Senate candidate Roy Moore believes in the “sovereignty of God,” an idea that he believes certain rules, laws and even Supreme Court opinions have run afoul of.
In an interview with TIME magazine, the Alabama Republican said that he thinks judges who rule in favor of gay marriage should be removed from the bench, argued that it was “providence” that he won the primary against incumbent Sen. Luther Strange and said he often tells his critics that they need to think about biblical principles.
“I talk to liberals, and I tell them this,” he said. “I say, ‘you should be recognizing the sovereignty of God.’ That’s what gives you the right to believe what you want. That’s in the first four Commandments.”
Moore, who was removed from his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument to the 10 Commandments he’d installed in the state courthouse and for ordering state judges not to issue same-sex marriage certificates, also said that he thinks NFL players who protest the national anthem are breaking the law.
Here’s a transcript of portions of a two-hour conversation with Moore held on Oct. 16, which began at his campaign headquarters in downtown Montgomery and ended at his office at the Christian action group he founded in 2004.
The transcript below has been edited for clarity and brevity.
How you doing today, Judge Moore?
I’m amazed at politics.
Tell me why, Judge Moore. You saw the President’s remarks this morning that you’re meeting him next week?
Well, it’s the first I’m hearing about it. But let’s go.
You said you’re amazed by politics.
It’s just fascinating.
Well, do you enjoy it?
No. I’m shocked by it. I’m shocked by how corrupt it is. The higher up you go, the more corrupt it is. What they’re doing to me and my family is unforgivable. I just caught ‘em.
Can I ask who ‘they’ is?
Who I’m running against. First the Republicans, now the Democrats. They’re coming against my son. They got a big spread [about his arrest on charges of criminal tresspass] in the paper today. It all resulted from a little hunting incident. Little. Miniature. He came home, wanted to go hunting, and he didn’t have a license. But he went up on my mountain and saw a [hunting] feeder that was on another person’s land.
It sounds like you’re ready for this race to be over.
Well, thanks for the taking the time. Let’s start from the beginning. You’ve made it clear that you think the moral foundation of the U.S. Constitution is Biblical. You’ve been reinforcing this point since you were appointed judge in Alabama 25 years ago.
I’d prayed not to get appointed unless it was God’s will. That’s the way I saw it. It was shocking.
So I got to my courtroom. The previous judge had taken everything of value. I had to start decorating. I figured I’d decorate it with a big picture of Washington or Jefferson. That’s what I like. But I couldn’t find any. So I pulled out a little plaque of the Ten Commandments that I had made in 1980. They said ‘you can’t do that, they’re gonna jump all over you for that.’ But I had prayed not to get the job unless it was God’s will. Then I got the job, and I said, ‘I can’t acknowledge God’s role in this?’”
Like I’ve done all my life, I started defending myself. I said “why can’t I do this?” I started learning more about the law, and I learned that the Declaration of Independence says we’re “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.” I didn’t take down the plaque. I continued the prayers before sessions — which they still do today!
Later, I said, “heck, I’m gonna run for the [Alabama] Supreme Court.” I prayed that God would not let me be elected if he did not want me to acknowledge him at the highest level of the state. And I won. And I did that.
What were been your primary objectives? Were you fighting hot-button issues like abortion and same-sex marriage?
Religious liberty across the country. The right to acknowledge God. We’re still writing briefs. People are getting fired for acknowledging God. Abortion and same-sex marriage, yes. Religious liberty is a big topic across the country today.
In 2012 I decided to run for Chief Justice again. My opponent’s campaign was run by Karl Rove. Karl Rove is a very vengeful person. I won. So I’m Chief Justice again, and along comes same-sex marriage. It struck down our Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.
I decided to do something. I issued a memorandum that basically said she had no jurisdiction over the probate judges of our state — which was true! So I stopped same-sex marriage in Alabama. I told this judge she had no authority.
As you see it, is it more about constitutional jurisprudence, or the “correctness” of same sex marriage?
