Roy Moore

Roy Moore, the disgraced judge and failed Senate candidate, has elevated his own extreme beliefs above the law at virtually every level of public office he has ever held. Moore supports laws that would criminalize homosexuality, is a staunch proponent of the racist “birtherism” conspiracy, has advocated for religious tests targeting Muslim Americans, and has said that removing the amendments to the U.S. Constitution following the 10th Amendment — which includes the Equal Protection Clause and amendments that abolished slavery and enfranchised women — would “eliminate many problems” in American society. 

About Roy Moore

Since he was first appointed as circuit judge in Etowah County, Alabama, in 1992, Moore has repeatedly used positions of authority to impose his own version of far-right Christianity while also serving as a public advocate for some of the most extreme anti-choice and anti-LGBT causes. Moore largely adheres to a dominionist worldview, which holds that the United States is fundamentally a Christian nation and that biblical law, as interpreted by the movement’s adherents, must be restored and secular law destroyed.

Despite having twice been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court — once in 2003 after installing a stone monument of the Ten Commandments in the state’s Supreme Court building and again in 2016 for ordering state judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage — Moore won the Republican primary in the 2017 special election for Senate. During the general election campaign, accusations surfaced from as many as nine women that he had sexually harassed them as young girls when he was a district attorney in his 30s. One woman claimed Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14. On December 12, 2017, Moore lost the election by 20,000 votes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed judicial ethics complaints following Moore’s actions that led to his removal from the bench in 2003 and 2016.

In his own words

"Homosexual conduct should be illegal, yes." — During a C-SPAN interview, 2005.

“Now, I'm going to tell you about the only thing I know that the Islamic faith has done in this country is 9/11.” —During a speech at the powerful Christian Right organization Council for National Policy, 2009.

“[T]here are some communities under Sharia law right now in our country.” — Moore propagating a far-right, anti-Muslim conspiracy that Sharia law is spreading in the U.S., 2017.

“Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremacists and they should be taken off the bench.” — Moore calling for the impeachment of the Supreme Court justices who helped decide Obergefell v. Hodges, 2017.

“We can survive four years of any president; we cannot survive without a Constitution. …This calls for a major investigation. Our Constitution is at stake.” — Moore claiming that newly elected President Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen, 2008.

“Thus, the policy of the law in Alabama — from its civil law to its Criminal Code to the educational programs provided to its public-school students — consistently condemns homosexual activity and the homosexual lifestyle. The effect of such a lifestyle upon children must not be ignored, and the lifestyle should never be tolerated. …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 lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.” — Then Chief Justice Roy Moore suggesting that the state would be justified in executing gay men and lesbians in order to protect children. In re D.H. v. H.H., Supreme Court of Alabama, 2002.

“Homosexual behavior is a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.” — In re D.H. v. H.H., Supreme Court of Alabama, 2002.

“’Because you have despised His word and trust in perverseness and oppression, and say thereon ... therefore this iniquity will be to you as a breach ready to fall, swell out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instance.’…Sounds a little bit like the Pentagon, whose breaking came suddenly at an instance, doesn't it?" — Moore quoting a Bible passage to claim that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were God’s response to America because "we legitimize sodomy" and "legitimize abortion,” 2017.

“Enough evidence exists for Congress to question Ellison’s qualifications to be a member of Congress as well as his commitment to the Constitution in view of his apparent determination to embrace the Quran and an Islamic philosophy directly contrary to the principles of the Constitution. But common sense alone dictates that in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine. In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on Mein Kampf, or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the Communist Manifesto. Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!” — Moore, as a columnist for the far-right conspiracy website WorldNetDaily, advocating that Congress refuse to seat Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, 2006.

“I think [America] was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another… Our families were strong, our country had a direction.” — Moore responding to a question about when America was last great, posed by one of the only African Americans in the audience at a campaign event, 2017.

“We were torn apart in the Civil War — brother against brother, North against South, party against party..What changed? Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting.” — Speaking at a rally in Florence, Alabama, September, 2017.

