Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore drew cheers and a standing ovation Friday after giving his message at the Pierce County Prayer Breakfast, concluding days of controversy leading up to his appearance.
Moore warned the crowd of 1,400 at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall that a spiritual battle is raging across the country over acknowledging God.
“God is sovereign over our government, over our law,” Moore said.
“When we exclude him from our lives, exclude him from our laws, exclude him from our courts,” Moore said, “then they will fail.”
Moore made no mention of his opposition to gay marriage and his support for a constitutional amendment banning it. “That wasn’t what I planned to talk about,” he said afterward.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland chose not to attend the breakfast and give the customary greeting because of Moore’s stand against gay marriage. No Tacoma City Council members were in attendance.
Moore said afterward that he wasn’t offended by Strickland’s decision.
Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy did attend and welcomed the crowd gathered “to celebrate the power of prayer.”
McCarthy told the audience that Moore “can certainly be described as provocative, which is putting it mildly for some.”
“There’s probably not a lot that we would agree on,” she said. “I welcome civil discourse.”
Because of the criticism ahead of Moore’s appearance, the event’s organizers hired security for the breakfast for the first time in its 36-year history. But the event -- from the scrambled eggs to the closing prayer -- went off without a hitch. About 100 more people attended than last year.
Emcee Maurie Laufer set the tone by asking the crowd to turn the breakfast “from an event of controversy to an event of love.”
In his half-hour message, Moore outlined the rise and fall of government’s acknowledgement that the United States is “one nation under God.” When it added the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, Congress distinguished between religion as an institution and belief in a sovereign God, Moore said.
“I will continue to acknowledge God because it’s not only part of our country, it’s a part of our law,” Moore said. “It’s a part of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Moore, 67, said the country is suffering because prayer was removed from public schools.
“It is God who will heal our land,” Moore said. “It isn’t a governor, it isn’t a president, it isn’t a chief justice, it isn’t representatives of your court. ... It’s God.”
Moore mentioned his refusal in 2003 to follow a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of his state’s judicial building. Later that year, Moore was thrown off the bench by a judicial ethics panel for having “placed himself above the law.”
Moore, a Republican, was re-elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012.
“It wasn’t about a monument,” Moore said. “It was about acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God.
“We’ve forgotten that God is intimately connected with this nation,” Moore said. “Without God there would be no freedom to believe what you want.”
If people turn to God, Moore said, their sins will be forgiven. If they don’t, he said, reciting his own poem: “You’ll see a sad but holy God withdraw his hand from thee.”
Several people interviewed afterward were enthusiastic about Moore and his message.
Tony Ginn, 65, of University Place, praised the guest for showing that “overcoming adversity and having obstacles put in front of you makes us stronger Christians.”
Kevin Thompson, 55, of Puyallup, said he “appreciated the strength, the boldness of his convictions and the sovereignty of the truth that he presented.”
“I loved him,” said Amy Small, 56, of Gig Harbor. “He really made it clear how important it is keeping God in our country’s consciousness.”
“He showed how we have veered off from the truth of the matter,” said Lynitra Jackson, 59, of Tacoma. “The people that didn’t come (Friday) I think they missed something great. I feel very inspired to have been here.”