The Republican Alabama Senate candidate, best known for being removed from the bench twice for violating the Constitution, now claims it is “against the law” for NFL players to protest.
Roy Moore, the disgraced ex-judge now running for Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat in Alabama, has a long history of bizarre interpretations of the law, including that God’s word overrides all written laws, and that federal judges do not have power to overrule states.
But one of his most interesting recent positions is that First Amendment rights are illegal.
“It’s against the law, you know that? It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart,” he said. “That’s the law.”
Moore is presumably referring to 36 U.S. Code § 301(b)(1)(C), which states that all civilians “should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart” during the anthem. But, as legal experts have explained, this section is a recommendation of voluntary etiquette with no penalty for violating it. Kneeling is an entirely legal act of protest protected by the First Amendment, and it is inexcusable for a former judge not to understand the difference.
Moore then went on to defend Donald Trump’s aggressive attacks on NFL athletes:
I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds. One, it’s respect for the law. If we don’t respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it’s respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I’m surprised that no one brought this up.
As has been noted repeatedly, NFL players are not protesting the flag or the military. They are protesting ongoing police brutality against unarmed black men, which they consider a contradiction of the values of freedom and justice they are being asked to stand for when the anthem plays.
But it is hardly surprising that Moore — who has lamented the racial problems caused by “reds and yellows,” taken money from a Nazi sympathizer group, and once gave a speech to white supremacists — would have such a weak grasp of a racially charged issue.
Nor is it out of character for Moore to oppose the First Amendment, which he previously violated by turning his former courthouse into a religious shrine.
Moore’s flagrant disrespect for the law stands in stark contrast to his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor who locked up Klansmen for racial terror. Jones, unlike Moore, has a knowledge and respect for the law that genuinely befits his résumé.
The extremism that propelled Trump into office is now filtering down into Senate races, and as Roy Moore illustrates, it poses a grave threat to our shared understanding of basic rights.