As the George Wallace figure for the anti-gay movement, Kim Davis left much to be desired. As a clerk in a small Kentucky county, her power to hurt gay people was limited and the lack of support both within her office and from the court system at large ended undermining the "silent majority" argument that Wallace figures are supposed to be making.
But now a bigot worthy of the Wallace throne has stepped forward: Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has issued an order to probate judges in the state to defy the Supreme Court and halt issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Now Moore is a man with real power, who wields gavel power over an entire state. This is a much more serious problem than some peon in Kentucky being spiteful to same-sex couples who want to exercise their rights in her county.
That Moore has so much power is actually pretty startling. He's a massive nut bag, with views so far to the right that he shouldn't be able to win an election for local dogcatcher, much less to the Supreme Court of an entire state, even one as conservative as Alabama. That he has risen so far is a testament to the power that signifiers like "white," "Christian" and "conservative" have over Republican voters, that they will overlook all sorts of red flags for extremism so long as they can vote for someone who looks like them and waves the Bible around convincingly.
For there is good reason to believe that Roy Moore is an out-and-out theocrat with views about the role of religion in government that are better suited to the Supreme Leader of Iran rather than an elected official in a country that still has its First Amendment.
Moore is heavily aligned with the Christian Reconstruction movement, a movement that was established by Rousas John Rushdoony in the 1970s to promote the belief that their rigid view of Christianity should be enforced on people by every sector of society — including the government. Reconstruction is based on this myth that America used to be a "Biblical" society whose laws and social structures flowed from a fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity, and their mission is to restore America to it supposed roots, which includes bringing "the civil government under biblical authority," as expert Julie Ingersoll explained in August.
Reconstructionists deny that they are theocrats, to be clear, though unsurprisingly through pretzel logic. The argument is that they want "government" to be functionally powerless, with its only power basically being to enforce land-use contracts. But this is a bit of a tap dance routine, because the point of limiting the power of federal and state government is to erect as shadow government, built out of churches and out of men expressing "dominion" over their families, that will bring out a Christian patriarchy, with no government protecting human rights to interfere.
The notion that America used to be a Christian patriarchy and that the Constitution was based on Biblical law is, of course, total poppycock. But it's a myth that has seeped out of Reconstruction circles into mainstream Christian conservatism and eventually into mainstream Republican circles, but in a watered down form.
But it's not watered down when it comes to Roy Moore. Sure, Moore has never said in public that he's a Reconstructionist, but that's not evidence much one way or another. Concepts like "Reconstruction" and its cousin, "dominionism" are ideas, not churches that have membership rolls. One can buy the entire package wholesale while still being coy about---or even rejecting---the label. In fact, publicly avoiding these loaded labels while still adhering fervently to the belief systems is a standard way to push these radical beliefs while appearing more mainstream and cuddly than you are.
(For instance, the infamous Duggar family, of TLC fame, has never publicly owned the label "Quiverfull," though it's obvious from both their behavior and their associations that they are fervent members of this fringe right sect that teaches extreme female submission and that women should have as many children as they can.)
Moore may not say he's a Reconstructionist, but he speaks at their public events all the time. His entire career has been a piece of performance art, dedicated to pushing the belief that government should be brought under the control of theocratically minded men. When Moore was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, his priority was erecting a massive monument to the Ten Commandments, which he openly and gleefully made clear was about sending a message of Christian dominance. He knew this wasn't going to fly, but he so loved the idea of defying the actual government to impose his wish fulfillment idea of the government that he didn't care.
His statements upon the installation of this monument were a wink to Christian Reconstruction, unsurprisingly. "Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgement of that God upon whom we are dependent as a nation, and for those simple truths that our forefathers found to be 'self evident,'" he said, invoking the Reconstructionist belief that that the Founding Fathers were fundamentalist Christians who intended America to be a Christian patriarchy. (This is nonsense.)
"May this day mark the beginning of the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and a return to the knowledge of God in our land," Moore added, using language directly out of Reconstructionist teachings.
For his efforts, Moore was booted from office because, as much as Reconstructionist-influenced fundamentalists might like to believe otherwise, our government is actually here to serve the people, not to impose their idea of God's will on the non-believers. But he got re-elected to the bench in 2012, and now he's at it again: Defying federal law in order to push his theocratic ideas about Christian governance. Only this time, it's about same-sex marriage and not a monument to the Ten Commandments.
Alabama is conservative, but it's hard to imagine that they are this conservative. It's not just that probate judges have been ignoring his previous orders to deny same-sex couples their legal rights. Most Alabamians may identity as conservative and Christian, but let's face it, they probably would blanch at living in the country envisioned by Reconstructionists. If Reconstrucionists had their way, we'd all be living like we're on some religious cult's compound, where we're all subject to the quasi-legal authority of the local fundamentalist leaders, except that in the Reconstructionist view, there would be no escape, because there would be no federal protections for your basic human rights. It's doubtful that most people in Alabama, no matter how faithful they imagine themselves to be, would sign up for that.
No, the likelier explanation is that Moore is a beneficiary of the mindless identity politics of the right, where anyone who is seen as standing up for the cultural dominance of white Christians over everyone else is beloved. They like the Ten Commandments monument because they like that cozy feeling of being told they're the "real" Americans, but haven't thought much about the deeper implications of his worldview.
Either way, let us hope that Moore's overreach will end as it did last time he tried to argue that his personal religious beliefs should trump the law of the land, not just for himself but for everyone in the state: By having his judgeship stripped from him.