Background

Roy Stewart Moore was born to a poor family in Gadsden, Alabama, in 1947. Moore attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in the bottom quarter of his class, and went on to serve in the Vietnam War as a military police officer. Men who served with Moore claimed he would demand to be saluted despite how dangerous it was to signal to the enemy that he was an officer. “His policies damn near got him killed in Vietnam,” said one soldier who served under Moore. “He was a strutter.” Moore left the army as a captain in 1974.

After the army, Moore earned his law degree from the University of Alabama. A New Yorker reporter interviewed a number of his classmates who described Moore as “argumentative, very stubborn, and not very thoughtful in his analysis of the cases. He was not a very attentive student. For the most part, students didn’t respect him much.” One law professor gave Moore the nickname “Fruit Salad” according to a classmate:

“Finally, at the end of the hour, McGee said to him, ‘Mr. Moore, I have been teaching in this school for thirty years, and in all of that time you’re the most mixed-up person I’ve ever taught. I’m going to call you Fruit Salad.”

“Roy always sat in front of us, and he would turn around and flirt. He’s the one thing that brought humor to us, because he was, well, kind of a doofus,” said another classmate. “And then Roy would ask all of these questions to put himself in the middle of debating with an intelligent professor, and he was always cut to shreds.”

After graduating with a law degree in 1977, Moore became a deputy district attorney in Etowah County. It was around this time in 1979 that Leigh Corfman — then a 14-year-old girl — claims Moore offered to look after her at the Etowah County courthouse while her mother attended a hearing. Corfman alleged that Moore later took her out on a date and brought her to his home in the woods where he sexually assaulted her. Eight other women would eventually come forward with similar accusations of predatory behavior.

In the 1980s, Moore ran for circuit judge in 1982 but lost, trained as a kick boxer and traveled to Australia for a year. In 1986 he ran for district attorney but lost again.

The "Ten Commandments Judge"

In 1992, Moore joined the Republican Party and was appointed Etowah County circuit judge by Governor H. Guy Hunt. It wasn’t long before Moore gained the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama for opening his court proceedings with a prayer seeking divine guidance for jurors. After the ACLU warned Moore that the prayer sessions violated the First Amendment, Moore demonstrated an instinct for the spotlight and held a press conference where he claimed that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs. Moore also suggested that a wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments he had affixed to the courtroom was part of the reason for his alleged persecution, though a member of the ACLU said that the civil rights organization didn’t know about the handmade item until Moore’s press conference.


Moore (third down in lefthand column) speaking at the 1995 Council of Conservative Citizens conference. Prominent white nationalist Jared Taylor also spoke and is pictured directly above Moore.

The ACLU subsequently sued over the display of the Ten Commandments but the case was dismissed due to the plaintiff’s lack of standing. The state of Alabama responded by filing suit seeking declaratory judgment that the display was constitutional but the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the case.

While still a circuit judge in 1995, Moore spoke at a conference for the white supremacist hate group Council of Conservative Citizens — a group that would later radicalize racist mass murderer Dylann Roof. Held in Birmingham, Moore was the first speaker and shared the stage with prominent white nationalist Jared Taylor. This would not be the first time Moore made connections with white supremacist organizations. 

In 1999, Moore ran for Alabama chief justice — vowing to return “God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law” — and won. Moore parlayed his renown from Etowah County and campaigned across the state as the “Ten Commandments Judge.” After he was elected, Moore began designing a monument that depicted, in his words, “the moral foundation of law.”

Under the cover of darkness, Moore had a 5,280-pound, granite monument of the Ten Commandments installed in the rotunda of Alabama’s state judicial building in the summer of 2001. At a press conference the next day, he declared, “May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.”

Lawsuits filed by the SPLC, ACLU, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State were consolidated in Glassroth v. Moore. After a trial in which Moore testified, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson ruled that Moore's placement of the monument violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and ordered that it be removed

Rather than comply with the court order, Moore publicly defied it and refused to remove the monument, exposing the state to crushing, escalating fines for contempt of court. In response, the SPLC filed a complaint with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charging Moore with violations of the Judicial Canons of Ethics. The Commission quickly found reasonable cause to believe that Moore had violated the judicial canons and referred the complaint to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Moore was automatically suspended from office pending a trial on the SPLC's ethics complaint, and the remaining Justices voted to remove the monument.

