It isn’t the typical rock tour, but Judge Roy Moore’s granite Ten Commandments monument banished from the Alabama Judicial Building is winding its way across Tennessee on a city-to-city national road show ending in Washington, D.C.
It stopped Wednesday near Nashville. About 75 people gathered inside an air-conditioned shopping mall in Franklin, Tenn., for an hour-long rally. Afterward, many moved to the parking lot and waited single file in 95-degree heat to climb a ladder onto the back of a flat-bed truck and view or photograph the 5,280-pound monument dubbed “Roy’s Rock.”
“We are here today to pay tribute to our Christian heritage and God’s moral law in the Ten Commandments,” said Betty Jane Chalfant, a county councilwoman and member of Nashville’s First Presbyterian Church. She was one of two local co-sponsors for the rally.
Last year a federal judge ordered Moore, a Southern Baptist and then chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, to remove the monument he had placed in the rotunda of the State Judicial Building. Moore defied the order, prompting a Special Appeals Court to remove him from office. Moore recently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for reinstatement.
The act of civil disobedience made Moore a hero for many among the religious right.
“Judge Moore is a brilliant person,” Jim Cabanis, president of American Veterans Standing for God and Country, said at the rally in Franklin. “He is a constitutional scholar and he is a biblical scholar. He knew what he was doing when he made this stand.”
Federal authorities removed the monument last Aug. 27 and placed it in a storage closet. It remained there until Cabanis obtained Moore’s permission to remove it July 19 and take it across the country.
The tour began Saturday in Dayton, Tenn., home of the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” pitting creationism against evolution in 1925. It passed through Greenville, Tenn., on Sunday and Oak Ridge on Monday. It stopped Tuesday in Cookeville, and from Franklin headed toward Memphis, where it arrives Sunday after additional stops along the way.
Cabanis said the goals of the tour are to show the monument to as many people as possible, register voters and encourage them to elect politicians who will silence “egregious federal judges,” who make certain rulings “because they do not believe in God.”
“The judicial system has become one of the major domestic enemies of our country,” Cabanis said.
Rod McDougal, a VFW chaplain from California representing America for Jesus, a group planning a rally Oct. 22 in Washington to pray for God to “save our nation,” urged Christians to vote for a president and representatives who will replace “activist” federal judges in the upcoming election.
“The Christians will have the opportunity to make the difference in America,” McDougal said. “The American Christians are the ones who will determine who the judges are in this land.”
Cabanis illustrated why this issue is important to veterans by telling a story about how, during the Korean War, he noticed American Christian soldiers showed compassion toward their wounded and dead while communists did not. “As a 19-year-old I thought how proud I am to be representing a Christian nation,” he said.
A moderate Baptist ethicist, meanwhile, voiced concern about Christians lining up to pay tribute to a graven image.
“The traveling road show of Roy Moore’s replica of the Ten Commandments has the feel of idolatry,” said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “Some conservative Christians appear to invest their inordinate hope in an object, contrary to the Ten Commandments.”
“The best place to teach the Ten Commandments is in our churches and homes,” Parham said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.