by Patrick J. Buchanan – December 1, 1997
During the civil rights movement, demonstrators who “sat in” at segregated lunch counters or defied court orders were routinely absolved. And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was lionized by our liberal establishment for his imitation of India’s apostle of non-violence, Gandhi, and his understanding of the validity of civil disobedience.
The South was wrong, it was said; the civil rights movement was right. And many were the illegal actions pardoned and hallowed in the name of the “civil rights revolution.”
Well, in Alabama, today, the familiar tactics are being employed anew — in a different cause. And my prediction is the establishment will soon be howling about the rule of law and hurling thunderbolts at those who defy court orders.
From Alabama Gov. Fob James to Etowah County Judge Roy Moore, from teachers and coaches of the Bible Belt’s DeKalb County to its parents and students, there is open defiance of federal court orders that these good Baptist folk believe are intended to de-Christianize their communities.
For a year, Judge Moore has ignored a court order to take down a carved replica of the Ten Commandments from his court. Gov. James has said that if the feds send U.S. marshals to Judge Moore’s court, he, his state troopers and the Alabama National Guard will be there to meet them on the doorsteps.
But DeKalb County, where Baptist churches number 73 and bars 0, is where the defiance might be called mass civil disobedience.
On hearing a case that religious activity was still taking place in county schools, including organized prayer at football games and students praying in class, U.S. Judge Ira DeMent issued an 18-page order. It presumed to describe what was intolerable under the U.S. Constitution. Here are a few of the judge’s prohibited practices:
No coach may lead his players in prayer; no prayer may be broadcast over the public address system of any school; no prayer may be offered at any school event; no school-sanctioned religious activity may take place in classrooms; there is to be no distribution of Bibles on school property, and no songs about Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus at school assemblies before the Christmas, excuse me, winter break.
To enforce his ruling, Judge DeMent ordered a “monitor” into DeKalb County schools; and teachers are to be given instructions on what they may and may not do under the Constitution.
The ACLU, which brought the case, rejoiced. “We certainly hope that out of respect for the law that the DeKalb County school officials follow the judge’s guidelines,” said Pamela Summers, who argued the case. Lots of luck, Pam.
DeMent’s “prayer police” ignited a firestorm. Statewide, the reaction was astonishment and outrage. Gov. James called the judge’s order a “moral and legal catastrophe” and offered to lead the county’s students in prayer. School officials denounced the order as anti-democratic. At one football game, so many parents and students prayed together, the players could not get on to the field. And there is open defiance by students at DeKalb County schools.
We are headed for a historic confrontation between federal power and states’ right, and on this newest battlefield of the culture war, traditionalists have the high moral ground.
In 1954, the United States added “under God” to our pledge of allegiance to “acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon the moral directions of the Creator.” When the best known of those “moral directions of the Creator” is the Ten Commandments, how can the feds demand they be pulled down?
Judge DeMent, too, has a problem. If he charges Gov. James and DeKalb County school officials with contempt and orders them arrested — along with praying students and their parents — the folks arrested will become martyrs to a new “religious rights revolution,” and civil disobedience will erupt across Alabama and the Bible Belt.
Among the triumphs of liberalism in our time has been the seizure of power over society by the Supreme Court, the capture of that court by the militant left, and the timidity of conservatives in Congress to confront it and roll back its illegitimate theft of power.
While the people rage at repeated acts of arrogance by federal judges, our president shrugs, and Congress wrings its hands. Now, Alabama has chosen the course of brazen defiance, and the rest of us, including Congress, will be forced to take sides.
I’ll take my stand in Dixie.