This story is one in a series of profiles of likely candidates for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination. IowaWatch will be publishing profiles on other candidates in the next several months, focusing on those who will be campaigning in Iowa for the caucuses.
Roy Moore has come a long ways, done a lot of things and stirred a few controversies since the days when he made 85 cents an hour bagging groceries at a Piggly Wiggly.
Moore has tried professional kickboxing in Texas, ranching in the Australian outback and politics in Alabama. In that Deep South state, he ran for public office several times, including two runs for governor. He was trounced in both of those races. But he also got elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court – only to get booted off the bench less than three years later for disobeying a court order.
But now he is up and running again, this time eying the Republican nomination for president of the U.S. and vowing to obey the rule of law, stand up for the Constitution and support religious freedom.
“I think that this country is in a moral, economic and constitutional crisis, and its leadership is divided by petty party politics and, quite frankly, a special interest agenda,” Moore said in a radio broadcast in Des Moines, Iowa. “We can see that our country is going nowhere.”
Though he remains a dark horse who is seldom mentioned by the political pundits, Moore formed an exploratory committee and traveled across Iowa last month campaigning and doing what most Republican politicians do – latching on to the aura of the late Ronald Reagan. He invoked Reagan’s name when he went to Des Moines to announce the exploratory committee on WHO radio, where the former president was once a sports announcer.
Moore’s interest in the presidency puts him among several other Republicans who have formed exploratory committees, including Tim Pawlenty, Hermain Cain, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul recently formally announced their candidacies. However, Moore and his senior advisor, Zachery Michael, say his background makes him different from any other potential candidate.
Religion Flap Brings National Notice
Moore initially made national headlines in 2001, when he was chief justice, for erecting a monument of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building. Soon after the monument was set up, The American Civil Liberties Union, along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed suit.
Richard Cohen, president of the Law Center, said that the organization joined the suit against Moore, because the Center believes the monument was an obvious violation of the idea of separation of church and state. He also called Moore a “dangerous man” largely because of a concurring opinion Moore wrote to a 2002 Alabama Supreme Court ruling that said same-sex couples were “unfit to have custody of children.” Moore’s concurrence said:
“The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this [homosexual] lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.”
Cohen said Moore is dangerous because he is willing to interpret the law in biblical terms, but others including James Henderson, disagreed with Cohen.
Henderson believed Moore was defending the Ten Commandments, and that stance earned Henderson’s respect for the jurist and led him to later join Moore’s campaign for governor in 2006 and to manage his second run last year.
Moore has since been called the Ten Commandments judge and conservatives, like Henderson, around the country have dubbed him a hero.
Religion, Discipline Color Childhood
Moore was born in 1947, in Gadsden, Ala., to Roy Baxter Moore and Evelyn Rosida Moore. He is the eldest of his four siblings, Jerry, Nancy, Joey and Toni.
Michael said Moore wasn’t raised with an abundance of material possessions. Instead, his parents focused on instilling discipline in their children and teaching them to love God. Moore’s father was a strict former Army sergeant during World War II.
At Etowah High School, Moore said he got straight A’s and was active in sports, such as football and BETA clubs, which are non-profit, youth educational clubs that promote academic achievement, service and leadership. He was voted class president his senior year, after which he got an appointment to West Point Military Academy in New York state.
His father died during Moore’s junior year at West Point. The following year, he graduated and received a degree in arts, sciences and literature.
In the Army, Moore served as an infantry officer in Europe, a 1st lieutenant in Germany and as a captain and company commander in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. After the Army, Moore entered the University of Alabama’s School of Law, graduated in 1977 and became deputy district attorney of Etowah County, Ala. Moore held the position for five years before he ran for circuit judge in 1982. He lost and took a break from the law in Texas and Australia.
Moore returned to Alabama in 1984 and resumed his law career with a general practice. During that time, Moore met Kayla Kisor, who was 14 years his junior, at a Christmas party. The couple married the following year, and Moore eventually adopted his wife’s daughter from an earlier marriage. Moore and his wife had three more children, Roy Baxter, who is the Army, Caleb and Micah. Moore also has three grandchildren.
Ten Commandments Stance Bring Legal Fights
In 1992, Moore was appointed circuit judge, the same position he had sought ten years earlier. When he hung the Ten Commandments in the courtroom, the American Civil Liberties Union sued in state and federal courts, but neither were successful.
Moore was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme court eight years later in 2000. He erected a monument of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial building the following year. Again the ACLU sued, this time with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and won in 2002. A federal judge ruled it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and was unconstitutional.
After Moore defied the Court, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary said he had violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, and he was removed from office in November 2003.
Moore called the action unlawful. On his website, he argues that “not only does every state constitution in some way acknowledge the sovereignty of God, but also the U.S. Constitution does so as well, in both the design of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court case law.” The First Amendment, however, is silent on the sovereignty of a god, saying only that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof.”
Moore has worked with the Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery since 2003 and serves as the foundation’s president, he said in a telephone interview from there. It advocates for what it sees as “the necessity and importance of acknowledging God in law and government.” The organization also represents people who are involved in suits over freedom of religion.
In 2006, Moore ran for Alabama governor in the Republican primaries in 2006 and 2010, losing both times. In between those two campaigns, Moore wrote a book entitled, “So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, Judicial Tyranny, and the Battle for Religious Freedom.”
Moore is heavily involved in the Tea Party movement. He speaks across the country at Tea Party events. In February 2011, the Republican Freedom Coalition and Central Texas Tea Party gave Moore its Great American Award.
“The people need somebody to represent them, not people who are just there for higher office and power,” Moore said. “They need someone to stand on principle and that’s what I do. That’s what I did as chief justice. I stood on the principles of the constitution and the law, and I’d do the same thing as president.”