Both. Here’s a federal judge who had no jurisdiction here. You had a federal ruling conflicting with a state ruling. You might say ‘oh, federal overrules state.’ No it doesn’t. It doesn’t. That’s clear constitutional law that everyone’s confused about.
You’ve clearly spent a lot of time thinking about this. Did you feel that your values as a jurist and a Christian were under assault?
I felt American values were under assault unjustly. Four Supreme Court Justices agreed with me: Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. Theirs wasn’t just a dissent — it was a blistering dissent. Justice Roberts said that it was completely unconstitutional. Justice Scalia said it was a judicial putsch — a sudden, violent seizure of the government.
And you decided to run for Senate to continue this fight.
This race was unique. $30 million, according to MSNBC, was put in this race against me. We had about $2 million. McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund — they all came down. I was blistered with adverse advertisements against my wife and family. And we won.
It was such a monumental win that I recognized it was God’s providence that we won. It’s inexplicable in modern terms. That’s why we’ve got such consternation in Washington over ‘what does this mean?’ Well, in my opinion, it means we’re waking up the country to the United States Constitution and the relevance of God. That’s not a religious position. If we don’t understand that our rights come from God, then the government will take them from you.
What’s the most misunderstood thing about your candidacy?
That it’s about religion. It’s not religious at all. God is not religion. I believe in the sovereignty of God. It’s stated clearly in our law, clearly in our history, and clearly in our faith. It’s not anything I’m making up.
So you believe fundamentally that our Constitutional rights are God-given and scriptural in their context. When you’re a Senator, how is that going to manifest itself in your legislative fights? What are the issues you’re going to fight for?
Well, if rights are given by God, then they can’t be taken away from us. That makes Obergefell an illegitimate opinion, because it does that. Our rights are given by God.
In other words, you want to see if you can get rid of same-sex marriage.
Well… you ask me how it would affect my ruling. Justices who put themselves above the Constitution they’re sworn to uphold? They should be impeached and removed. There you go. “The Senate removes…”
How else? Well, the 60-vote rule. You ever heard of that? Well, there are only ten instances in the Constitution where there’s a supermajority rule. Basically, I’m saying that all the rules in the Constitution are majority rule. If you have 50 [Senators], that’s 51. Simple majority is everything above 51. The 60-vote rule is not in this Constitution. That makes it unconstitutional.
I want to strongly oppose the 60-vote rule. It’s a man-made thing that gets in and prevents vote on legislation. If the people down here make me Senator, they want me to rule on these things. I can’t rule on them under the current Senate rules. It relates to God because the Constitution was meant to restrain this sort of power.
When you come to Washington, your views will make you something of an outsider. But often, folks come to Washington pledging to “drain the swamp,” then they enter the swamp and become “creatures of the swamp,” so to speak. How are you confident that you can maintain your own values once you’re in Washington?
I’d lose my job. I don’t want to lose my job. You can lose your job by the people back home when they say you’re out of touch. That’s the right of the people. You think the people of Alabama don’t understand what I believe now?
Over the last 15 years, there’s been a cultural revolution of sorts that you take issue with. For instance, fifteen years ago, same-sex couples couldn’t get married in a single state; today, they can get married in fifty. Aren’t you pushing against the tide? You talk about returning the country to Biblical values — what would that look like?
If I was successful, it would look like the country we came from.
The United States of America. Without the knowledge of God, there is no such thing as the United States of America, because if you take God out of it, then you take out the very values and principles on which it was founded.
Am I pushing against the tide, or are liberals pushing against the tide of history? The tide of history was that this country was far different than any country ever created. We recognized the laws of God as giving us a right to have a country. Thomas Jefferson knew that. James Madison said it.
In 1954, “under God” was put in the Pledge of Allegiance. A lot of people said you couldn’t put God in the Pledge of Allegiance, that it’s interfering with religion. But as Eisenhower said: it should be pointed out that this legislation in no way runs contrary to the First Amendment.
