Few politicians love the Constitution as fervently as Judge Roy Moore. It’s just not clear which Constitution the Alabama populist is reading at any given time.
Walking into a conference meeting with Senate Republicans Tuesday, for instance, Moore told HuffPost that “there should be no religious test, no. That’s against the Constitution.” There’s only one problem with that perfectly constitutional position — there’s no way to know if Moore believes it.
The jurisprudence of Moore the Senate candidate is wholly irreconcilable with the jurisprudence of Moore the disgraced state Supreme Court justice. The same religious tolerance he now endorses in 2016, he condemned explicitly in 2005 when he wrote that “Muslim Ellison Should Not Sit in Congress.”
Back then Moore was going after Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim elected to the House of Republicans. Just like Americans would never tolerate a Nazi or a communist taking the Oath of Office on Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto, Moore argued, Congress shouldn’t let Ellison be sworn into office with his hand on the Quran.
“Congress,” Moore maintained in a World Net Daily op-ed, “has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!”
More than just blind bigotry, Moore laid out a substantive, if not flawed, argument that referenced everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. If freedom of conscience transcends all human law, they argued and Moore pointed out, then any effort to suppress it must be considered an assault on both reason and revelation.
But after that, things start getting weird. From relatively solid constitutional ground, Moore leaped to the conclusion that Ellison shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress for fear that Islam fundamentally does not support freedom of conscience.
Never mind that Ellison’s social liberalism would make him an infidel to fundamentalist imams. And forget that Ellison never promised to slip Sharia law into legislation. Moore still insisted that the faith of Ellison disqualified him from entering Congress.
Fast forward a dozen years, and the new Moore seems to say the old Moore is wrong. But who are we to believe? What does he even believe? Republicans will soon find out. Polling has Moore ahead of his Democrat challenger in the special Alabama Senate race. If elected, he will be in the Senate until 2020.
And who knows what he will believe by then.