MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA — Last week, Alabama’s Chief Justice of its state Supreme Court argued that he should be allowed to deny gay couples a marriage license because in his reasoning, the states that had their gay marriage bans challenged in the United States Supreme Court should have been the only ones impacted by the Obergefell decision that last summer made marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states. Justice Roy Moore has once before tried to circumvent the high court’s ruling on same sex marriage and backed away from his challenge, but there is no indication if he will do so again.
While the legal groundwork that Moore’s argument rests on is tenuous at best — it would mean that decisions like the one that made interracial marriage legal in all 50 states would be invalid — one lower circuit judge in the state feels that Moore’s past comments on God’s role in the founding of the country and its laws gives all the insight one needs to divine his true intent. Justice Sherry Billings of Alabama’s third circuit gave the media quotes from an interview Moore did wherein he said that the United States “is a Christian nation by the fact that 90% of the churches in America are Christian churches” and Moore said that the country was “certainly founded upon Christian principles” as evidence that he is using a religious litmus test and, Billings said, that has her quite concerned.
“I’m an atheist, in the interest of full-disclosure,” Billings told us, “but I’d have the same misgivings if I was a Christian and some atheist was saying that because they didn’t believe in God that someone shouldn’t have the right to marry in their state if they do. This country was founded on the freedom of religion, which kind of means that no one single religion should be given preference over another.” However, Billings said, it’s clear to her that Chief Justice Moore doesn’t feel the same way.
Billings said just to be sure that she wasn’t off base in her belief that the United States is a secular nation, she took a special trip to Washington, D.C. and got special access to the original Constitution that is stored in the National Archives. “I scoured that document from top to tail,” she told us, “and no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find a single scribble or scratch that looked like God’s John Hancock.”
“As far as I can tell, the Constitution has about 7, 500 words in it,” Billings told us, “and of those 7,500 words do you know how many are God,” she asked before telling us, “none.” She said that the only mention of religion is in the First Amendment when it says that Congress shall pass no law that favors one religion or the other, but that outside of that she can’t find any specific or implied references to God or Christianity.
Judge Billings said that therefore, in her mind, the lack of mentioning of God in the country’s founding documents “blows a massive hole in Justice Moore’s reasoning.”
“He, nor anyone else, cannot legitimately claim that this nation is anything but a secular one,” Billings said as she was ending the interview, “because any church or religion that was in power when the Constitution was written would have insisted that their group get special treatment. The First Amendment is as clear a rebuke of that silly notion as one can find. Does that mean Justice Moore and his ilk will listen and understand? Of course not. But the rest of us should be armed with this knowledge so that when the crazy ideas are presented we can bat them away as quickly as possible.”
Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.