In November 2003, the Court of the Judiciary issued an order officially removing Moore from office, writing that he “not only willfully and publicly defied the orders of a United States district court, but upon direct questioning by the court he also gave no assurances that he would follow that order or any similar order in the future.”

The Foundation for Moral Law

In 2002, Moore founded the Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery, Alabama. Its website currently says the foundation “exists to restore the knowledge of God in law and government and to acknowledge and defend the truth that man is endowed with rights, not by our fellow man, but by God!” It appears, however, to have served primarily to capitalize on Moore’s skyrocketing national profile among the Christian Right following his losing fight over the Ten Commandments monument.

A Washington Post investigative report found that Moore had lied about not taking a “regular salary” from the charity and that the group failed to disclose the full amount of compensation paid to its founder:

But privately, Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, internal charity documents show. He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.

When the charity couldn’t afford the full amount, Moore in 2012 was given a promissory note for back pay eventually worth $540,000 or an equal stake of the charity’s most valuable asset, a historic building in Montgomery, Ala., mortgage records show. He holds that note even now, a charity official said.

An investigation by the Internal Revenue Service found that the Foundation for Moral Law failed to report a number of fundraising activities and warned the group that its actions “could jeopardize your exempt status.”

The foundation succeeded in serving as a financial bridge in Moore’s political career between his defrocking in 2003 and when he successfully ran again for the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012. The group also filed legal briefs in support of a host of Christian Right causes.

In 2004, one of those causes that Moore jumped to support was stopping a largely symbolic vote to remove segregationist language in the Alabama state constitution, like language mandating “separate schools for white and colored children.” His effort succeeded, and kept his name in the headlines. The statewide measure failed by 2,000 votes out of over 1 million cast.

In 2010, the SPLC reported that the Foundation for Moral Law provided space for the Alabama Secession Day Commemoration, which featured speakers tied to the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group that advocates for “the cultural dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people and their institutions.” Members of the League of the South contributed to the violence at the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One speaker at the Secession Day event was fundamentalist preacher and antigovernment extremist Chuck Baldwin. Baldwin has written that “the South was right in the War Between the States” and that Martin Luther King Jr. “brought havoc and unrest to America as few men have ever done.”

Another speaker was the attorney and former law professor John Eidsmoe, who at one time was listed as “senior counsel and resident scholar” at the Foundation for Moral Law. At the event, Eidsmoe said that while he supported the U.S. constitution, he believed that “Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood that Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster.” Eidsmoe, who has also suggested that the government “may not act contrary to God’s laws,” was hired at the Foundation for Moral Law in 2008 and is still listed on the group’s website today—the only staff member listed aside from Kayla Moore, Moore’s wife.

Eidsmoe is not Moore’s only neo-Confederate connection. Michael Anthony Peroutka, who People For the American Way has called “one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in the Religious Right’s reimagining of American law,” has long been a major benefactor of Moore’s career. Peroutka was also once a leading member of the League of the South, has repeatedly glorified the Confederacy, and has advocated for the creation of a new biblical nation in the South.

Following Moore’s removal from the Alabama Supreme Court, Peroutka bankrolled a nationwide tour to showcase the new Christian Right hero. Since 2004, Peroutka has donated more than $600,000 to Moore’s political campaigns, including his campaign for Senate and two failed gubernatorial bids, and the Foundation for Moral Law.

Moore also landed another gig in the time between his stints on the Alabama Supreme Court. From 2006 to 2009, Moore contributed more than 100 columns to the far-right, conspiracy-promoting website WorldNetDaily (WND). WND and its correspondent Jerome Corsi together were among the most influential sources of the racist “birther” conspiracy, which argued that President Barack Obama was not an American citizen and therefore was illegitimately elected president. This conspiracy would also be adopted and prominently promoted by Donald Trump in the years before announcing his own campaign for president.

Removed From the Bench, Again

In November of 2012, Roy Moore was elected as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for the second time.

