In the late 70s, when Eddie Lee and Larry Larson performed outrageous satires on Atlanta’s stages, they poked fun at people who believed in a secret brotherhood called The Illuminati. In some circles today this is no laughing matter. Rather, it’s a consistent and growing conspiracy theory concerning a powerful cabal with a master plan to rule the world.  On the website of a man running for governor of Alabama is a lengthy video exposing how The Illuminati plan to ruin our health with antibiotics and vaccines, thereby weakening us and keeping us subjugated. They say that Al Gore is a member of this power-hungry, slavering cabal.

roymooreThe gubernatorial candidate of mention here is Roy Moore. He was briefly the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court until he defied an order from the U.S. Supremes and refused to remove a granite Ten Commandments from the state’s judicial building. His supporters are almost universally Christian, and their wishes for his success (on his MySpace page) universally include the words, “God bless you Roy Moore.”

Lest someone object and call me the worst possible epithet in Alabama’s vernacular – an ATHEIST —  I want to state for the record that I have no quarrel with Roy Moore holding his personal religious beliefs. Au contraire. I just have quarrel with the general tone of cuckoo-headedness that prevails wherever his followers gather.

To be ousted from the high court for insubordination might quell a lesser man’s political ambitions. But Moore is guided by a power higher than man’s laws, he says.

It is a refrain with some miles on it, by now, having started in the mid 1990s. At the time, Moore was a district judge in Gadsden, Ala., where he posted a small, homemade plaque of the Ten on his courtroom wall, and he ordered juries to pray with him before trials. The prayers were Christian prayers that ended with “In Jesus’ name…” Moore seemed oblivious to the fact that Gadsden was home to several other faiths, including Hinduism and Islam. A couple of those pesky minority members filed a lawsuit against Moore. Money began to pour into Moore’s hands in small contributions from well-meaning Christian citizens across the nation.

honorable_judge_roy_mooreAs a reporter who covered Alabama for the much-loved-and-missed regional desk of the AJC, I sat down with Judge Moore for a talk. He said he had no political agenda nor plans to run for office any time in the foreseeable future. He said that the money coming in from supporters was going to the Roy Moore Legal Defense Fund. I asked him who his legal team was. I called the legal team.

What to my surprise! His lawyers told me (proudly) that they were working pro bono because they believed in Moore’s cause. Free legal aid? Then where was all that money going? Estimates by those closely watching Moore put his “defense fund” at several hundred thousand dollars. There were “Save Roy Moore” rallies.  He was before the news cameras or microphones daily; he was a welcome guest speaker at religious and political events. He became a marquee name at revivals.

I cannot say whether Roy Moore began as a publicity seeker, but once he had a taste of the adulation and limelight, how could he go back to being a judge in a tiny Alabama courthouse, carrying a brown sack lunch, working in obscurity?

For the next 15 years, Roy Moore continued to run for various offices. In 2010 he’ll run for governor for the second time. His platform includes posting religious symbols wherever people gather. Separation of church and state is a foreign concept to his followers. They are truly one nation under God, and that God is a new testament God that loves home schooling but abhors antibiotics and vaccinations, abortions, gay marriage, the One World Order, Trilateral Commission, Illuminati, mosques, immigrants, sex education and Proctor and Gamble.

Moore has positioned himself as The Candidate for Governor Who Can Best Defeat the Radical Obama Agenda in Alabama.

He may not win his party’s gubernatorial primary because a number of big name Republicans will share the field in 2010. Some of those are kin to former governors or are longtime, lesser officeholders. 

But what Moore does, each time he runs, is move the tenor of debates further to the fringe Right. No other candidate wants to be seen as less Christian than Moore or less upstanding. By being allowed to frame the issues and, to some extent, quash rational discourse, the former judge makes Alabama a little poorer, a little sadder.

While candidates for governor in other states discuss economic growth, social justice or funding for education, Alabama’s policy makers ignore many such crucial issues (its  anachronistic 1901 Constitution, for one). Instead, they are forced into debates about religious symbols and protection from the Illuminati.

Gita M. Smith

Gita M. Smith

Gita M. Smith is a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer who covered Alabama -- yes, the whole state -- for the paper's national desk where she fell under  the dangerous influence of Keith Graham and Ron Taylor.  She writes flash fiction at 6S, Thinking 10 and fictionaut.