, not just talk about it and feel remorse when it does not happen. These men of cowardice like to walk around with concerned looks on their face and talk about how much they thought about something, but at the end of the day, all the façade is just an excuse for having done nothing when they should have stood.
Then are men of conscience, though they may be rare in our day. They are the ones who are not just a “hearer of the word, but a doer also”. Men, who like Chief Justice Moore, declare; 4“I will not violate my oath, I cannot forsake my conscience, I will not neglect my duty, and I will never, never deny the God upon whom our laws and Country depend”.
Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail
The Constitution Of Alabama 1901 – Preamble
The Ten Commandments Monument Opinion
Chief Justice Moore’s speech – August 21, 2003
Alabama State Code 41-10-275 – Authorization used to place the monument.
Moore Petition to Supreme Court – Denied Monday, November 03, 2003
Ethic Charges – Heard on November 12, 2003
Establishment Clause Cases
Litigation over Ten Commandments – Find Law pages, scroll down to religion