Justice Roy Moore

Covering Roy Moore: Is it impossible for many reporters to write fairly about him?

Covering Roy Moore: Is it impossible for many reporters to write fairly about him?

I would like to be a fly on the wall in the U.S. Senate chambers if and when former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore takes office early next year. It’s been less than a week since he won the Republican primary and in deep-red-state Alabama, the winner of the GOP primary is basically the person who’s going to win the general election in November.

Maybe I shouldn’t be amazed at the scare tactic coverage that has popped up since Moore won, but tmatt was 100 percent prophetic when he called the ensuring coverage Handmaid’s Tale 2.0

Salon actually cited “The Handmaid’s Tale” in its Sunday piece on Moore.

I interviewed Moore years ago in Gadsden, Ala., and was struck by this man’s adherence not so much to the Bible (which he definitely holds dear) but to the Constitution. That’s what many reporters seem to not understand about this man. He is manic on obeying the letter of the law, so when he told the state probate judges in early 2016 to not issue marriage licenses to gay couples, his reasoning was because -- in his view of the laws in his state -- an Alabama court had to first rule on it. Agree with him or not, his stated reasons for what he does are legal as well as biblical. I other words, there are arguments here that need to be covered by journalists.

So, to allege, as Salon does, that Moore wants a theocracy, is untrue. Moore is not asking to bring back Old Testament law. He wants adherence to constitutional precepts. The fact some may align with what the Bible says is helpful, but not essential.

Roy Moore's victory in Alabama's Republican Senate primary is cause for widespread consternation, both within the GOP, which sees him as further evidence of widening divides within the party, and within the chattering classes more broadly, which don't know quite what to make of him. They can cite a litany of outrageous things Moore has said or done, but aside from unhelpfully calling him a “Christian conservative” or an “extremist,” they're at a loss as to what he's up to and why.
Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates, who has written about Moore for more than a decade, put it bluntly: “Roy Moore is the most openly theocratic politician in national life,” he said in a press release from the Institute for Public Accuracy. “Moore favors criminalizing abortion and homosexuality. Like the nullificationists of the last century, Moore does not view the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal courts as binding on the states. Particularly if they conflict with his idiosyncratic view of what God requires.”

I wish journalists could see a different side of this man other than the monster-in-the-woods kind of guy. Here’s someone who actually has a sense of humor (he rode a horse to his polling place last Tuesday) so can we leave off portraying the guy as the next Adolf Hitler?

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Los Angeles Times crowns Justice Roy Moore as American ayatollah

Los Angeles Times crowns Justice Roy Moore as American ayatollah

I wasn’t planning on writing about Alabama Supreme Court’s chief justice so soon after my Jan. 7 post, but the Los Angeles Times posted a news piece that was so awful, it deserves an Oscar nomination for "Most Biased Piece of U.S. Journalism in 2016 Thus Far." I am referring to Thursday’s article that came with the headline: “Gay marriage order puts spotlight again on the ‘Ayatollah of Alabama.' ” And yes, the article that followed was as bad as the headline.

Please keep in mind as you read this that Get Religion has a name -- “Kellerism” -- for this type of piece. That’s the practice, described here by tmatt and pioneered by the New York Times, of assuming that one side of the debate is dead wrong and, thus, doesn’t deserve fair representation.

Here we go:

When Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued his latest controversial order on gay marriage, urging probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, many considered it a brazen, last-ditch act of defiance against the U.S. Supreme Court.
The long-contentious chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court didn’t see it that way at all. Merely a humdrum matter of procedure, he explained. “At this point, I am not defying the United States Supreme Court,” the staunch 68-year-old Baptist and Republican said.
When it comes to Moore -- dubbed the “Ayatollah of Alabama” by a civil rights group and chided by the daughter of the late George Wallace as being more dangerous than the combative former governor -- little is ever just humdrum procedure.

An anonymous “ayatollah” label, huh?

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Justice Roy Moore: Latest gay marriage ruling draws personal cheap shot from CBS

Justice Roy Moore: Latest gay marriage ruling draws personal cheap shot from CBS

I’ve been following the career of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for some 18 years, ever since I visited him at the Etowah County courthouse in the summer of 1997. He was a circuit court judge at that point and he had posted copies of the Ten Commandments on the walls of his courtroom plus he opened all court sessions with prayer. One might think that anyone standing trial there would want all the inspirational help they could get, but the American Civil Liberties Union sued him for the prayers and for posting the commandments.

Moore fought them off and in 2000 ran an uphill battle to become the state’s chief justice. His victory didn’t get much publicity because of the Bush vs. Gore battle that dominated the news at the end of the year. However, he was removed from office in 2003 but reelected to the position nine years later.

The story of all that has been told elsewhere but one thing Moore has made clear during his entire career is his opposition to anything having to do with gay marriage. Last February, one day before a federal court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Alabama, he instructed his probate judges to disregard the ruling. This created quite a bit of confusion, as you can imagine, and we took a look at the mainstream news coverage of that here.

Moore was overruled by the feds, yet this week he again issued an order to probate judges not to conduct homosexual marriages on the grounds that a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court from last March is still in effect.  I spent part of Wednesday scrutinizing several national newspapers’ coverage of this latest move and have been amazed at how all of them quoted Moore’s opponents without even an attempt to balance the story.

Again, as my colleague Jim Davis has already noted, this is nothing new when it comes to reporting on Moore. Apparently this is a story in which there is only one point of view worthy of accurate, informed coverage.

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'Kellerism' comes to Alabama same-sex marriage wars, care of a political blast by New York Times

'Kellerism' comes to Alabama same-sex marriage wars, care of a political blast by New York Times

Heads up. We have a "Kellerism" reference on another blog today, including a shout-out for a GetReligion response.

But before we get to that, we need to look at what's going on down in Alabama right now, including that New York Times report that proclaimed:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Amid conflicting signals from federal courts and the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, some Alabama counties began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday in a legal showdown with echoes of the battles over desegregation in the 1960s.
In major county seats like Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville, same-sex couples lined up outside courthouses as they opened and emerged smiling after being wed.

As you would imagine, in the newspaper of record's own words, its "reporters have fanned out across Alabama to explore and explain how the same-sex marriage process is playing out in a handful of locations." The commitment is obvious and demonstrated at length.

Later in the story readers are told, with a hint of religion language thrown in:

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