Alabama Politics and Religion

June 06, 2010

My latest column ran today in the Birmingham News. The piece is entitled "Roy Moore's fate should serve as a warning about movements." It focuses on Moore's fourth place finish in the Republican gubernatorial election this past Tuesday despite his popularity just a few years ago in the Ten Commandments case. This follows my recent academic article on Moore's rhetoric in the K.B. Journal. That article was entitled "Savior, Fool or Demagogue: Burkean Frames Surrounding the Ten Commandments Judge."

Although Moore is out of the race, the mixing of religion and politics is not necessarily over. Since none of the Republican candidates received more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff between Bradley Byrne and either Robert Bentley or Tim James. The latter two are both popular with the Christian Coalition of Alabama (with both beating Moore with that segment of the electorate that Moore had previously led). That would suggest that either Bentley or James is in a good position to pick up the supporters of the other one and those of Moore. The more moderate Byrne has already been attacked for his religious beliefs (violating the spirit of Article XI of the U.S. Constitution that forbids religious tests for office). Byrne came under attack for declaring:

I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.
Even though he statement is correct (since some parts of the Bible are metaphors and parables that are not to be taken literally), he was attacked politically for not believing the Bible. Someone even ran an ad accusing him of believing that "the Bible is only partially true" (which is not true since he said only partially literal not partially true). Byrne then joined the race for Alabama state Sunday School teacher by declaring:
I believe the Bible is true. ... Every word of it.
Frankly, none of this should matter. The key should be who will be the best leader for Alabama, not who has the most orthodox view of the Bible. As Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance wrote in an open letter to Alabama's Republican gubernatorial candidates (in which he singled out Moore for criticism):
It is unfortunate that your respective campaigns represent just the most recent in a long line of examples of political candidates misusing religion to gain voters’ support. I urge you both to cease these faith-based attacks and defenses and ensure that the remainder of your campaigns are focused on the issues which distinguish you as candidates, not the tenets of your faith.
Amen!

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