Sunday, August 31, 2003

Judge Roy Moore, The Ten Commandments, And The Current State Of Our Nation

(Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on August 31, 2003 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8; James 1: 17-27; Mark 7: 1-23.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-second Sunday 2003]

I e-mailed several friends the other day, asking them to sign an on-line petition in support of Judge Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Now I’m sure many of you already know the story, but for the few who might not: In the year 2000, right after he was elected chief justice, Judge Moore had a two-ton granite monument placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial building—which immediately caused people in the ACLU and other such groups to experience cardiac arrest! Why? Because the Ten Commandments were on it! Oh, how terrible! What a crime! God forbid we should have a monument on display in a courthouse of the United States of America which says on it, “Do not kill,” “Do not steal” and “Do not bear false witness”!!!

Maybe they’d be happy if it said, “Please kill, rob, and perjure yourselves as much as possible!”

Well, all too predictably, on August 5, a federal judge ordered Judge Moore to remove the monument within 15 days. Thank God he refused! But, unfortunately, that didn’t stop them from taking it out of the rotunda last Wednesday.

As I said a few moments ago, I e-mailed several friends earlier in the week asking them to support Judge Moore by signing an on-line petition, which was prepared by the American Family Association. Well, one of the women to whom I sent this e-mail proceeded to send it out to several of her friends. One of these friends (who, I later found out, is a professor at URI) wrote the following back to her—and to me:

“I would hope that the American Family Association would have more respect for the Bill of Rights and for the fact that religion has always been corrupted when it has received the kind of state support that is endorsed in this petition. I wouldn't want to live in Roy Moore's kind of America. Have a nice day. [Signed] Al.”

Once my blood pressure returned to normal, I wrote this back to Al:


I have a few questions for you:

Should they also remove two of the beautiful paintings which currently hang in the rotunda of the Capitol building in Washington D.C.? One of those paintings is entitled “The Baptism of Pocahontas" (Baptism, of course, is a Christian sacrament!); the other is “The Embarkation of the Pilgrims," in which Elder William Brewster is pictured holding the Bible!

Also, should they remove some of the 23 relief portraits which now hang above the gallery doors in the chambers of the United States’ House of Representatives? After all, some of these noted lawgivers were religious people (like Moses, and Pope Innocent III).

And how about the Lincoln Memorial? We should probably tear that down because Lincoln's second inaugural address is carved into its walls—and in that speech he makes several references to God and God's judgment!

Now I could have gone on with Al, but I didn’t need to.

Our founding fathers believed that religion had a very important role to play in the public life of this nation (and yes, they believed in the Ten Commandments!)—that’s why those paintings are in the capitol rotunda, and those relief portraits are in the House chambers, and why Lincoln had no problem making references to God and God’s moral law in his speeches!

The problem is there are now too many people in this country who believe something very different. They want, in effect, to create an atheistic, amoral America—a country where religion (especially Christianity) is marginalized, and where religious people are, for all practical purposes, censored! And too many Christians are just sitting back and allowing it to happen!

How providential it is that we have these 3 Scripture readings today. In the first, from Deuteronomy 4, Moses tells the people of Israel to faithfully observe God’s commandments. (And that includes the Ten Commandments!) He promises that their obedience will bring them many blessings, and will even make them a light to other nations. He says, “Observe [these commands] carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’”

America, please take note of these words of Moses! One of the reasons that people in other countries—especially Muslim countries—hate the United States today is because of the immorality that our country tolerates and then tries to export (through pornography, contraception, abortion, and the like). People in these nations look at us, and, instead of commending us for our obedience and intelligence, they say, “These Americans are infidels. They are corrupt and depraved, and so they must be destroyed—before they corrupt us.”

If America would only take heed of these words of Moses and become a faithful nation obedient to the Lord’s commandments, our relations with the Muslim world would greatly improve. I’m absolutely convinced of that.

But, unfortunately, we have too many men and women in positions of authority right now who are just like the Pharisees. Once again, in today’s Gospel text from Mark 7, Jesus gives these religious leaders a piece of his mind—a very large piece of his mind! And why did Jesus do it? Because they were rationalizing away God’s commandments! Jesus says to them, “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” You see, instead of using their intelligence to encourage others to obey the Lord, these Pharisees did their best to come up with clever ways for people to disobey God with a “clear conscience.”

Sounds a lot like some liberal Catholic priests and some liberal Catholic politicians I know of!

St. James says to us today: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” When it becomes a crime to display the Ten Commandments in a public building, then it’s clear to me that not enough Americans are interested in “doing the word” (that is to say, in being obedient to the moral law of God). Judge Roy Moore wants that to change, and so do I! For the sake of our nation’s future, I hope—and I pray!—that you do as well.