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Mohler: Ten Commandments issue should not divide believers
September 02, 2003
By Michael Foust
The Ten Commandments monument, which sat in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building for two years, is now out of public view. It was removed by court order Aug. 27. BP photo
R. Albert Mohler Jr. called on Christians on both sides of the Ten Commandments issue Aug. 27 to unite in defending religious liberty.
Writing in a column posted first on his Crosswalk.com weblog and also on Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president said he believes that the monument in Montgomery, Ala., was constitutional and that the Ten Commandments is the foundation of American law, but he also thinks that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore should have followed the court order and removed it pending an appeal.
Mohler’s column came two days after Focus on the Family founder James Dobson criticized the stances taken by Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Dobson also called on his listeners to support Moore by protesting in Montgomery, Ala. The monument, however, was moved out of public view Aug. 27.
Christians “of deep conviction must learn that we will at times disagree over tactics while standing united in a strategy to defend religious liberty and Christian witness,” Mohler wrote, adding that Dobson, Land and Sekulow have all advanced the cause of religious liberty.
“This is not a time for division, but for unity,” Mohler wrote.
Moore is “absolutely right” in asserting that the Ten Commandments are the “foundation of our legal system and its moral precepts,” Mohler wrote.
“[W]e must pray for Chief Justice Roy Moore as he sets the course for how he will deal with this crisis in the future,” Mohler wrote. “He brought this case to national prominence because he is a man of deep Christian character, conviction and principles.”
Criticizing rulings by certain courts, Mohler said the current tide of secularism “threatens to deny history, distort the laws, rob believers of their freedoms, and push the nation into a brave new world of secularism ... .”
Christians must “support and defend the right of the state of Alabama -- or any other state -- to erect a monument featuring the Ten Commandments,” Mohler wrote, adding that believers “should work through the democratic process to remove the judges and reassert legal sanity.”
Describing the current times as “a season of peril for our nation,” Mohler noted, “The federal courts have twisted the Constitution to push a radical social and moral revolution. This is why concerned Christians should push for the confirmation of federal judges who will uphold the rule of law -- and the original meaning of the Constitution. But we cannot simultaneously deny the courts’ authority and seek to correct their direction.”
Believers must also pick their “battles wisely,” Mohler asserted.
“The court-ordered removal of Ala-bama’s Ten Commandments monument is a national tragedy and a travesty of law,” he wrote. “But thoughtful and responsible Christian leaders must ponder whether this is the place to take our stand in a court-defying, go-for-broke effort.
“The recovery of a culture requires the stewardship of strategy as well as firmness of conviction.”
Land continued to weigh in on the issue Aug. 27 on his “For Faith and Family” radio broadcast, in the second of a three-part series on the Ten Commandments.
“I think that [Moore] should be allowed to keep the monument,” Land said. “I think that the federal court order is a terrible order. I think it is wrong. I hope the Supreme Court will overturn it, and if they don’t they we ought to get a different Supreme Court.”
But Land said he is “very uncomfortable with a state judge saying that he is not going to obey a federal law, even if he disagrees with the law.”
Land asked, “Do we serve the cause that we seek by ignoring the law, or do we change the law? I want to reform this government. I don’t want to rebel against it. I think that is a key issue.”
Mohler agreed, saying that denying a court order means that Christians “are effectively arguing that the American system of government is completely corrupted, and that no remedy can be found through the legitimate political process. Those who are ready to make that case should take full measure of what they are proposing. I know of no responsible Christian leader who is even close to making that argument.”
Focus on the Family’s website included a letter from Dobson, urging support for Moore.
“If we fail at this moment of destiny, we will become a secularized nation like Canada or the continent of Europe, whose laws are based on secular humanism, or worse, on post-modernism, which holds that there is no truth, no basic right or wrong, nothing good or bad, nothing evil or noble, nothing moral or immoral,” Dobson wrote. “Law then will be a whimsical standard that shifts with the sands of time.
“This is where the Court is taking us, and Justice Roy Moore is courageously standing against that pernicious intention by the federal judiciary.”
Sekulow, who has said repeatedly that he supports Ten Commandments displays, said the action Aug. 27 is a result of a timely stay not being requested.
“We always ask for a stay pending appeal in these cases to avoid exactly what we’re seeing now on the national news, which is the monument being removed,” he said. “It really breaks my heart that this is what’s happened down in Alabama ... .”
The ACLU currently is involved in a dozen Ten Commandments cases, Sekulow noted. (BP)