“I want to see virtue and morality returned to our country and God is the only source of our law, liberty and government,” Moore said during Thursday’s debate with incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was backed by President Trump and the Republican establishment.
The central argument of Moore’s campaign, The Washington Post’s Michael Scherer reported, is that removing the sovereignty of a Christian God from the functions of government is an act of apostasy, an affront to the biblical savior as well as the Constitution. He even carries a pocket pamphlet that he published with a legal theory of God’s supremacy.
Moore’s proud touting of his religious beliefs — which he promoted long before Trump’s rise — has not always seemed like the smartest career move. Twice, Moore was suspended from his job as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to obey laws he felt violated his religious beliefs. Twice, his gubernatorial bids have failed.
But on Tuesday, Moore’s gamble paid off in a big way.
According to Pew, 86 percent of Alabama residents identify as Christian, and 49 percent as evangelical Protestants.
Perhaps propelled to victory by that Christian base he has long catered to, Moore won the Republican nomination even though he was vastly outspent and lacked the support of his president or the establishment.
Ten Commandments controversy
The first suspension from the court came in 2003, when Moore disobeyed a federal judge’s order to take down a 5,200-pound statue of the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the state judicial building. Moore had campaigned on the promise that he would install the monument, and declared during his 2001 swearing-in that “God’s law will be publicly acknowledged in our court.”
Maybe unsurprisingly, then, he would not budge on removing the monument.
Following a lengthy legal back-and-forth that attracted national attention, the statue was removed in August 2003 on a federal court order. In November 2003, a judicial panel unanimously voted to oust Moore from office.
Defying the Supreme Court over same-sex marriage
After two failed gubernatorial bids, Moore was elected for a second six-year term as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012. Again, he invoked the Bible during his swearing-in ceremony.
“We’ve got to remember that most of what we do in court comes from some Scripture or is backed by Scripture,” Moore said after taking the oath of office.
Again, the panel ousted him — this time, in 2016, permanently — after Moore reportedly urged state judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. Moore has compared homosexuality to bestiality and called it “an inherent evil against which children must be protected.”
Moore does not celebrate all religions. This summer, he called Islam a “false religion” on the campaign trail. Also this summer, he earned a “Pants on Fire” from PolitiFact for suggesting there are U.S. “communities under Sharia law right now.” Moore’s fearmongering claim, experts concluded, has no basis in fact.
While mainstream Republicans shied away from Moore because of those controversial positions, directing millions of dollars to support his opponent, conservative evangelical leaders have embraced him.
Celebrated by some evangelicals
Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said he admired “the fact that he’s got guts.”
“He’s one of the few willing to stand firm for truth and against the erosion of biblical principles,” Graham said in a statement.
On Tuesday night, Graham tweeted his congratulations.
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and an influential leader among some evangelicals, also endorsed Moore before the race.
“Throughout his career, Judge Moore has been a tireless champion of religious liberty, standing down those who want nothing less than to rid our nation of its Judeo-Christian foundations,” said Dobson, who has known Moore for more than 15 years.
After his victory on Tuesday, Moore indicated his still cares deeply about the first political battle on which he made his name. Around 11:30 p.m., he retweeted a picture of the Ten Commandments: They had been brought to his victory party.