A prominent Southern Baptist leader who raised concerns last year after he advised that Christians should support the rights of other religions and also traveled to the Vatican for an interfaith conference on marriage is now stating that probate judges in Alabama should either follow the recent federal ruling in favor of “gay marriage” or resign.
Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, made the statement recently to the Baptist Press when asked about his prediction on which way the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on the issue of same-sex “marriage.” He opined that the court will likely legalize the practice, contradicting previous statements made in 2013 regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“The same court that ruled in 2013 that marriage should be a state, not a federal matter, is now imposing a federal definition of marriage on a state,” he stated. “The citizens of Alabama are rightly concerned about the non-action–action by the United States Supreme Court in refusing to stay same-sex marriages in the state until the court hands down its decision this June on the matter.”
But Moore said that until the high court rules on the matter, last month’s federal court ruling striking down Alabama’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment must be followed.
“As citizens and as Christians, our response should be one of both conviction and of respect for the rule of law,” he remarked. “Our system of government does not allow a state to defy the law of the land.”
“In a Christian ethic, there is a time for civil disobedience in cases of unjust laws,” Moore continued. “That’s why, for instance, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail. In the case of judges and state Supreme Court justices, though, civil disobedience, even when necessary, cannot happen in their roles as agents of the state.”
He then explained his belief that if one does not wish to follow the law, then they should resign from their position.
“Religious freedom and conscience objections must be balanced with a state’s obligation to discharge the law. We shouldn’t have officials breaking the law, but civil servants don’t surrender their conscience simply by serving in government,” Moore said. “While these details are being worked out, in the absence of any conscience protections, a government employee faced with a decision of violating his conscience or upholding the law, would need to resign and protest against it as a citizen if he could not discharge the duties of his office required by law in good conscience.”
He said that the way to handle the matter is through advocacy and not resistance.
“Given the high bar required for civil disobedience, the way to address same-sex marriage in this circumstance is not by defying the rule of law, but by making our case before the legitimate authorities,” Moore stated. “If we lose, our responsibility is to advocate as citizens for our views, even if that project is (as in the case of the pro-life movement) a long-term project, while we work for our constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience and religious liberty.”
As previously reported, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore issued a letter last week to probate judges throughout the state, advising them that they are not required to issue “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples despite a recent federal court ruling striking down the state’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.
“Lower federal courts are without authority to impose their own interpretation of federal constitutional law upon the state courts,” he wrote. “Not only is the Mobile federal court acting without constitutional authority, but it is doing so in a manner inconsistent with the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
“Interference with the right of state courts to make independent judgments based on their own view of the U.S. Constitution is a violation of state sovereignty,” Moore said.
Matt Trewhella, pastor of Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee, Wisc. and author of the book “The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate,” agreed, telling Christian News Network that Moore’s actions were right and proper.
“What Judge Moore is saying is correct. The federal courts should not be the lone arbiters of what is constitutional or not, but state judges have the duty to rule on the constitutionality of law,” he said. “[The federal courts] have contradicted not only the law of God, but also the created order of God, and [Moore and Gov. Bentley] are not going to go along with the federal government’s rebellion against God, but rather do their duty as lesser magistrates and defy the tyranny that the federal courts are imposing upon the people in states across America while they’re trampling Constitutions across the country.”
Credit: Theology 14