Questions For: Roy Moore

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Aug. 28 Update: Suspended from the bench for his refusal to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roy Moore remains defiant as he fights to have his case heard in the United States Supreme Court. Moore spoke with TIME's Paige Bowers before the monument was removed: 

  TIME: What do say to those who say that you're this demagogue, you're an embarrassment to the legal profession, you're someone who's out to impose religion on people or that doesn't understand the separation between church and state?

  Moore: Separation of church and state does not forbid the acknowledgment of God. The words "wall of separation between church and state" come from Thomas Jefferson who also wrote the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. What Jefferson said was that it was God the creator who gave us our rights, government was there to secure them for us and if it didn't it should be abolished. Do you separate God and government? I say not. I think [Jefferson] intimately connected God and government because it was those rights that God gave us that government was to secure for us. We've changed the First Amendment into a sword to take our life rights from us instead of a shield to protect them for us.

  TIME: A lot of people don't see it that way.

  Moore: A lot of people have been deceived by false representation of separation of church and state saying it forbids an acknowledgment of God. Indeed, the very words "separation of church and state" do not say "separation of God and government." The very separation of church and state exists because God ordained both the state and the church and gave them different roles and functions.  

TIME: How did the Ten Commandments become such a force in your life?  

Moore: My understanding of scripture and law in the last 11 years and the understanding of the constitution of the United States in its formation have convinced me that the laws of nature and nature's God were the foundation not only for the Declaration of Independence, which is stated therein, but for the constitution of the United States. In 1952, William O. Douglas said in a majority opinion, "we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a supreme being." Now in 1952 we have the United States Supreme Court saying that our institutions presuppose a supreme being and in 2002 we have a federal court that says you can't even recognize that there is one.

  TIME: Why?

  Moore: Because judges have departed from constitutional interpretation and have gone to their own feelings. One justice, by the name of Curtis, said "When a strict interpretation of the constitution according to the fixed rules which govern an interpretation of laws is abandoned and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control its meaning, we have no longer a constitution, we are under a government of individuals who for the time being have the power to declare what the constitution is according to their own views of what it ought to mean." What Justice Curtis said in 1858 is true today. We are no longer under a constitution, we are under a government of individuals who for the time being have the power to declare what the constitution is according to their own views of what they think it ought to mean. That's what this judge did in this case, he did it in violation of the Tenth Amendment, he did it in violation of the First Amendment and he issued an unlawful order when he commanded that we could not recognize God under the Alabama constitution.

  TIME: And still you were the one that got suspended.

  Moore: Yes, for doing my duty and obeying my oath.

  TIME: They say they're doing an ethics investigation.  

Moore: They say because I violated an order that I'm to be suspended, that I violated an order of court. But the point is, it's an unlawful order, it exceeds his jurisdiction and it's against the constitution which is the rule of law. For that you're criticized for being unethical. This is really a twist when you acknowledge God, you're unethical. But if you obey an order that says deny God, that's ethical. Black has now become white. Good has now become evil.

  TIME: What are you going to do if you lose your job and you lose your fight to take this all the way to the highest court in the land?

  Moore: I really don't know. I've got four children and a wife and I'm the major income of the family. My wife isn't employed and it may be difficult for a while. But I'm sure that I'll find something to do.  

TIME: You're an elected official. You have no intention of running for another public office?

  Moore: Whether I do or not, I have none at this time. I have only one object in mind and that is to go to the United States Supreme Court and fight this case on a petition for writ of certiorari and to prove the right to acknowledge God under the First Amendment and to retain my job as Chief Justice.