Are you making a point here about this NFL controversy, with the players taking a knee?
It’s against the law, you know that?
I did not know that.
Go look it up. It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That’s the law. That’s in the United States Code. 36-USC-301. I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds. One, it’s respect for the law. If we don’t respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it’s respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I’m surprised that no one brought this up.
The illegality of it?
Yeah. Are we there for the rule of law or not? If they didn’t have it in there, it would just be tradition. But this is law. If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?
Donald Trump’s victory last November — did that give you confidence that you’d have a shot at taking office? That there was a conservative movement that supported what you’re about?
That’s not why I ran. You know, I was enthusiastic about Donald Trump’s election. I think it was a tremendous sign that things were going wrong, that we needed to do something. But I didn’t run based on his election. I know the people of Alabama. People know me. They know I stand for conservative values and religious principles.
I talk to liberals, and I tell them this. I say, ‘you should be recognizing the sovereignty of God.’ That’s what gives you the right to believe what you want. That’s in the first four Commandments. That gives you the right, if you want to be a — whatever. I can’t tell you what to believe. But I must acknowledge God for you to have that freedom.
Many of your critics have dredged up your old remarks — on sodomy, on same-sex marriage, on Muslims in Congress. What would you say to those folks who say you’re a homophobe or an Islamophobe?
I’d say I’m a Christian. I don’t hate anybody. We’re all sinners who’ve fallen short of the glory of God. I don’t hate people because they profess homosexuality. I hate sin. And sodomy has historically been an aberration of our laws. It’s something that’s talked about in the Bible, and it’s talked about in Blackstone’s Commentaries. It doesn’t mean I hate them. Hey, if I hated them, I wouldn’t bother telling them it was wrong! You love your fellow man.
One time, one of my clerks put “sword of government,” which is a legalistic term to describe the power of government to execute the laws, in a brief on a homosexual case… and critics suggested I wanted to cut homosexual’s heads off. That’s just dumb. I never said that. I don’t even believe that. I don’t think like that. Why would they say it? Because it sounds detrimental and they want to cut me down. But I don’t hate people.
What do you make of the fact that this race has gotten national attention? Steve Bannon has come down and stumped for you. Many people see this as a national story. What’s your relationship like with Steve Bannon?
I met Steve Bannon when the primary race was about at the end of it. A couple weeks before, I talked to him on the phone and he seemed to recognize the importance of my race, and that I’d been highly successful. He offered his support, and I said, ‘well, fine, I’d love to have your support.’ He’s helped us out. He recognizes, as I do, that people are tired of going the wrong way. They’re tired of being ruled by judges. Judges aren’t their rulers.
It irritates me — as it did Scalia! — to think that five lawyers can… [Obergefell v. Hodges] was a judicial putsch. Now you’re talking about me making statements that are exciting. Here’s a Supreme Court justice saying it’s a sudden overthrow of our government by five lawyers.
And you believe that?
I believe what Scalia said. I believe what Roberts said. The Constitution had nothing to do with their decision. I believe what Thomas said, and Alito said. They all said the same thing — that it was a completely unconstitutional decision.
How long have you been writing poetry?
A long time. I wrote poetry back in the ’80s. I’ve written poetry to explain the Declaration of Independence. I’ve written a poem about everything.
Ranging from abortion to love.
If I had just a penny for every thought I had of you, I’d have a million dollars — let me tell you what I’d do.
What do you do for fun, besides write poetry?
I build rock walls on my property.
Do you drink or smoke?
I don’t smoke at all. A little wine sometimes — but nah, I don’t drink. No beer, no whiskey. I work out when I get a chance — I run a little, lift weights. Mainly I work. That’s my hobby. I give speeches around the country — at churches, to groups.
And you have the Ten Commandments hanging above your bed, right?
I have them above my bed and in every room in my house, and on a rock wall behind my house.