Coalition and Moore at height of hypocrisy

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

Judge Roy Moore and the Allegedly Christian Coalition are at it again. Moore and John Giles, president of the Coalition, appeared before a state House committee last week to once again support the state constitution’s assertion that “nothing in this Constitution…creat[es] or recognize[es] any right to education or training at public expense.”

This story was in state papers only last week, but if it feels like a rehash of old news, well, it’s not just you. It’s all d/j vu: the state is looking at constitutional reform, just like last year. It’s working towards removing racist language and provisions from the constitution, just like last year. And just like last year, Moore and Giles want to ensure that the Constitution’s denial of a “right to education” remains intact.

What’s different about this year is that the battle over the “right to education” provision (part of the constitution’s Amendment 111) is being waged before the amendment that would repeal it goes to voters. Amendment 2 would have repealed it last year, of course, if Moore and the Coalition hadn’t sold state voters a Halloween campfire story about scary activist judges, evil lawsuits, and the bogeyman of higher taxes. They said Boo!, and the state covered its eyes and voted no.

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To Governor Riley and the state’s credit, the issue has been brought back for Round 2. Even if it might not be the most practical political move, the possibility exists for the same repeal of the “right to education” passage to go to the voters again.

Let’s hope so, because it’s time to set the record straight on Amendment 111, its effect on taxes, and the Theoretically Christian Coalition.

First: repealing the “right to education” passage won’t make a dime’s worth of difference in Alabama’s taxes. Even if an “activist judge” does spontaneously generate out of the bench somewhere (if one already exists, how come Moore or anyone else who’s so paranoid about them doesn’t name who it might be?), they can’t raise anyone’s taxes. The law unequivocally states that only the legislature chooses how to pay for education. Lawsuits have already tried to get the courts to order more funding. They failed. They’d fail again.

Second: just because race isn’t mentioned in the particular “right to education” passage doesn’t mean it’s not a vicious statement of hate. Why? The amendment was written and passed in 1956, as a direct response to Brown v. Board’s decision that schools must be integrated. Alabama wanted the authority to close the schools rather than give black children the opportunity to attend class with white children.

And this is what some Alabamians are trying to preserve: the proof that racial hatred in our state was once so intense we considered shutting down our public schools to satisfy it. Do we really want our constitution to continue to testify to our state’s need to fight, scratch, and claw against equality every painful inch of the way?

Well, if you’re Moore and the Purportedly Christian Coalition, yep.

You would think an organization with the word “Christian” right there in its title like that would be concerned with the same issues Christ was concerned with: Loving one’s neighbor. Serving God instead of money. “The least of these.” You would expect that an instrument of hatred and injustice like Amendment 111, a statement that subtly ridicules and defies Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, would be something Christians would fight tooth-and-nail against rather than support.

With the Supposedly Christian Coalition, not so much. Take their stance on whether or not Alabama’s children should have the right to an education, which they espouse in a lengthy position paper available on the Coalition website.

They spend 4,228 words arguing that education is a “gift” to be given by the state, rather than a right Alabama’s children can demand.

Of those 4,228 words, not one of them is “Jesus.” Not one of them is “Christ.” Not one of them is “God.” Not one of them is quoted from Scripture.

Evidently, what the Christian point-of-view on the topic might be and what the Bible has to say about it is beside-the-point to the Coalition. Quote Christ? Nah. But the paper does quote any number of other sources, from the United Nations to the AEA to something called Education International, in its effort to prove that the “right to an education” is a liberal fabrication to justify out-of-control spending. The guidance our Lord and Savior could offer in a decision that affects thousands and thousands of Alabamian lives is irrelevant; what a foreign education official named “Mr. van Leeuwen” has to say is critical, though. This is Christian leadership?

(And by the way, any college student who’s paid attention in their freshman composition class will tell you the Coalition is using a classic logical blunder, the “ad hominem” fallacy, in their argument. They’re saying we should reject what the UN says just because they’re the UN. But who’s making an argument doesn’t change whether the argument is valid or not. If Saddam Hussein comes out in favor of better children’s healthcare, that doesn’t mean the rest of us should be against better children’s healthcare, does it?)

Maybe the reason the Coalition doesn’t mention Christ is because their opinions don’t actually agree with his. The Coalition says that higher taxes are a terrible burden; Christ says “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and that hoarding money is to risk becoming that camel with a tight spot to squeeze through.

The Coalition says, “the bottom line is that there is no child in Alabama that is denied or threatened to be denied an education at the taxpayers’ expense,” thus it doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t include necessary textbooks, a teacher who cares, a music program, a building that’s not falling in. After all, it’s only a “gift,” and beggars can’t be choosers.

But Christ says, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Right now what Alabama is doing is depriving the children of the Black Belt, inarguably the state’s “least of these,” of the chance for a better life.

I am not suggesting across-the-board tax raises, of course. But as virtually everyone knows, property taxes are obscenely low in Alabama. We could double them and still have the lowest in the nation, even though this would make a massive difference to our schools. The Coalition, however, has been working against higher property taxes for years and “believes that our children should be provided with the best education possible, but more money is not the answer.” Right. I would love for Giles to walk into Francis Marion, Sunshine, or Green County High, look the teachers and staff right in the eye, and tell them they’ve got plenty enough money. The results should be interesting.

What’s on the table right now, though, is a second shot at Amendment 2. It would not, by itself, have done anything about the funding of those schools. But it says something of the depth of the Coalition’s hypocritical fear of taxation that their website quotes Moore as saying of Amendment 2, “This is the most deceptive piece of legislation I have ever seen, and it is simply a fraud on the people of Alabama.”

No. A fraud is someone who comes under the banner of the love of Jesus Christ, and then works to preserve the mechanisms of hatred and the injustice of poverty, all in order to keep the wallets of the wealthy fat. Whatever the Hypothetically Christian Coalition is practicing, it isn’t Christianity, and it isn’t good for Alabama.