A little over two years later Moore again picked a fight, this time in an effort to deny the rights of LGBT people in Alabama. After a U.S. District Judge ruled Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, Moore sent a letter to Governor Robert Bentley questioning the authority of the federal judiciary to overturn state law. He urged the governor and the state’s 68 probate judges to defy the order and enforce the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit declined to stay the order, Moore doubled-down and sent another letter to the state’s probate judges advising them to uphold the ban on same-sex marriage. Five days later, Moore further instructed the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite a federal court order set to take effect the next day.

On June 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 - 4 in Obergefell that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marriage and requires all states to issue licenses. The following January, Moore issued another administrative order directing the state’s probate judges to continue enforcing the ban on same-sex marriage, saying the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act “remain in full force and effect.”

Moore’s efforts during this time were recognized by the radical anti-choice group Operation Save America (OSA). OSA traveled to Montgomery during the summer of 2015 to rally on behalf of the “poet, warrior, statesman” Moore and awarded him the “Godly Statesman Award.” In accepting the award, Moore asked the audience to pray for him so that he could “set an example for lesser magistrates throughout the United States of America that it’s time to say no to the federal beast!”

Throughout this resistance to the federal judiciary, the SPLC filed multiple ethics complaints against Moore. In May of 2016, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with six counts of violating the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics and held a trial with Moore as the only witness. Moore hired another anti-LGBT extremist, Mat Staver of anti-LGBT hate group Liberty Counsel, best known for defending Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, to represent him.

In September, the Court of the Judiciary unanimously found Moore guilty of all six ethics charges, citing his “disregard for binding federal law,” and suspended him without pay for the remainder of his term.

Senate Campaign

On April 26, 2017, Moore announced that he would retire from the Alabama Supreme Court in order to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions who joined the Trump Administration as attorney general.

Moore won handily in the Republican primary against incumbent Luther Strange who was appointed in early 2017 by then-governor Robert Bentley to finish Sessions’ term and was backed by the more establishment wing of the party. In contrast, Breitbart News executive editor and President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon launched a crusade on behalf of Moore, even organizing a rally for the judge that featured Sarah Palin and Sebastian Gorka. Moore’s campaign was punctuated with statements that Islam is a “false religion” and race-baiting around the restored voting rights of ex-felons.

Moore’s candidacy was also prominently championed at the annual Values Voter Summit, the flagship conference of the Christian Right and organized by the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC). FRC President Tony Perkins endorsed Moore, saying that, “over the years Judge Moore has proven he is willing to stand up for our Constitution and fight for the rights of the people. …From working with him and evaluating his record as a public servant, FRC Action PAC believes he will provide needed leadership on important issues in the U.S. Senate.”

Moore was the featured speaker at the summit’s luncheon organized by another anti-LGBT hate group — the American Family Association (AFA) — and used his time to call for the impeachment of the five Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality. “Tell the Congress …impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremacists and they should be taken off the bench.”

Moore’s longtime backers like Peroutka, Rusty Thomas of OSA, and Anita and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel all donated to his campaign. Texas political operative and anti-LGBT crusader Steven Hotze (who heads the anti-LGBT hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas) also gave money to Moore’s campaign in his individual capacity and through his Restore Our Godly Heritage PAC—a group that would later run ads on black radio stations accusing Moore’s opponent Doug Jones of “trying to start a race war.”

In early November, the Washington Post published a major investigative report with allegations that Moore had sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl when he was a 32-year-old associate district attorney. The Post spoke with three other women who recounted Moore asking them on dates when they were in their teens. More women came forward after the story broke and reports followed that Moore’s predatory behavior was an open secret in his hometown of Gadsden.

While many Republican politicians withdrew their previous endorsements of Moore, Bannon’s Breitbart rose to the defense of the candidate. After a few weeks of silence and sensing the political calculus, President Trump reversed course and delivered a series of full-throated endorsements of Moore including recording a robocall on his behalf and staging a rally in Pensacola, Florida, right over the border from Alabama.

On Tuesday, December 12, in a surprising upset election, Moore was defeated by Jones by some 20,000 votes.