Skip to site content

Being in the Right Is Not Always Popular

Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor has the toughest job in America, says Jim Evans.

It was a dangerous job to say the least. The snake handler never knew from one call to the next whether he was facing a rattler or a rat snake. If there were an award for having the toughest job, I would nominate the North Carolina snake handler for having the second toughest job in America. Bill Pryor gets my nod for number one.

Pryor, as Alabama’s attorney general, had the unenviable task of prosecuting Judge Roy Moore for ethics violations. The charges stemmed from Moore’s refusal to obey a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building. The trial was heard by the Court of the Judiciary, a panel of nine lawyers and judges. On Thursday the court ordered Judge Moore could be removed from office.

Pryor had called for the judge’s removal. In documents filed with the Court of the Judiciary earlier this week, Pryor wrote, “Because the chief justice intentionally and publicly engaged in misconduct, and because he remains unrepentant for his behavior, this court must remove the chief justice from office to protect the Alabama judiciary and the citizens who depend upon it for fair and impartial justice.”

Of course, some will argue that Pryor was simply pandering to liberals in an effort to save his troubled nomination to 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But that doesn’t make any sense. Pryor early on declared his support for the Ten Commandments display. The reason for his change of heart is not political but principle; officers of the court are bound to obey the law.

There is clearly no political gain for Pryor pitting himself against Judge Moore. While 58 percent of the people of Alabama believe Judge Moore was wrong to disobey a federal court order, 67 percent believe he should not be removed from office.

So why did Pryor push for that? Why didn’t he recommend a reprimand or some other lesser penalty? That way Pryor could argue that he really supported Judge Moore and worked to make sure the proceedings bent in the direction of popular opinion rather than the rule of law.

Until proven otherwise, I am forced to give Pryor the benefit of the doubt. His actions and words seem to suggest that while he may give lip service to Moore’s cause, he is even more committed to upholding the law. Pryor understands, as apparently Judge Moore does not, that when leaders thumb their noses at the law, the law ceases to function. If officers of the court can disobey the laws they don’t like, so can the rest of us.

Unfortunately, being on the right side of the law is not likely to save Pryor. His stance on this issue might very well finish him in Alabama politics. Although, given his courage and experience, he is certainly qualified for the job in North Carolina as the city snake handler. For some reason, there’s a lot of turnover in that job as well.

James L. Evans is pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church in Pelham, Ala.